For the past two weeks Rev. Richard P. Dunn II has been riding high following his legal victory over longtime nemesis Miami City Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones, preventing her from running for a third consecutive term -- and thus allowing him to remove the biggest obstacle keeping him from reclaiming the seat he held while she was suspended from office for almost two years.
With Spence-Jones out of the race for District Five, Dunn is now the candidate with the most name recognition. He's picked up key endorsements from Miami-Dade School Board Member Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall, Miami-Dade County Commissioner Audrey Edmonson, and just about every pastor in Brown Sub, Overtown, and Liberty City.
"We've got the momentum," Dunn tells Banana Republican. "No doubt about it. That is why you got this tip." Dunn's referring to a zip-file of state and federal court documents we received showing the front-runner is drowning in personal debt.
While Dunn was collecting numerous campaign contributions that paid for his now successful lawsuit against Spence-Jones, he and his wife Daphne have been fighting just to keep their home, which is under her name. Daphne's mortgage lender, HSBC Bank, won a final judgement for foreclosure on Sept. 27, 2011. She owed $219,000 according to HSBC Bank's complaint. A sale had been scheduled for November 1, 2011.
Around the same time, Dunn was also hit with two tax liens from the Internal Revenue Service for failing to pay approximately $36,000 in income taxes from 1999 to 2008. (Last year he worked out a repayment plan and the liens were released).
To avoid losing their house in Liberty City, Daphne filed for chapter 13 bankruptcy, which allows her to reorganize her debts to pay them off. Her petition was denied twice. She finally succeeded on her third attempt when her reorganization plan was approved by a trustee on May 9. According to Daphne's bankruptcy documents, she is on the hook for $419,000 in debt, but only has assets worth $104,000. The Dunns' combined take home monthly income is $6,225 a month.
A colorful, charismatic minister, Dunn takes pride in letting people know his credentials in the black community, from leading a boycott of Miami after white and Hispanic city and county leaders snubbed South African anti-apartheid revolutionary Nelson Mandela to fighting for single member districts in the city and on the school board to ensure African Americans were represented. "No one has more community service than me," he boasts. "No one has lived in the district longer than me."
But Dunn's personal life is not as rosy. In
19891991, he was forced to resign resigned as assistant pastor of Drake Memorial Baptist Church after his grandfather Jarius Dunn forced him to admit he had used misused church funds to pay personal bills.
UPDATE: Following publication of this post, Richard Dunn provided Banana Republican with a 2006 affidavit signed by Rev. Arthur Fair, who was board chairman of Drake Memorial at the time he left the church. Fair asserts the board never took disciplinary action against the younger Dunn and that he was more than welcome to resume his position as assistant pastor at Drake Memorial.
Nine years later he was busted for misdemeanor petty theft. He's twice filed for personal bankruptcy, most recently in 2004. The same year Dunn dissolved the Word of Life Church and its CDC after a court awarded the family of Antonio, Ernest, and Tonjanika Johnson a $5.8 million judgment. The three drowned during a Word of Life picnic at Oleta State Park near the Intracoastal Waterway.
Dunn insists his past problems, the foreclosure on his home, and his wife's bankruptcy has no bearing on his ability to lead. "We are like millions of Americans who have upside down mortgages," Dunn says. "How many times has Donald Trump filed for bankruptcy? Yet he just bought the Doral Resort & Spa. My wife and I are still gainfully employed so we're going to be just fine."
He adds: "I go to church every Sunday. There is nothing they can find on me that is personally embarrassing. I can walk with my head high."
Follow Francisco Alvarado on Twitter: @thefrankness.