Politics

Wayne Messam says he’s reviewing claims of unpaid presidential campaign workers

Miramar Mayor Wayne Messam poses for a portrait in Miramar, Fla., on March 27, 2019. Messam announced on March 28 that he is running for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Miramar Mayor Wayne Messam poses for a portrait in Miramar, Fla., on March 27, 2019. Messam announced on March 28 that he is running for the Democratic presidential nomination. AP

Little-known in his home state, Miramar Mayor Wayne Messam had what for a long-shot candidate could only be described as a hugely successful rollout of his presidential campaign last month when he kicked things off with the release of a polished video and a before-dawn announcement on CNN’s New Day.

Was it all downhill from there?

Barely a month into an unlikely 2020 bid, Messam is already fending off allegations that his campaign is in chaos. According to Miami New Times, a former staffer says Messam employees are bailing because his wife has “consolidated” the campaign’s finances and won’t cut checks.

Reached Friday, Messam declined to specifically address questions about whether his campaign has failed to pay a staff that the campaign recently numbered at 20 employees. But he said a campaign attorney is looking into an email that, according to New Times, was sent to his team alleging that his spouse, Angela Messam, was refusing to issue paychecks.

“We’re aware of the letter that was sent and the campaign is working with counsel to address any legitimate claims,” Messam said, adding that he’s not aware of any “written resignations.”

Federal campaign fillings show that his wife was a registered agent on his Wayne Messam For America campaign account until earlier this month. They also suggest that Messam struggled early in a crowded field to raise money.

He initially reported raising $83,000 during the first two-plus weeks of his campaign, although he later amended his financial report to clarify that he’d actually raised $43,000. And he’s reported spending less than $2,000 between his March 13 rollout and the end of March despite trips to Israel and South Carolina.

Missing payroll would also be odd considering that Messam owns a general contracting business and was able to loan his successful mayoral reelection campaign $40,000 in late December. And a financial collapse so early into the campaign would be embarrassing: Messam has been confident about making the June debates in Miami and his senior campaign team — four of whom, including his spokeswoman, did not respond to calls and text messages Friday — has included reputable consultants.

Messam, though, said he’s feeling positive.

“I’m actually excited about where the campaign is in terms of the attention, the national attention we’re getting,” Messam said. “We’re working hard to get in front of as many donors as possible and we’re excited about the prospects of getting our message out.”

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