Where does she live? A Miami lawmaker's bizarre attempt to reside in her district

Daphne Campbell.
Daphne Campbell. rkoltun@elnuevoherald.com

It’s just after 9 a.m. on a Tuesday morning, and someone wearing a red polo shirt embroidered with the words “Senator Daphne Campbell” answers the doorbell at a pink house in North Miami Beach.

She cracks open the door, spies a reporter and slams it shut without saying a word.

Campbell, longtime owner of a five-bedroom, three-and-a-half bathroom home inconveniently located outside the community she's represented as a member of the Florida House and Senate, has been difficult to find at home over the last 30 months. More accurately, her home has been difficult to find.

That's until late June, when she switched her voter registration to this small, pink house in North Miami Beach. It’s one of at least four addresses she's listed over the last six years after a statewide redrawing of House districts placed her own home outside the boundaries and forced her into a series of temporary residences.

The extent to which she has actually lived at any of them is questionable.

The Florida Constitution requires that state lawmakers live within the districts they represent. But statements from a former campaign manager and the landlords at Campbell's listed residences reveal holes in Campbell's record. Not only has she spent the entirety of her time in the Florida Senate living somewhere other than the duplex where she was registered to vote, but she also voted twice from that address during her 2016 campaign in apparent violation of state law.

“Since redistricting [House District] 108, she wasn't living there" in her district, said Nacivre “Charlie” Charles, who ran Campbell's 2016 Senate campaign and before that helped her win reelection to the state House.

Charles says, in fact, Campbell spent most of the last 30 months living back at her house outside her district.

"She is a liar about almost everything."

Campbell insists that she has followed the law since first being elected to the House of Representatives eight years ago, but she declined to answer questions or provide detailed information to the Miami Herald. At the very least, public records and interviews show that she's been on an odyssey guided by political operatives ever since Florida moved the boundaries of the district to exclude the home of Miami's only Haitian-American legislator.

“I’ve been in office for eight years. I live in the district for eight years," said Campbell.

Campbell first changed her address away from the Carll Heights home she bought 20 years ago in northeast Miami-Dade about a month after her reelection in 2012 to a redrawn 108th House district, leaving her house outside its boundaries. On her voter's registration, she listed as her new address the home office on Northwest 40th Street for Ebenezer Christian Academy in Miami's Buena Vista neighborhood.

Emy Etienne, the school's founder and the pastor at the Full Gospel Assembly next door, says he agreed to let Campbell use the home without a lease. But he says he never told anyone about their arrangement, including his adopted son, who told a reporter who visited the property that the house was strictly used as an office.

“We’ve never rented it out,” said Roberto Joseph. “She never lived there.”

Daphne Buena Vista.JPG
Daphne Campbell moved her voter registration to this house in Buena Vista in late 2012 after the state redrew the lines for her House district and kept it there until just after Christmas the following year. Sarah Blaskey Miami Herald

A year later, Campbell moved her voter registration from Etienne’s school north to a duplex owned by activist Gepsie Metellus and her husband, Gerard Metellus. The couple say they signed a lease with Campbell for the upstairs unit on Northeast 116th Street, but couldn’t verify to what extent Campbell lived there.

Gerard Metellus could only confirm that Campbell's ex-husband kept up with the rent until the lease expired in late 2015. Reached by phone, Hubert Campbell responded to questions with profanities and told a reporter to "kiss my black ass" before hanging up.

Though Metellus says Campbell's lease expired more than two years ago and new tenants moved in, the senator kept her voter's registration at the address until late last month. During that period, Campbell campaigned and won a seat in the state Senate and voted using the address of the Metellus' duplex.

Also during that period, another woman, Gladys Apollon Aristilde, was registered to vote at the same address. She told the Miami Herald she moved into the unit in January 2016.

"I don't know her," Aristilde says of Campbell.

Daphne Metellus.JPG
Daphne Campbell registered to vote at this duplex in December of 2013 and kept her voter registration at the address until June 20. But the landlord says Campbell moved out in late 2015 and the tenant who lives there today says she moved in the following January.

Though it's not unusual for state lawmakers to move in order to comply with Florida's residency requirements, violations can have serious consequences. Senate and House rules allow for residency challenges that can result in removal from office and require that lawmakers sign a form affirming that they live within their districts.

Last year, then-Rep. Daisy Baez was investigated by a House ethics panel after the Miami Herald reported that she was living outside her district. The Democrat ultimately resigned and pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor elections violation after admitting that she lied about her address on her voter registration.

Immediately after Campbell's election to the Senate in November 2016, Charles, her campaign manager, says she called him concerned that she was going to have to swear soon under Senate rules that she lived in the district. That same day, Charles said he helped negotiate a lease at an Arch Creek Estates home in the district owned by Creole-radio host and political operative Carline Paul.

