Miami-Dade County

Former Miami commissioner Dunn reaches accord with state on election violations

Former Miami Commissioner Richard P. Dunn II monitors election returns during a 2013 campaign.
Former Miami Commissioner Richard P. Dunn II monitors election returns during a 2013 campaign. Miami Herald File/2013

Former Miami Commissioner Richard P. Dunn II, who lost a heated commission race last year after a series of financial reporting gaffes, has paid the state more than $2,000 in fines as a result of those errors.

Dunn agreed to the fines last month and admitted to making more than 200 payments to election staffers without listing complete addresses, paying more than four dozen staffers with a single check and other times paying them in cash, and using petty cash to pay workers.

Though none of the findings reach criminal status, they’re all against state election regulations and come with fines. The Florida Elections Commission also said that on 69 occasions Dunn listed campaign expenditures as food, which is another unauthorized expense.

The final order issued Nov. 14 is a settlement between Dunn and the state, not a finding of guilt. Tim Holladay, chairman of the FEC, said it “resolves all of the issues between the parties in this case.”

Dunn on Monday admitted to a series of campaign finance mistakes. Prior to the settlement, Dunn repeatedly blamed the media for his political demise, lambasting a series of Miami Herald stories that identified workers who claimed to be paid in cash, and an unusually large number of meals written off as expenses.

The former commissioner, though, refused to directly discuss the claims during the campaign.

The stories highlighted 43 lump-sum payments to seven women totaling more than $18,000. Even Dunn’s former campaign manger admitted at the time to paying the workers in cash, which is against state election laws.

After the agreement was reached with the state in November, Dunn owned up to the gaffes.

“We knew there were mistakes. We knew that when you did the stories. The way it ended, it could have been a lot worse,” Dunn said. “But we settled. It’s behind me. Case closed. End of story.”

Dunn was fined $750 for certifying his reports as correct and complete on three occasions when they were not; $250 for returned checks; $250 for using petty cash for unauthorized expenses; $500 for failing to include other required information; and $500 for making unauthorized expenditures.

The FEC began its look into Dunn after local blogger Al Crespo filed a complaint in November 2013. The state agency generally doesn’t take action unless an actual complaint is filed.

Dunn, a senior pastor at Faith Community Baptist Church who has had several stints as a Miami commissioner since the 1990s, was considered a heavy favorite to claim the City Commission’s District 5 seat from term-limited Michelle Spence-Jones in November.

But Spence-Jones’ backing of Liberty City favorite son Keon Hardemon and the constant publicized financial reporting errors by the Dunn campaign proved too much for the pastor to overcome. Though Dunn qualified for the November runoff against Hardemon, he lost handily, by about a 2-1 margin.

In the final days leading up to the runoff election, Dunn fell out of favor with Little Haiti voters who believed the pastor was against extending the boundaries of the enclave that runs from the city’s center almost to its northern border. Miami-Dade election results show Hardemon garnered twice as many votes as Dunn in Little Haiti.

Dunn, in a light-hearted mood Monday, refused to “ever” rule out another run for office. He has sat on the Miami commission dais representing District 5 on three separate occasions, twice appointed, another time winning a special election.

“Now that all of this is behind me, who knows, I may run for mayor of Miami and perhaps I’ll ask Al Crespo to be my campaign manager,” he quipped.