Miami Gardens voters confronted unethical campaign tactics
By Derek Joy
At 10 years old, Miami Gardens is a relatively infant municipality in Miami Dade County.
Yet, the fourth largest among the county’s 35 municipalities saw the ugliness of unethical campaign practices raise its head. The questionable practices surfaced front and center as early voting began last week.
“It’s a hotly contested race,” said Elizabeth Judd, a Miami Gardens community activist. “Candidates put out literature. Activists circulate slates just like the ballot. The one put out by Abraham Thomas was altered and circulated by people working for Francis Ragoo.”
“County Ordinance specifically states, ‘I will not use or permit to use any fraudulent material,” said Judd, while adding that the fraud was uncovered by Henrietta Lacy, a campaign worker at the North Dade Regional Library.
Lacy did not return a telephone call seeking comment.
However, according to Judd, who also had photographs of campaign workers passing out the fraudulent literature, Ragoo’s name was fraudulently substituted on the slate prepared and circulated by Thomas.
“It’s a resolved issued,” said Thomas. “No need to go further. When it was brought to my attention I went to him (Franciss Ragoo) man to man. He denied having done it and he has ceased using it.”
Conspicuously absent from the controversy is former Miami Gardens Councilman Andre Williams, who, along with Ragoo is challenging Ighodaro for the District 6 seat. Williams lost a bid for Mayor last year when then Councilman Oliver Gilbert III won the seat.
“It’s a partial truth,” said Ragoo, when asked about the fraudulent literature been circulated by his campaign workers. “I don’t know anything about it. I didn’t do it. When Abraham Thomas came to me I explained I didn’t have it printed.
“It was stopped the same day. When you know better you do better. I stopped it. In running for elected office you must have integrity and leadership to be in office. I don’t need to run and misrepresent the integrity of the office. That’s leadership.”
Leadership and experience are being heavily tossed about by Ighodaro, Ragoo and Williams. What is being noted is that two of the three candidates have a twist of history at work.
Ighodaro became the first Nigerian American elected official in Florida when he was appointed to the Council last year. Ragoo is seeking to oust Ighodaro and become the first Trinidadian American elected to public office in Florida.
And in the process controversy surfaced. Pictures were taken documenting the existence and use of fraudulent campaign material.
“People wanted me to file an ethics complaint,” Ighodaro said. “But I went to him (Ragoo) instead. He denied it. He said I should file a complaint. Dr. King (Martin Luther King, Jr.) was the true measure of a man. He advocated playing the game fair”.
“As an athlete I learned to play by the rules, the game fair,” said Ighodaro, who left his native Nigeria on a basketball scholarship to Florida Memorial University (FMU), where he is currently a criminal justice professor. If you are out-manned, your opponent is better qualified, you don’t cheat.”
“The ultimate predictor of what somebody will do in the future is what he’s done in the past. He’s not innovative, doesn’t have any creativity. He should just play by the rules, play fair and just run on merit.”