Kentward Forbes is in trouble with the Florida Elections Commission, but he doesn’t have to worry about the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office coming after him. The FEC recently found probable cause that the Redland community activist broke state law governing political campaigns.
Last July, Forbes formed a political action committee to recall Redland Community Councilwoman Patricia Wade. The PAC (Forbes was chairman and treasurer) raised $3,500 and spent $3,463 before abandoning its mission this past October. The councilwoman’s husband, John Wade, complained to the elections commission that Forbes used the PAC for his own personal benefit. “When it became obvious that this PAC was not playing by the rules I felt obligated to report it,” Wade said recently. Forbes declined comment.
Under oath, Forbes admitted to FEC investigators he had cashed $2,200 from the PAC’s bank account and reported it as “compensation,” but that he actually used the money to pay petition gatherers, which is prohibited under state law. Another $500 expense for “printed materials” was also used to pay workers. Forbes was supposed to pay each employee with a check and list their names on the PAC’s financial report to the state.
According to the FEC investigator’s report, Forbes “deliberately attempted to hide from the public the names of individuals who were working for and being paid by the committee.” The FEC is expected to release its final ruling on June 1.
Forbes could face up to $3,000 in fines. He may have committed at least a first degree misdemeanor; should he be criminally investigated, he could face up to a year in jail. Indeed, John Wade already urged the Miami-Dade Police public corruption unit to open a probe into Forbes’s campaign. However, when the detectives took their initial findings to Joe Centorino, the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office chief public corruption prosecutor, he declined, citing insufficient evidence.
John Wade claims Centorino is not investigating Forbes because Wade and his wife were members of the anti-Natacha Seijas political action committee currently under investigation by Centorino. “There seems to be a double standard here,” Wade complains, “as if the state attorney’s office is picking and choosing who they want to prosecute.”
Centorino denies that is the case. The public corruption prosecutor says he will review the FEC’s final decision on Forbes to reassess if a criminal investigation is warranted. “When someone is paying workers in cash that kind of allegation usually goes to the elections commission,” Centorino says. “Now if he was stealing money from the campaign, we would certainly get involved.” --Francisco Alvarado