Miami-Dade County

Dunn campaign workers: We were paid in cash

Two women who have done work for the Rev. Richard P. Dunn’s campaign say they were paid in cash — a violation of state election law if true — and that they were not paid as many times as the front-runner for Miami’s District 5 seat claims on his most recent campaign finance report.

Loretta Richards and Regina Jackson told the Miami Herald on Monday that on some of the days they worked for the campaign, usually knocking on doors or handing out fliers, they were given $20 or $30 at the end of the day.

Richards, 52 and unemployed, said she worked for the Dunn campaign for about three weeks until mid October. Jackson, 51 and also looking for work, said she’s been with the campaign for about six months.

“I was paid maybe $150 or $180 altogether, $20 a day, maybe eight times,” said Richards. “I was paid in cash, never a check.”

Dunn’s most recent report filed with the Miami city clerk’s office on Friday shows his campaign paid a group of seven women a total of $18,283.60 in 43 installments between July 1 and Sept. 27.

Except for two occasions totaling $80 in cash, the payments were listed as being paid by check. Each payment is shown as being made to the whole group, not broken out by individual names.

The checks ranged in amounts from a low of $60 on Sept. 5 to a high of $3,000 on Sept. 27.

The report does not list the women individually or give their addresses, both requirements under state law.

State election laws require campaign workers be paid by check. A violation can result in a fine as much as three times the dollar figure involved, plus $1,000. Dunn is the leading fundraiser and favorite to replace Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones in the Nov. 5 election as representative of District 5. He’s being challenged by Jacqui Colyer, Keon Hardemon and Robert Malone Jr.

Florida Elections Commission spokeswoman Brittany Lesser said that, with minor exceptions, cash payments are not permitted for campaign expenses.

“The statute says it has to be in a bank check,” Lesser said.

Jackson, the Dunn campaign worker, said on days she worked someone would usually buy her water or lunch and pay her $20 or $30 at the end of the day — but nowhere near the 43 times in the past three months that Dunn’s campaign report indicates.

“They just throw you something. You’re out there working, sweating.”

She said she was paid only in cash, and not every time she worked. Jackson said she was usually given small cards with Dunn’s biography on them and was told to pass them around. She said she was told a bigger payday would come if Dunn won the seat.

“Really, we have to wait until the end,” she said.

Besides Richards and Jackson, the other women listed as being paid by the campaign are Vashawn Jackson, Carol Thomas, Gwen Thompson, Darcene Potter and Angela Chain.

Dunn did not return calls to his cellphone or home phone seeking comment. But in a statement released late Monday night, his campaign manager, Greg King, said some of the checks were written to him and he paid some of the women in cash because they didn’t have bank accounts.

“As campaign manager for Richard Dunn, I am responsible for payments to campaign workers. In the interest of expediting payment to our dedicated campaign workers in a timely manner, some of the workers were paid in cash,” said King.

“Some of the workers didn’t have bank accounts or their workday didn’t end until after banks had closed. More importantly, many of them, some of them single mothers, depended on that money, however meager, to get basic necessities.”

Dunn’s attorney, J.C. Planas, said he was told Richards, one of the campaign workers, switched allegiances to Hardemon during the campaign.

Barbara Hardemon, the candidate’s aunt and campaign manager, said Richards worked for the campaign for “a couple of days” this election cycle but is not longer working for the candidate. Richards also worked for Hardemon during his previous unsuccessful run for a county commission seat, she said.

Dunn’s campaign finance report shows the group of seven women were paid different amounts at different times, and often several times on the same day.

On Aug. 23, the report says, a check was written to them for $142.95. Two checks were written to the group on Sept. 18, one for $1,827.65, another for $400. On Aug. 26 they were paid $60 in cash, and they received another $20 in cash on Sept. 13. And on Sept. 13, the report says, the campaign wrote the group checks for $420 and $1,600.

Dwight Danie, who oversees Miami elections in the city clerk’s office, said Dunn campaign treasurer Claytosha Owens-Fields told him Monday that sometimes several checks were written that when combined equaled the amount shown in the campaign report. Owens-Fields did not say who the checks were written to or how the money was disbursed, Danie said.

Spence-Jones, the commissioner Dunn is trying to replace, got in trouble for a similar issue in 2008. That’s when Spence-Jones — who is term limited and is supporting Hardemon — agreed to an $8,000 fine for violating elections laws by improperly giving cash to poll workers during her first commission victory in 2005.

A settlement agreement reached between Spence-Jones and the FEC said the commissioner violated campaign laws five times during her bitter but victorious runoff contest — against Dunn.

Spence-Jones received the most serious fine for handing out nearly $23,000 in cash to poll workers on Election Day. She said she believed she was following campaign rules when she approved the cash payments.

The Hardemons are now helping run their nephew Keon Hardemon’s campaign against Dunn.

Last week the Miami Herald reported that the Dunn campaign had spent more than $2,500 on 60 visits to area restaurants ranging from Royal Castle and McDonald’s to Blue Collar and the 94th Aero Squadron. The campaign often visited several restaurants in a single day.

Dunn has had money problems in his career. He resigned as assistant pastor at Drake Memorial Baptist Church in the early 1990s after confessing to the board of trustees that he had used church funds for personal expenses. Dunn eventually paid the church back.

Public records show that his wife, Daphne, filed for personal bankruptcy in January 2012.

County records also show the couple owes $1,214.88 in property taxes from 2012.

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