Mark Bell’s campaign worker in Homestead absentee ballot controversy resigns

10/21/2013 5:14 PM

10/22/2013 9:54 AM

A man accused of absentee-ballot fraud last week in Homestead has resigned from Mark Bell’s mayoral campaign.

James Brady resigned from his job as a campaign worker late Friday, a few hours after Bell learned that a family of four had accused Brady and another man of filling out their ballots with the names of candidates they didn’t want.

“He told us his version of what happened and I told him, ‘Mr. Brady, until the investigation is over we’ll have to suspend you,’” Bell said Monday. “He said he’d voluntarily step down.”

Bell, whose wife is Miami-Dade County Commissioner Lynda Bell, stressed that all his campaign workers are instructed not to touch voters’ ballots. Their job, he said, is simply to canvass voters and promote his campaign.

Brady, 31, did not respond to a phone message Monday.

Betty Brockington accused Brady and another man whose name she didn’t know of filling out the families four absentee ballots with the names of candidates she and her relatives don’t support: Bell for Homestead mayor and Norman Hodge Jr. for city council.

Brockington, 54, said she allowed the men to sit on her front porch and fill out the ballots because she thought they worked with her friend, Councilman Jimmie Williams III, who is running for reelection. The men wound up leaving the house with only three of the four ballots; one of Brockington’s nieces grabbed her own ballot back after realizing the men had marked the wrong candidates.

In an interview with El Nuevo Herald and the Miami Herald on Friday, Brady denied having touched the family’s ballots and said he’d never even stepped on Brockington’s porch. He said that another man named “Emmanuel” who also worked for Bell’s campaign through a third man, “Tyrone,” had visited Brockington’s home on Thursday because he knew “they had absentee ballots.”

But later on Friday, Brady said he didn’t know an “Emmanuel” or a “Tyrone.” Bell also said he hadn’t hired any workers by those names, and that he’d hired Brady directly.

Brockington and her niece reported the incident to authorities last week. Both the Miami-Dade Commission on Ethics & Public Trust and the Miami-Dade state attorney’s office have been alerted to the allegations.

The voters also reached out to the county’s elections department to ensure the manipulated ballots are not counted and to ask how to get new ballots in time to vote in the upcoming Nov. 5 election.

“I want to vote,” Brockington said Monday. “I think I’m going to vote early this time and go in person sometime this week.”

Early voting began Monday.

This isn’t the first voter fraud allegation in Homestead in recent weeks.

After the city’s Oct. 1 primary elections, a city council candidate filed a complaint with the ethics commission, alleging that one of his opponents had committed fraud.

“I too was a victim,” said Rochenel Marc, who came in third place during the primaries.

Marc refused to explain his allegations, citing the open investigation.

Ethics Commission Executive Director Joe Centorino also declined to comment.

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