#PoliticalCortadito: Carlos Gimenez abuses power in election interference for lobbyist son

Let’s say that the mayor of a big city calls one of his employees on a Sunday morning at home. This employee, who years ago he promoted to chief of her department, is in charge of municipal elections and, lo and behold, she changes her mind about a previously hard and fast deadline on an upcoming ballot. The mayor admits to a local paper that he intervened in this matter for his son, a lobbyist who works on behalf of someone with an interest in the ballot.

Sounds like Nicaragua, don’t it? Almost anywhere else, this would draw some drumbeats and possibly an investigation into what is obviously, at the very least, an abuse of power.
But this happened in Miami-Dade, where Mayor Carlos Gimenez admitted to the Miami Herald only a few weeks ago that he used his elected office to get his lobbyist son a week-long extension on the Miami referendum for a strong mayor — and everyone just shrugs their shoulders and moves along like there’s nothing to see here.

How is this not being investigated? Have we become so numb to these abuses of power that such an extension of the friends and family plan is no big deal?

For those of you who are just hearing about this like Ladra was a few days ago: Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, who wants to be a strong mayor (more on that later), was having a hard time getting the ballot language good enough for the commission to agree on it. The deadline for the language to be at the Miami-Dade Elections Department was Tuesday, Aug. 7. Suarez called White and asked for a few more days. She told him it could not be done.

A few days later, on a Sunday, Aug. 5, White gets a phone call from Gimenez who asks her the same thing. Now, the answer is different. Now the answer is,sure, why not? Heck, she could wait even a week more. But nobody tells Suarez, who called a special meeting for Monday, Aug. 6, during which the city manager calls White and, voila, gets a week extension, seemingly on the spot. That Emilio Gonzalez has magical convincing powers, right?

Wrong. Everyone finds out the later that day or the next day is that the week-long extension had already been granted — a day earlier and to another mayor, Gimenez. Mayor Giveaway told the Herald point blank that when he told his son about the extension, the suddenly hot lobbyist CJ Gimenez, Commissioner Joe Carollo, who CJ grew close to during the Miami commission seat campaign last year (photo, left), was sitting next to him. It sounds like Mayor Gimenez knew he was talking to both of them. Maybe on speaker. CJ always puts dad on speaker.

“I told them it wasn’t a hard date,” Gimenez is quoted as saying in the Herald. “That if requested, the supervisor of elections would probably be amenable to moving it back a week.”

Can’t you just hear the Don Corleone accent? I told them that if requested, the supervisor of elections would probably be amenable to moving it back a week.
So, basically, Gimenez got the extension and Carollo played dumb at the meeting about it for some reason. Maybe Crazy Joe knows that Crooked Carlos shouldn’t have done that.
Reached Wednesday, White said she couldn’t recall if Gimenez had called her that Sunday in the morning or the evening and said it wasn’t that uncommon. “He’s my boss,” she said. “We do talk as needed.”

When Ladra asked her how often her boss calls her on weekends, White couldn’t even give a ballpark figure.

“Is it once a month?” No answer to that. “Twice a month?”

“When I’m in election season, as needed, if something comes up, there’s never been an issue in calling him or vice versa,” she said. Well, except for when he was running for office, she said. “We really did not communicate very often then. He really respected the fact that he was the candidate,” White volunteered. But what did they talk about those few times? How do we know what “very often” means?

This is especially important because Gimenez actually told the Herald he himself was the supervisor of elections.

“I’m the supervisor of elections. I delegate that power to Christina White,” Gimenez is quoted as saying.

Did he, for instance, call White the weekend in the summer of 2016 that he needed to submit another check to qualify after his first check was invalidated because it was dated 2015. Remember that second check that was submitted at 10:20 p.m., way after the elections office is supposedly closed for the day, and the questions surrounding whether or not he may have abused his power to get the office open? Or was he simply the elections supervisor then, too?

Did Gimenez call White to tell her to forget about the check that a candidate for school board had cancelled after his son convinced the man to drop out of the race against his sister-in-law? Remember that Richard Tapia never officially withdrew from the race after having lunch or whatever with CJ (photo left) who encouraged him to drop out so his aunt, School Board Member Maria Teresa Rojas, would have an easier ride in? Was Mayor Gimenez the elections supervisor then, too? Or does the county just forgive anybody and everybody who cancels their checks?

There have been several opportunities for Mayor Gimenez to interfere with and, indeed, manipulate the electoral process — and we still don’t know how often he calls the elections supervisor on the weekends.

“So, twice a month?”

“There is no figure,” White said, exasperated at very legitimate questions that really need to be asked after she is subpoenaed and under oath..

She did say she did not feel uncomfortable by his call or what she deemed as his “inquiry,” because she insists her boss did not ask her to extend the deadline. Gimenez simply asked, White said, if it could be done if it needed to be done — lke it was a hypothetical situation? — and she said why, yes, it could.

Did she happen to mention to Gimenez that Mayor Suarez had, indeed, asked for such an extension just a couple days earlier and that she denied it? “I did not tell him,” White told Ladra. Hmmmm. Don’t you think that would naturally come up in that Sunday conversation? I mean, if it wasn’t uncomfortable.

The deadline exists, by the way, because of all the work that goes into putting together the general election ballot, starting the day after the primary. There are dozens of questions on the ballot with more than 20 questions in one city alone this year (North Bay Village) and each of those has to be translated to Spanish and Haitian Kreole, then have those translations “negotiated,” because they are never spot on the first time, then have them all approved before the ballot is laid out.

“He just wanted to know if I was asked for an extension would I have a problem with that,” White {photo left) told Ladra. “It’s not that big a deal for me to give a city an extra week, for one city for one question. Especially since I saw the meeting and they were struggling with finding the ballot language.”

But there are three problems with her story: One is that Suarez, too, had asked for an extension for just one city for just one question and she had said nananina tothat.
“My recollection of that conversation is he asked ‘Is the deadline firm?’ and I said, ‘Yes, it is,'” White said.

Then why wasn’t it firm that Sunday in her conversation with Gimenez?
The second is that the meeting took place on Monday — and she had already told Mayor Gimenez she would extend the deadline a day earlier. Sp watching them struggle with the language had, literally, nothing to do with it.

And the third is that Gimenez himself told the Herald about a conversation that seemingly went differently. After all, he is the supervisor of elections delegating the power to White.
“To me, it’s important to get things right,” Gimenez told the Miami Herald. “Adding another week to get things on the ballot, I don’t see a problem with that. I would do it for anyone else who asked. That is the democratic process.”

White needs to be put under oath when questioned by ethics investigators and/or prosecutors. Yes, Ladra went there. This is by far the clearest evidence of abuse of power by a man whose friends and family plan apparently knows no bounds. It’s not as if they need someone to make a complaint, but if they do, I will.
Where are the authorities?

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