Politics

Marc Caputo: Traffic tickets, fraud probes deaths — and state Rep. Daphne Campbell

 

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mcaputo@MiamiHerald.com

A Campbell family minivan has racked up five tickets for running red lights since 2010.

Most citizens would slow down. But Daphne Campbell isn’t like most citizens.

She’s a Democratic state representative who has another way to deal with future red-light tickets: file legislation to ban the traffic-surveillance cameras that shot video of her husband’s Honda Odyssey breaking traffic laws.

It could seem like a conflict of interest. But as long as a lawmaker’s bills don’t benefit him or her or a family member uniquely, it’s generally not a conflict of interest.

This is the state of ethics in the Florida Legislature. It’s a citizens’ legislature of 160 part-time lawmakers. They theoretically come from all walks of life and private professions.

This is representative democracy.

And Campbell, of Miami Shores, represents so much more in Miami-Dade.

Many citizens run red lights in Miami-Dade. Campbell is from Miami-Dade. And someone in her family ran red lights five times.

Miami-Dade is also a Medicaid fraud capital. Campbell and her husband own businesses that bill Medicaid. And the state’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit began investigating them two years ago. Their son, 30-year-old Gregory Campbell, faces Medicaid fraud charges in an alleged $300,000 scheme.

Many in Miami-Dade have tax problems. Campbell is from Miami-Dade. And she and her husband last spring were slapped with $145,000 worth of liens. The IRS also began examining the Campbells over financial transactions involving a web of family healthcare businesses. Two former business associates told The Herald and IRS that the Campbells scammed them.

Miami-Dade has questionable mortgages. The Campbells own numerous properties in Miami-Dade. Campbell’s husband pleaded guilty in 2007 to a federal charge of falsely using someone else’s Social Security number to obtain $829,103 involving six separate loans, one of which was from a Honda dealership.

Miami-Dade has lots of immigrants who get ripped off. Campbell’s legislative office is in Miami-Dade. Turns out, her top aide Janice Shackelford was arrested for grand theft last fall for allegedly charging constituents, mostly Haitian immigrants, phony fees for help that never materialized. Before Campbell hired her, Shackelford had pleaded guilty to a 2006 grand theft charge in Miami-Dade; a swindling charge was dropped.

North Miami has been plagued with “unscrupulous” absentee ballot irregularities at assisted living facilities, a county ethics group reported in 2008. Campbell campaigned in a North Miami ALF. And that very ALF was highlighted in the ethics group report that pointedly mentioned the Democrat by name.

Some group home residents have died or been raped in Miami-Dade. Campbell and her son ran Professional Group Home, based in Miami-Dade. And two developmentally disabled Miami-Dade residents died in its care in 2006, one after she was raped by a dangerous resident. The rapist wasn’t supervised closely despite Daphne Campbell’s assurance to a judge that he would get “’one-on-one” monitoring from staffers who will “’be with him everywhere he goes.”

Beyond Miami-Dade, in Lee County, two other disabled people died in Professional Group Home’s care in 2006. One disabled man, who had profound trouble eating, was allowed to have a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich that choked him to death.

The four deaths — plus inspections that found everything from rodent feces, cockroaches and squalor at the Campbell’s facilities — led the state to try to terminate their contract for about 10 group homes. The Campbells fought the state to keep their license so they could continue to work in the healthcare field and bill Medicaid.

In 2011, The Herald began an award-winning investigation into ALFs and found tales of horror and mistreatment at some facilities throughout the state.

Facing reforms, the ALF industry fought back with the help of Rep. Campbell. She co-sponsored legislation to deny public access to the state-kept list of troubled ALFs. Without access to the information, The Herald would not have been able to document the abuse of the elderly in state care.

Republican Gov. Rick Scott vetoed the bill.

Campbell was also ribbed on the House floor in 2011 when she spoke in favor of a bill limiting lawsuits. Rep. Scott Randolph, D-Orlando, brought up the horrific group-home deaths that happened under Campbell’s watch.

Campbell said Randolph was persecuting her because she’s anti-abortion and he’s for abortion rights.

That’s one of the stock responses from the Campbells in all of the above controversies: They’re being persecuted for doing the right thing, the court evidence is wrong, or there’s more information that hasn’t gotten out.

“There are two sides to a story,” Gregory Campbell, the son who now faces Medicaid-fraud charges, told The Herald in 2006 in the wake of the dead disabled people in Professional Group Home’s care.

As for the tax liens, despite court records, Rep. Campbell told The Herald in 2012 “I don’t have no tax liens.”

She then falsely told The Miami Times that “The Miami Herald never spoke with me and I don’t know anything about any tax problems.” But then she reversed herself by saying she has a payment plan with the tax agency and that “my accountant is working with the IRS.”

On Friday in an interview with a Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times state capital bureau reporter, Campbell also disputed the evidence of the red-light tickets issued to her husband’s Honda Odyssey.

The company that runs the ticketing program, American Traffic Solutions, provided video of the minivan running red lights on two occasions. It also furnished a photo of the back of the Odyssey showing a Campbell campaign sticker.

“It’s a lie,” she said. “That camera is a made up story. You can do anything with the computer now.”

Campbell said her red-light legislation isn’t about her or her husband.

“My constituents complained and the people are hurting,” Campbell said. “I promised them when I went to Tallahassee that I would repeal the red light cameras.”

And that’s because she’s a Miami-Dade citizen legislator in a citizen’s legislature.

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