Say you're Miami-Dade's top prosecutor. On Aug. 14, you easily won reelection to your sixth term. But your campaign was embarrassed by the revelation that one of your trusted campaign consultants may have previously employed a woman criminally charged with absentee ballot fraud. As a result of your possible conflict of interest, you had to ask Gov. Rick Scott to assign a special prosecutor to take over the case.
>So what do you do to assure Miami-Dade citizens that you are serious about protecting their vote from theft before and during the November presidential election? Why you hold a seminar on absentee ballot fraud in one of the most corrupt cities in the county, of course!
Tonight, Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle is sending staff from her community outreach office to the Opa-Locka City Commission's regularly scheduled meeting. Rundle's employees will be "presenting a forum on maintaining the integrity of the voting process including the permissible and appropriate ballot protocols and the penalties and repercussions for violations of the law." So says a press release put out by Rundle.
The state attorney's office was invited to make a presentation by Opa-Locka Commissioner Gail Miller. Rundle's spokesman Ed Griffith explains that his boss doesn't pass on requests to inform citizens about the perils of vote tampering, regardless of location.
"People don't really understand or know the law," Griffith says. "We welcome any opportunity to educate the public on a serious community issue."
Opa-Locka is not exactly the kind of place that will reassure Dade residents they're living in a law-abiding republic, though.
Last month, the Miami Herald published a scathing expose on the city's police department that revealed the tiny 58-member force had 41 internal affairs investigations last year; Mayor Myra Taylor's son got a job despite having a criminal record for domestic battery;and Commissioner Gail Miller's daughter, the department's former crime analyst, while on probation for carrying a concealed firearm, allegedly pulled a gun on a woman when she was on the city's clock.
Meanwhile, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement is investigating allegations cops had sex with arrested offenders in exchange for setting them free; stole property from the station; improperly transported liquor in police vehicles for private parties; and horsed around with Tasers on the job.
Opa-Locka's elected officials have had their fair share of corrupt dealings too. Back in February, Taylor's husband, another son, and her sister were arrested on campaign finance fraud charges. The Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office accused them of funneling more than $6,000 in illegal contributions to Taylor's 2010 campaign through two companies owned by her relatives.
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In 2011, the Miami-Dade ethics commission fined Taylor $1,500 because she steered $5,000 in city funds to a non-profit she chaired, using some of the proceeds to pay a company owned by her daughter. Taylor is enjoying her second stint as mayor. She was removed from office 8 years ago after she was criminally charged with tax evasion. He pled guilty to a misdemeanor which allowed her to run for elected office again.
The same year, Nigerian-born engineer and businessman Emmanuel V. Nwadike pled guilty to several money laundering and unlawful compensation felonies. He agreed to testify how he bribed two city commissioners to obtain $3.8 million in contracts. Under oath, Nawdike said he slipped more than $40,000 to Commissioner Timothy Holmes between 2004 and 2007. Holmes denies taking bribes.
Terence Pinder, another commissioner, is currently facing three counts of unlawful compensation. Prosecutors allege Nwadike gave former lobbyist Dante Starks, who is also facing charges, pay-offs for Pinder, which he used for child support payments and extended stays at El Palacio hotel. Nwadike claims he gave Pindr more than $20,000 in cash for furniture and a luxury car. Although official misconduct and grand theft charges brought against Pinder from a separate investigation were dropped by state prosecutors after he agreed to pay $2,000 in fines and investigative costs, plus another $3,000 to reimburse the city for unlawfully using his Opa-Locka issued credit card on personal purchases.