For South Florida Haitians trying to navigate the sometimes-confusing election process, Carline Paul is a stern but encouraging voice who offers guidance over Haitian radio.
Better known as “Teacher Carline,” Paul is paid by Miami-Dade County to explain to Haitian voters how they can cast ballots, either in person or through absentee ballots.
But in the August elections, Paul was also paid by Barbara Watson, a Miami Gardens Democratic state representative, to campaign for her on Haitian radio. Paul was paid $14,000 by the county — and $1,000 by Watson, who defeated former state Rep. John Julien in the District 107 Florida House race.
Paul, an adult-education teacher for Miami-Dade County Public Schools, said there was no conflict of interest.
“Me, as an educator, my job has been to educate this community,” she said. “I am sick and tired of people taking advantage of them.”
Ethics experts say her two roles as a political consultant and neutral educator are a breach of the public’s trust.
“I certainly sympathize with the county in that the best way to reach the community is to go to the people who are popular in that community. On the other hand, government at any level has to think about if this person is truly neutral,” said Bob Jarvis, an ethics professor at Nova Southeastern University.
A lawsuit prompted by allegations of ballot fraud in the District 107 race has thrown Paul’s name into the middle of a countywide absentee-ballot investigation. Julien, who lost to Watson by 13 votes, claims there was fraud.
Paul “has continued to manipulate the people that she is supposed to be helping. She continues to perpetuate the ignorance of the voting process,” Julien said.
Paul said there is no basis for Julien’s allegations.
“John Julien is a sore loser,” said Paul, 54. “The community did not support him, and neither did I.”