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I-Team: Alvarez Seeks Answers In Transit Affair

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(CBS4)

(CBS4)

Jim-DeFede-600x450 Jim DeFede
Jim DeFede joined CBS4 News in January 2006, providing reg...
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MIAMI (CBS4) – Amid mounting criticism, Miami Dade Mayor Carlos Alvarez faced more questions Thursday about twelve transit employees who have allegedly been campaigning for him on county time.

Alvarez defended himself, arguing he has never had trouble finding volunteers to work on his campaigns.

“The notion of me approving or knowing that a county employee is on county time wearing a bright yellow shirt passing out literature for my campaign with my knowledge and my permission is ludicrous,” he said.

As CBS4 I Team investigator Jim DeFede was the first to report, a dozen transit workers – members of what the Transport Workers Union calls a “Civil Rights and Education Committee” – have been campaigning, on county time, for Alvarez in his bid to fight the recall.

“What I am saying is I didn’t want anyone to be campaigning for me on county time and everyone around me knows that,” Alvarez said.

The mayor said he spoke to the president of the union, Talib Nashid, Thursday morning. The mayor requested a formal meeting with the union’s executive board to find out exactly what has been going on.

The union issued a statement Wednesday night saying they have done nothing wrong. They claimed the workers were campaigning on their own time.

But union officials and members of the education committee admitted – in various interviews – they have been going into the transit garages talking to their fellow transit workers and urging them to vote in favor of the mayor.

One member of the committee, Shadel Hamilton, made it perfectly clear what the committee is doing, when he told CBS4’s Jim DeFede: “When we go around to the different garages we inform them to let them know why the union is supporting the mayor.”

The story of the transit workers has played out in the press for three days and threatens to become a serious problem for Alvarez as he fights to stay in office.

County Commissioner Carlos Gimenez, who is seeking to replace Alvarez if he is recalled, blasted the mayor during a press conference Wednesday and another commissioner. Natacha Seijas, who is also facing a recall, denounced the mayor for allowing the committee to be formed in the first place.

Political observers have been amazed Alvarez hasn’t moved faster to end the controversy. Alvarez seemed frustrated the issue has persisted.

“What is it that you want me to do?” Alvarez asked at one point during Thursday’s press conference.

When it was suggested he should suspend the committee – at least until after the recall, Alvarez responded: “I think I owe it to [the union] to meet with them and see exactly what it is they are doing.”

It’s not clear when the meeting between the union and Alvarez will take place.

“The sooner the better,” Alvarez said.

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