A well-dressed, middle-aged white man stood just inside church property, Knowles said, supervising the operation.
"He was standing right at the entrance of the church parking area, inside the gate, " Knowles said. "It was like he didn't want to be on city property doing whatever he was doing, because he stayed inside that gate."
Church representatives said they didn't notice anything. "From my understanding and from what I know, no one used church grounds for politics, " said the Rev. Henry Nevin.
BOTH CAMPAIGNS SEEN
Two candidates' signs reportedly at church lot
Some voters and witnesses said both campaigns were represented at the church lot that day.
Knowles, the park manager, said he saw a number of people leaving the lot carrying Carollo campaign signs.
Another voter said she saw campaign signs for both candidates.
"There were people there with signs for Mr. Suarez and Mr. Carollo, " said Geraldine Haywood, 52. She said she got a ride from the church but no one offered her any money.
Chapman said she heard about the rides from a woman living in her complex: Elsie Hubbard, a paid operative for Carollo and a longtime member of the St. John church. She would not say whether Hubbard told her about the $10 payoff.
Chapman said she voted for Carollo. Afterward, Hubbard's son -- Hoskins -- paid her the $10, she said. Hubbard also hired her to hold Carollo campaign signs at the polls the next day.
"I got $10 for going out to go to vote and $50 to hold the signs, " said Chapman, who was unemployed at the time. "They got a lot of people to go down there and vote like I did. . . . I could use the money."
Chapman, who has since landed a job as a school-crossing guard, said she also was paid $10 to vote in another election two years ago. She could not recall the name of the candidate.
Hubbard said she knew nothing about the vote operation outside her church and never instructed anyone to go there.
"Whoever said it told a lie, and I would overlook my Christianity and kick their [rear], " she said.
"Why should I do that, when everything you need to vote is right here at the Culmer Center?" said Hubbard, referring to the nearby county-run community center that serves as a voting precinct.
Like Felder and Ludlow, voter David McPhee Sr. said operatives at St. John suggested he vote for Suarez. Asked whether he received $10, he abruptly ended the interview. "I don't want to talk about that, " he said angrily.
CHECKING IT OUT
Suarez campaign worker says he gave no rides
The Suarez campaign sent someone to the church lot when it heard about the gathering crowd -- but only to see what was going on, said McKnight, the Suarez campaign coordinator in the area.
McKnight said he sent campaign worker Andre Marshall to check things out.
McKnight said Marshall told him the Carollo camp was providing rides to its own poll workers so they could vote before Election Day.
However, in an interview with The Herald, Marshall said he assumed that the church was providing the rides to assist voters. He said he directed some people to go there.
"I told voters about it, " said Marshall, an unemployed single father of four who once worked as an office aide to Suarez and who now hopes to land a city job. "I said: 'Hell, go on, get your free ride.' Personally, I didn't give any rides from St. John's."
Marshall said he is a friend of Hoskins -- the man identified by several people as the one paying and recruiting voters outside St. John -- and has worked with him on past campaigns. He said he saw Hoskins at the church on Nov. 12, but did not see him or anybody else paying voters.
"Nobody I told to go down there got any money, " he said. "And I don't believe any money was exchanged. I didn't see anybody get paid."
Hoskins at first said he didn't work for either Carollo or Suarez.
"I didn't work for any campaign, " he said Tuesday, in an interview at his dilapidated apartment complex on Northwest Second Avenue. "People make accusations every day."
He later said he volunteered one morning for Suarez during the nine-day runoff campaign in November. Hoskins also was paid for one day's work on the Carollo campaign on the Miami primary election day, Nov. 4.
Hoskins, shaken after a first visit by Herald reporters, said he called Mayor Suarez's chief of staff and campaign manager, Jorge Alvarez. He said he did not know Alvarez but got his name and number from a friend, whom he would not identify.
"This has been very unsettling for me. I got Jorge Alvarez because I wanted to get in touch with someone to get some names [of those involved in the vote-buying operation], " Hoskins said. "Alvarez hung up on me. He said he knew nothing about it."
Alvarez said he did not know Hoskins and did not remember getting such a phone call.
"There are campaign workers at the last minute who want to get involved and work the polls. This might have been someone who didn't get paid, " Alvarez said. "I have gotten calls from people I never heard from before demanding payment. And, quite frankly, they [tick] me off."
In an era when Hispanic votes dominate Miami politics, Hoskins said vote-buying in black precincts has become passe.
"These 50 votes you get out of Overtown, they don't really count for s---, " Hoskins said. "Nineties politics doesn't really dictate it. It's real dirty now.
"Do what you got to to win -- that's what Miami politics is about."
Herald research editor Dan Keating contributed to this report.