As Miami commission candidate Richard P. Dunn II announced a handful of endorsements Wednesday before next week’s runoff election against Keon Hardemon, city elections coordinator Dwight Danie was crafting a letter informing him he would be fined up to $6,000 for the most recent campaign report — due at the beginning of the month but filed 12days late.
Dunn, who was considered a favorite to win the Nov. 5 election, has changed his management team since his surprising second-place showing. He said Wednesday if he receives a letter from the city about the fine he will appeal to the state’s Division of Elections.
“We have a new team working on that now,” he said.
The fine — $500 a day for each late day — is the latest in what is now a laundry list of campaign-finance irregularities the senior pastor at Faith Community Baptist Church is dealing with as he campaigns for the city’s District 5 seat to replace term-limited Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones. Spence-Jones, still popular throughout her district, is a key supporter of Hardemon’s.
The city received Dunn’s most recent report on Tuesday, 12 days past the Nov. 1 due date. It lists contributions of $46,950, but no expenditures.
“He can appeal [the fine] to the state,” Danie said.
As he has for the past three weeks, Dunn refused to respond to questions about his campaign’s finances. After a lengthy speech Wednesday about unity, he said now isn’t the time to address those issues.
“Not today,” he said.
Wednesday’s press conference was an effort to show that Dunn had brought together the Haitian and African American communities over a move by Spence-Jones to get city planners to study permanent boundaries for Little Haiti. The heated debate pitted many older African American and Upper Eastside residents attached to the Lemon City and Little River communities against some residents in the Haitian community who want an expanded permanent boundary.
Dunn said he’ll work on official boundaries for Little Haiti, but respect the communities of Lemon City and Little River.
At Dunn’s side were North Miami Mayor Lucie Tondreau and former Mayor Joe Celestin. County Commissioner Audrey Edmonson sent some staffers. Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado and commissioners Marc Sarnoff and Wifredo “Willy” Gort, who the Dunn campaign said have endorsed their candidate, were absent.
Dunn made the runoff during last week’s election, but just barely. Now he’s in a sprint to turn the tide against Hardemon, who secured twice as many votes as Dunn, in time for Tuesday’s runoff. Gregory King, Dunn’s campaign manager, is gone. Miami-Dade Children’s Trust executive Jacqui Colyer, who ended up in third place just a handful of votes behind Dunn, is now his de facto manager, and he has hired many of her staffers.
Colyer said Dunn promised her she’d have his ear on crime and public housing issues that plague the inner-city. “The main thing in the Hardemon campaign is there is no place for real discussion in how you get to the future of District 5,” she said.
Still, financial issues continued to dog Dunn.
Two weeks ago a U.S. postal inspector in Miami questioned a financial report from Dunn that was due Oct. 4, but that the city received Oct. 24. Danie said the report was filed in time because it was postmarked on Oct. 4, but the postal inspector in Miami said the scanning code on the 1-Day Priority Mail envelope Dunn had purchased showed the envelope didn’t enter the mail system until Oct. 22.
That report, which shows contributions and expenditures from July through September, also showed a host of meals purchased in several restaurants, from Royal Castle to the 94th Aero Squadron. Dunn also listed 43 group payments to seven women totaling more than $18,000 for those three months. Two of the women claimed they weren’t paid that much or nearly that often. Campaign Manager Gregory King admitted to paying some of the women in cash, which is against state election laws.
At the time, Danie sent a letter to the state’s Division of Elections asking if his office was “following the right path.”
Dunn hasn’t addressed the issue, instead insisting the media and the candidates should be focused on the concerns of the district’s residents, like crime and public housing. District 5, the most diverse and poor in the city, runs from Overtown, through Little Haiti and Liberty City, and east to Shorecrest and Belle Meade.
Dunn has more political experience than Hardemon, who ran for office unsuccessfully last year against Edmonson for a county commission seat.
Hardemon’s campaign is receiving assistance from his aunt and uncle, Barbara and Billy Hardemon.
Billy Hardemon was the chief aide to former county commissioner James Burke, who was found guilty of pushing through a 1996 county bond for San Francisco bond dealer Calvin Grigsby in exchange for tens of thousands of dollars. Burke received a 27-month prison term. Billy Hardemon, charged with bribery conspiracy, was acquitted after a two-month trial.
Dunn has repeatedly held the District 5 seat. In the mid 1990s he was chosen to replace Miller Dawkins, who had been arrested and suspended from office. Dunn lost a race for the same commission seat in 2005 to Spence-Jones, but was later chosen to replace her after she was arrested and suspended from office in 2010.
A year later, he won a special election for the seat, only to be replaced by Spence-Jones in mid-2011 after she beat a felony charge and another was dropped.