Dade Medical College built its fast-growing empire with a healthy dose of political influence — the college founder has poured at least $170,000 into campaign contributions, and close to a dozen local politicians either took jobs at the college or benefited financially in some way.
The for-profit college’s political links, it turns out, also extend to elected officials’ families. At least two family members of powerful politicians have attended Dade Medical.
One of them, the sister-in-law of state Rep. Carlos Trujillo, is receiving free tuition, a source close to the family told the Miami Herald. That means she’s saving tens of thousands of dollars that students typically have to pay.
That sister-in-law declined to speak with a reporter who visited her home.
“No thanks,” she said, wagging her finger.
When Trujillo himself was questioned about the issue, he initially said he was “not aware” of whether the in-law was getting free tuition.
The next day, Trujillo took it upon himself to seek a legal opinion from the Florida House of Representatives’ general counsel, Daniel Nordby. In an e-mail to the Miami Herald, Trujillo wrote:
“I take my ethical obligations very seriously and want to ensure that I am always compliant with our conflict and reporting laws. Mr. Nordby confirmed to me that which I knew, namely that neither my sister-in-law’s attendance at Dade Medical College, nor her financial aid package, create any voting conflicts for me as she is neither an immediate family member as defined by the relevant Florida Statutes, and I have no knowledge about her financial-aid status. Therefore, there is no voting conflict nor improper gift in this instance.”
Two days later, in a follow-up interview, Trujillo was asked if he had spoken with his sister-in-law. Had he settled the question, once and for all, of whether she was getting free tuition?
Trujillo said he had not. Trujillo explained that he wouldn’t be asking his relative about it because doing so would be an invasion of her privacy.
“I have never asked anybody for a discount in anything,” Trujillo said. “I’m not going to dig into my sister-in-law’s personal finances. I would never ask her that question.”