For South Florida Haitians trying to navigate the sometimes-confusing election process, Carline Paul is a stern but encouraging voice who offers guidance over Haitian radio.
Better known as “Teacher Carline,” Paul is paid by Miami-Dade County to explain to Haitian voters how they can cast ballots, either in person or through absentee ballots.
But in the August elections, Paul was also paid by Barbara Watson, a Miami Gardens Democratic state representative, to campaign for her on Haitian radio. Paul was paid $14,000 by the county — and $1,000 by Watson, who defeated former state Rep. John Julien in the District 107 Florida House race.
Paul, an adult-education teacher for Miami-Dade County Public Schools, said there was no conflict of interest.
“Me, as an educator, my job has been to educate this community,” she said. “I am sick and tired of people taking advantage of them.”
Ethics experts say her two roles as a political consultant and neutral educator are a breach of the public’s trust.
“I certainly sympathize with the county in that the best way to reach the community is to go to the people who are popular in that community. On the other hand, government at any level has to think about if this person is truly neutral,” said Bob Jarvis, an ethics professor at Nova Southeastern University.
A lawsuit prompted by allegations of ballot fraud in the District 107 race has thrown Paul’s name into the middle of a countywide absentee-ballot investigation. Julien, who lost to Watson by 13 votes, claims there was fraud.
Paul “has continued to manipulate the people that she is supposed to be helping. She continues to perpetuate the ignorance of the voting process,” Julien said.
Paul said there is no basis for Julien’s allegations.
“John Julien is a sore loser,” said Paul, 54. “The community did not support him, and neither did I.”
In a court complaint filed on Friday, Julien claims that Paul went to the Claridge House nursing home in North Miami and collected fraudulent absentee ballots from patients who now say they never voted in the primary. Julien indicated that Paul, who has worked on his campaigns in the past, is part of an ongoing investigation by the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office.
“There is an ongoing task force reviewing all matters that are brought to the attention of the state attorney’s office dealing with absentee ballots,” said Ed Griffith, spokesman for State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle. Griffith declined to say whether Paul is part of the investigation.
Watson has denied any involvement in absentee ballot fraud, stating that it was not a major problem in her district.
Vote fraud has come under scrutiny in recent weeks after two Hialeah ballot brokers, Deisy Cabrera and Sergio Robaina, were arrested and charged with absentee-ballot fraud.
Paul is the executive director of Haitian American Youth of Tomorrow, or HAYOT, a nonprofit organization. According to county records, HAYOT received $14,000 from the county in the 2011-12 budget year to teach members of the Haitian community about the voting process. The group is slated to receive the same amount from the county during the upcoming budget year, which begins Oct. 1.
Paul said she did not disclose to the county that she works for political campaigns through her other company, Afrovisions Pr/ Advertising & Educational Consultant Inc.