Campbell registered the address with the state. But Paul, known locally as Teacher Carline, says Campbell welched on the negotiated deposit, never signed the lease she drew up, and never moved in.

"I don't know what she told people but all of the sudden I started getting mail for her — from the state, Christmas cards from colleagues,” Paul said, flipping through letters addressed to Campbell at her address.

Daphe Mail.JPG
Carline Paul holds mail addressed to Daphne Campbell. Paul says she negotiated a lease with Campbell to move into her home shortly after she was elected to the Florida Senate. Campbell never moved in, but Paul started receiving mail for the Senator. Sarah Blaskey

The stack included an envelope holding a financial disclosure form sent in May of 2017 by the Florida Commission on Ethics. A spokeswoman for the ethics commission said the address was verified by a staffer at the Senate who helps coordinate addresses with the commission.

That same summer, though, Campbell switched the address again. She told the ethics commission that she was changing her address back to the home she owned on Northeast Fourth Avenue outside her district. Charles, her former campaign manager, says she'd been living there all along, though he says she referred to it as her children's home when she invited him over.

Nacivre Charles.JPG
Nacivre Charles in 2005.

"She always said come to my kids' house," said Charles, who says he split with Campbell after she stiffed him on nearly $20,000 in campaign payments related to her first Senate bid. "I don't think it was because she didn't want me to know she lived there. It was like practicing."

Charles is now working for Jason Pizzo, who is hoping to unseat Campbell in the August Democratic primary. Charles briefly served probation after pleading no contest to misdemeanor campaign-finance violations when he was treasurer for former North Miami Mayor Lucie Tondreau. He was also scrutinized during an absentee-ballot investigation in 2013 but was never charged with a crime.

When a reporter visited Campbell's Carll Heights home recently, a woman who answered the door said she was Campbell's daughter and said the Senator no longer lived there. In May, Campbell signed a quit claim deed and transferred ownership of the home to a limited liability company registered to an address of a commercial building that until last year was owned by her ex-husband.

Campbell transferred the home two days after court records show a 2017 foreclosure lawsuit brought by Wells Fargo was settled. In its complaint, the lender said Campbell had stopped paying her mortgage in December of 2016. The home, which is currently undergoing a remodeling, was also subject to three additional mortgages and nearly $200,000 in IRS tax liens at the time the foreclosure suit was filed, according to the complaint.

Reached by phone, Campbell shouted over questions and accused the Miami Herald of racism.

“Why don’t you guys run something good on Daphne Campbell for once?” the senator yelled before hanging up.

Daphne new home.JPG
Daphne Campbell switched her voter registration last month to this home in North Miami Beach. Sarah Blaskey Miami Herald

In June, Campbell switched her voter registration again, this time to a smallish Panuleta Gardens home owned by Sonia Remy Casimir a block north of North Miami Beach Boulevard. Last week, after a reporter stopped by and someone who appeared to be Daphne Campbell briefly opened the door, Casimir came outside and said Campbell had left for the day.

Casimir, who kept a reelect Daphne Campbell yard sign in her front yard, wouldn’t say when Campbell moved in.

"She is my sister,” said Casimir.

But she said the Senator was definitely living in the home — rent-free and without a lease.

Daphne Campbell's Miami odyssey

Over the last eight years, Florida Senator Daphne Campbell has listed at least five addresses with the state. Here’s a look at when and where she says she lived.

14625 NE Fourth Ave. — Daphne Campbell purchased this five-bedroom home in 1998 and listed it as her address until late 2012, when a House of Representatives redistricting placed her home outside the boundaries of her House District 108. Campbell changed her voter registration in December of 2012, and now says her children live in the home. Wells Fargo claimed in Miami-Dade court that Campbell stopped paying her mortgage in December of 2016, immediately following her election to the Florida Senate. This past May, she settled the foreclosure lawsuit and signed a quitclaim deed turning the property over to a limited liability company tied to an address where she keeps an office.

180 NW 40th St. — Campbell listed this small house in Miami's Buena Vista neighborhood on her voter registration in December of 2012. The home is owned and used as an office by Ebenezer Christian Academy. Pastor Emy Etienne says Campbell lived here but did not have a lease.

175 NE 116th St #1 — Campbell listed this duplex owned by Gepsie Metellus and Gerard Metellus on her voter registration in December of 2013. Campbell secured a lease, which Gerard Metellus says expired in December 2015. Campbell remained registered to vote at the property until June 20, 2018.

1348 NE 147th St. — Campbell listed this home with the state shortly after her election to the Florida Senate in November 2016. Carline Paul, who owns the house, said she wrote a lease for Campbell, but the lawmaker never signed or paid a deposit, and never moved in.

620 NE 168th St. — Campbell listed this home as her address on her voter registration on June 20, 2018. The house, located in North Miami Beach within Campbell's Senate District 38, is owned by Sonia Remy Casimir. Casimir says Campbell is living at the location rent free.