By Marianela Toledo | Florida Watchdog
MIAMI — Miami Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez says political motives are behind allegations he obstructed an investigation into electoral fraud, claiming his innocence in the dismissal of the anti-corruption agents who investigated the case.
Others say Gimenez’s own political power may be behind a case that has suddenly gone cold.
“What they (the agents) are saying happened a year ago and they don’t have any evidence,” the mayor said. “It’s interesting that (the allegations) came just a week before the negotiations were to begin on payments and benefits of police employees and unions.”
Last week, WJAN TV, channel 41, reported that members of the Miami Police Department’s anti-corruption unit planned to file a complaint with the FBI against the mayor in the absentee ballot case.
“He (Gimenez) cannot deny that the ticket seller, Daisy Cabrera, gave ballots to his campaign,” John Rivera, president of the Miami-Dade Police Benevolent Association, said. “One of our investigators asked the assistant prosecutor for a warrant, but was not given permission to do that. And right after the (Daisy Cabrera) arrest, his campaign office shut down. Why did he do that?”
According to CBS 4, Luis Rodriguez, the former Corruption Unit detective, confirms Rivera’s version of the events. He said he did not grant a search warrant for Gimenez’s Hialeah campaign office. Prosecutors, he said, failed to analyze key evidence, including Cabrera’s notebook containing the names of voters and candidates.
The case that tainted the re-election campaigns of Gimenez and Miami State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle turned out to be nothing more than a local viral news story.
Just before the 2012 primary elections, a witness came forward with video in hand reportedly showing Cabrera, a well-known Hialeah ballot broker, hustling absentee ballots from elderly minorities in a low-income neighborhood. Cabrera allegedly was selling illegally obtained absentee ballots to Al Lorenzo, Gimenez’s and Rundle’s campaign adviser. Lorenzo was fired from both campaigns.
The investigation was passed to Broward County prosecutors because of a possible conflict of interest. In March, Florida Watchdog learned that Joe Carrillo, the private detective who filmed Cabrera in Hialeah, visited Broward prosecutor’s office with video. But far from being a silver bullet, Florida Watchdog was told by Ron Ishoy, communications manager for Broward’s State Attorney’s Office, “Our office and (state police) have received evidence in this case from the Miami-Dade Police Department” and “we are still awaiting more.”
Now, Rivera claims the mayor is striking back, cutting the Miami Dade’s Anti-Corruption agency from 20 officers to 10. Some were transferred to other departments, and others were let go.
“I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the investigators who worked on the case of absentee ballots were discharged,” Rivera said.
Gimenez, however, said that’s “absolutely ridiculous and false.”
“I’m not involved at all in the reorganization of that unit. That was a decision of the director and deputy director,” the mayor said.
Contact Marianela Toledo at Marianela.Toledo@FloridaWatchdog.org twitter @mtoledoreporter