Thursday, August 2, 2012
Carmel on the Case: Pando Endorsements
More controversy tonight for a South Florida judge already facing charges she used her position to help a friend. Now there are questions about endorsements in her re-election campaign. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero is On the Case.
Mike Catalano: "But it was all a big mistake of a bunch of people running around in a rush during a campaign."
The judge's lawyer says the person who created the website made a mistake and incorrectly listed supporters. When 7News asked about the endorsements, the names of 10 people were removed from the site overnight.
Commissioner Sally Heyman: "No excuse."
Among them Miami-Dade Commissioner Sally Heyman. She says she has not and would not endorse judge Pando.
Commissioner Sally Heyman: "I think you have an obligation to make sure what you're presenting is truthful and checking the facts going in should be the responsibility of the candidate."
State representative Carlos Lopez-Cantera was also listed as endorsing Pando. He sent 7News a statement that reads, "I have not endorsed Ms. Pando's re-election campaign."
Sen Gwen Margolis: "I recall talking to her maybe six months ago."
State senator Gwen Margolis remembers judge Pando giving her an endorsement card, but wasn't sure if she signed it.
Carmel Cafiero: "If you did not sign a card and your name was used, how would you feel about that?"
Senator Gwen Margolis: "I would feel very badly about it, I really would. I don't think that's the kind of thing a judicial candidate or a judge should be doing."
Our investigation showed senator Margolis did not sign the card and should not have been listed on the website.
We were able to contact three others who were dropped from the judge's web site after we started asking questions.
Those endorsements were accurate. State representative Eddy Gonzalez, state representative Dwight Bullard and Miami-Dade property appraiser Pedro Garcia all support judge Pando's reelection bid.
Mike Catalano: "But I'll tell you this, it was a mistake and it was corrected and judge Pando apologizes for any misunderstandings."
Judge Pando meanwhile, is fighting charges from the organization that oversees judges.
Judge Pando: "Good morning."
As 7News first revealed earlier this year, judge Pando used her judicial stationary to write a letter to the state to help a friend's business. As a result, she was accused of violating the rules that regulate sitting judges.
Mike Catalano: "All that was was a letter of recommendation she thought she was writing."
Carmel Cafiero: "Was it a mistake?"
Mike Catalano: "Yes."
Her attorney says there was nothing sinister behind the letter.
Mike Catalano: "It's just that a judge should not write a letter of recommendation in that kind of situation."
Carmel Cafiero: "Another mistake?"
Mike Catalano: "Nobody's perfect."
There's a judicial hearing on that issue next month.