« Joe Garcia's weapon v. David Rivera: Marco Rubio's words | Main | Wasserman Schultz: Fla race is close but Obama's edge will be with seniors, Hispanics »

South Florida lawmakers send office mailers to residents outside of their current districts

Two South Florida state representatives running for reelection appear to have used taxpayer money to send office mailers to residents outside of their current districts –- a no-no under House policy.

Rep. Joe Gibbons, a Hallandale Beach Democrat, and Rep. Jeanette Nuñez, a Miami Republican, are both running for new seats after once-a-decade redistricting. House policy allows representatives to send taxpayer-funded mail to constituents in their current districts, but not to those in the newly redrawn districts they are seeking. 

Legislators typically send newsletters to their constituents after the annual legislative session. In advance of those mailings, House Republican leader Carlos Lopez-Cantera sent an email to Republican members in March reminding them of the House policy manual that states, "Generally, a Member may mail or distribute mass communications only to current constituents from that Member's district."

"Please remember to use the House District number that you currently represent in any mass communications," Lopez-Cantera's email said. "Voters in the newly numbered House Districts will only become your constituents upon the November election." 

At least three people who live outside of Nuñez's current District 112 -– including Libby Perez, her primary challenger for the new District 119 –- received mail from Nuñez's state office in recent weeks. One was a newsletter recapping the legislative session. The other was a letter noting Nuñez's support for legislation to address the victims of sexual exploitation and human trafficking. 

"If she can't follow basic guidelines and rules that pertain to her constituents, how can we as voters be assured that she's going to follow the rules for anything else?" Perez said. "I feel it is an abuse of her position and taxpayer money." 

Nuñez said she is very familiar with the House policies and the pieces, intended for her District 112 constituents, should not have gone out to residents of the new District 119, which covers a swath of Southwest Miami-Dade. 

"I find that very strange," she said. "I've given very specific instructions, based on House rules, that campaign is campaign and House stuff is House stuff." 

Nuñez said she would contact her mailing vendor to make certain the campaign addresses have not been commingled with those of her constituents to prevent future mailings from going to the wrong households. Nuñez, who was first elected in 2010, has far outraised Perez -- Nuñez has raised $243,971 to Perez's $9,295 -- who ran unsuccessfully two years ago for Miami-Dade School Board. 

For his part, Gibbons' May 14 mailer also drew the ire of his primary opponent, former Surfside Town Commissioner Sheldon Lisbon, in the latest controversy in the contest. Like with Nuñez's race, the Aug. 14 primary winner will take the seat because no candidate filed from the opposing party.

Gibbons said he has done nothing wrong and says he was following the direction of House officials who asked his office to provide constituent service to a neighboring district a few months after state Rep. Richard Steinberg, a Miami Beach Democrat, resigned amid an investigation for sending sexual texts to a federal prosecutor.

The question is whether House policies would give Gibbons some flexibility, since he was asked to provide constituent services to another district. Efforts to immediately get an answer from the House general counsel were unsuccessful Wednesday.

House Democratic spokesman Mark Hollis sent an email March 29 reminding Democrats about the June 8 deadline to send newsletters. That email didn’t directly discuss the rule about limiting newsletters to within a member's current district, but it had an attachment for the House policy that contains that rule. Hollis sent another reminder to members in April to consult the House policy related to newsletters.

Gibbons said the warning about the deadline sounded familiar but he didn't recall receiving any warnings about only sending communications to his current district.

All state-funded mass communications with the public are approved prior to publication jointly by the offices of the majority and minority leaders. But the approval is for content -- not who will receive it.

Gibbons has a campaign account that is nearly double Lisbon's, but due to redistricting, this could be a competitive contest. Gibbons landed in coastal District 100 where the majority of the voters live in Miami-Dade. Only about one-quarter of the district overlaps with Gibbons' current district. The northern part of Steinberg’s district was moved into the new District 100, and Gibbons said "that's where the mailer went" in addition to his current District 105.

Ryan Duffy, a House spokesman, confirmed that House administration asked Gibbons to handle constituent issues for Steinberg's district when it closed in May.

Gibbons' mailer stated that during the session he focused on "ways to help bolster Florida's economic rebound and to create jobs for Floridians." The mailer also included a list of bills he sponsored and mentioned some that relate to helping children, seniors and community associations.

A spokesman for Lisbon, Elliot Schreiber, raised concerns about Gibbons' mailer (see the mailer here
and here).

"How ethical is it to campaign using taxpayer's dollars in a district which he does not represent?"Schreiber wrote in an email to the Miami Herald.

--AMY SHERMAN AND PATRICIA MAZZEI

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

whasup

Well ... most taxpayers don't want any of our money spent on our politicans communicating with us with mailings, whether we are their current constituents or not.

If we want to know what they do for us ... or rather to us ... we'll look it up or call 'em up.

Otherwise, their mailings are just more politicos-hit inflicted on us ...

Just like the useless, bothersome load of bulk rate mail that ad firms stuff our mailboxes with for companies whose products and services we neither want nor need.

