In a bid to stem the political fallout over potential absentee-ballot fraud, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez has asked key campaign consultants to state in writing that they did not hire two women under investigation for illegally collecting ballots.
A dozen paid operatives began signing the notarized affidavits over the weekend, as questions remained over whom exactly the women were working for and why one of them, Daisy Cabrera, was found in possession of several ballots. A county ordinance prohibits anyone from holding more than two ballots belonging to other voters.
Joe Carrillo, a private eye who first alerted police to his suspected ballot-brokering by Cabrera, met on Monday with a public-corruption prosecutor at the Miami-Dade state attorney’s office.
The probe has become a stumbling block for Gimenez, who is seeking reelection Aug. 14 against six opponents, including County Commission Chairman Joe Martinez, his chief rival. Last year, Gimenez ran on his character, portraying himself as a man of integrity.
Gimenez has emphatically said his campaign had nothing to do with Cabrera and Matilde Martinez, who were detained and questioned by Miami-Dade police last week in Hialeah. Prosecutors have not filed any charges.
“If I didn’t hire her, how am I blamed for something that I didn’t do?” Gimenez said in an interview on Monday. “These two ladies do not work for my campaign.”
But Cabrera has been photographed at Gimenez campaign events, at least once wearing a Gimenez T-shirt. And Carrillo, the private eye who tipped off police, videotaped her last week knocking on doors in a Hialeah neighborhood before visiting Gimenez’s campaign office.
An illiterate senior citizen told El Nuevo Herald over the weekend that Cabrera filled out her absentee ballot for her on July 22.
Carrillo said he was hired by “concerned citizens” upset by the ballot-collection practices in Hialeah, not by any political candidate.
“I was given the impression that the investigation is growing rapidly,” Carrillo said after his meeting at the state attorney’s office. “I just told them the truth. But I will not give up my client.”
Since coming forward, Carrillo said he has received spoof phone calls and his Internet accounts have been hacked. “Now it’s become personal,” he said.
State Attorney Katherine Fernández Rundle said in a statement Monday afternoon that her office has begun interviewing absentee voters who may have had their ballots collected by Cabrera. Their unopened ballots have been turned over to the county elections department, but kept apart from all other ballots as part of the investigation.
“Rather than act prematurely and risk losing evidence of what could be more serious crimes beyond a municipal ordinance violation, our joint investigation will aim to bring all the facts and all of the evidence into the light of day for everyone to see,” she said.
Fernández Rundle added her office has also received complaints about ballot-brokering in other parts of Miami-Dade.
Fernández Rundle, who is also vying for reelection next month, did not directly respond to questions about whether she faces a potential conflict of interest in the case. Her longtime political consultant, Al Lorenzo, is also working for Gimenez.