Roderick Silva

Nothing surprises me anymore. How convenient that Jeanette Nunez can use taxpayer money to send multiple office mailers to residents outside of her current district and then when she gets called out on it she simply blame it on her mailing vendor. No fines? No penalties? She should have to replace those funds with her campaign funds. She is collecting funds from some large organizations. I am very wary of her practices. They remind me too much of the current “pay to play” Tallahassee culture that rewards the elite special interests at our expense. Nunez has raised $250K. Now she owes favors. She is sneaky with her tax-payer budget and she is raising money from large organizations. Sounds like she knows how to play the current political games that they play in Tallahassee. Do you think she will seriously represent our best interest or the interest of her campaign donors?

On the other hand, Libby Perez is knocking on doors, speaking to her neighbors, and most importantly owes nobody any favors.

"This year our Florida Legislature approved more than $170 million in special project that escaped a transparent level of review and debate. It’s time to say “NO” to secret backroom deals and restore the public’s trust." - Libby Perez (http:www.LibbyPerez.com).

Nunez will just continue doing the same old thing they have always been doing. I'd love to see Libby Perez go up there and take a stand for the real citizens here in Kendall.

Libby Perez has my vote!

the beast

I just decided NOT to vote for Nunez. On top of this story, she put a sign in my yard without my permission (it'smin the trash) and I saw some worker put a flier on my door in which Nunez said "I'm sorry I missed you." Well she was no where in sight. As far as I'm concerned she abused tax payer dollars and is anything but truthful. Interesting that I got her first District flier but only my wife got the letter on trafficking. That's called targeting, not a mistake.

I just voted for Libby Perez.

Irritated Tax Payer

I can't believe Ms. Nunez is pulling the "I didn't know" routine after such a big issue of this was made with another prominent FL politician in June.

Ms. Nunez gets one black mark for disrespecting the tax payer and another for pretending it was a mistake.

adolfo Ibarra

Libby Perez is the best candidate for District # 119 and I guarantee you that she would never violate election campaign regulations. She would never blame someone else for her own actions.
Mrs. Nuñez, at the very least should take FULL responsibility for her actions, or at least fire her mailing co. & or her own personnel responsible for "the error"
Go Libby, you are a winner & have our support!

Marcus O

lol, libby and her whole family went on a posting rampage. Jeanette will win 60 to 40, at least.

AJ

I wouldn't mind kicking Nunez out of office, along with all the other bums. I think Nunez is a former lobbyist. Perez owns a family business, so at least she can relate to us.

Mark Anderson

Seems like Amy Sherman is going out of her way to help the Lisbon campaign. Lisbon is an amateur politician with no experience and has made his share of mistakes and needs help. Especially considering he does not have the money that Gibbons has. I seriously wonder if she's on his payroll. Who really cares about what Lisbon's spokesman has to say about this...of course he's going to find what ever Gibbons has done to be unethical. Duh!

Victor

Nunez actions are exactly why we should vote her out! Actually, we never voted her into our new district,they just made her our representative. No one in the new district knows her! Please don't let them dump her on us. Libby is in real touch with the majority of the voters in our district and is the best candidate. She will win 70 to 30. As you can see, Nunez will cheat anytime she gets a chance. She can't be trusted.

Victor

Nunez actions are exactly why we should vote her out! Actually, we never voted her into our new district,they just made her our representative. No one in the new district knows her! Please don't let them dump her on us. Libby is in real touch with the majority of the voters in our district and is the best candidate. She will win 70 to 30. As you can see, Nunez will cheat anytime she gets a chance. She can't be trusted.

Victor

Nunez actions are exactly why we should vote her out! Actually, we never voted her into our new district,they just made her our representative. No one in the new district knows her! Please don't let them dump her on us. Libby is in real touch with the majority of the voters in our district and is the best candidate. She will win 70 to 30. As you can see, Nunez will cheat anytime she gets a chance. She can't be trusted.

Victor

Nunez actions are exactly why we should vote her out! Actually, we never voted her into our new district,they just made her our representative. No one in the new district knows her! Please don't let them dump her on us. Libby is in real touch with the majority of the voters in our district and is the best candidate. She will win 70 to 30. As you can see, Nunez will cheat anytime she gets a chance. She can't be trusted.

Darlene

I live in Miami Beach which is not part of this new district gibbons is running in but is in Steinberg's district. If Mr Gibbons excuse for sending his newsletter outside of his current district is that he was asked to provide constituent service to Steinberg's district; why didn't I or any of my friends in MB get this newsletter. Did he just send it to Democrats that live in the new district 100? Noone i have asked that live in Miami Beach, which is NOT in this new district 100, got this newsletter.

And if he was trying to let these folks know his office would provide constituent srvice why didnt he mention that in his newsletter.

Maybe the Herald should ask him to produce the mailing list that it went to.

I called the office number for Rep Steinberg, there is not message asking me to call Gibbons. Just a disconnected msg. If he is suppose to be providing constituent services then why dont they forward our calls to gibbons. seems like a bunch of c--- to me.

Martha

I was one of those people that received the letter from Mrs. Nunez. I've no idea who she is or why she's writing to me when she doesn't even represented me. The law clearly states that you can use state house stationary for your current constituents only. Tax payers should not be used and abused the way Mrs Nunez has been doing.

The comments to this entry are closed.