name of the Democratic Party by Mr. Shahid Freeman was wrong and we require
immediate action," the letter said.
Hugo Mendez, vice president of the Brazilian Club and the fourth leader to sign the letter, said he had spoken to Siegel about the issue twice. But by mid-May, when the four men spoke to The Palm Beach Post, they said Siegel had not acted.
"This is a hot-button issue," Ramos said. "It should have been on his radar."
Mejia agreed. "They are trying to wash their hands of it so that nothing comes back at them. People are trying to cover up what happened."
Camacho said he was especially angry because he had sent people seeking immigration advice to Freeman.
"But I didn't know he was charging people," Camacho said. "We have done this kind of work for years and never charged people. And now Ira Raab and Mark Alan Siegel are defending him and not defending the Brazilian and Hispanic communities. This is not fair. Siegel has to go. He has to be voted out. They both have to go," he said, speaking also of Raab.
In an interview with The Post, Siegel defended Freeman as "someone who has done a lot of good work for the party." He said Freeman had been able to help some immigrants he took fees from.
Siegel also said that Freeman can't simply be removed from the DEC. It takes a formal procedure and a vote of the entire body.
As for Freeman's collecting of fees for immigration consultations, Siegel said he had turned that over to Raab, the former judge, and Raab had ruled that "it was not a party matter. It was a matter between Shahid and the people who say he owes them money."
But individuals who said they gave money to Freeman for help with their immigration counseling showed a business card bearing his name and a logo for the Brazilian American Democratic Club. They said Freeman had given it to them. Siegel was shown a copy of the card by The Palm Beach Post and was surprised.
"We didn't approve that," Siegel said. "That's wrong."
But he said there is still nothing he can do to force Freeman to return money. In a March 8 email to Camacho, Freeman made his position on that clear:
"Understand one thing for sure," Freeman wrote: "I am not giving anyone any money back."
It is not clear how much money is involved because it is not known how many people paid Freeman fees. But a document prepared by Blanchard reported $7,300 paid to Freeman by various Brazilian families, most of whom wanted their money back. A Colombian family that said it paid Freeman $1,250 is also demanding the money be returned.
Siegel said he and Raab have told Freeman he should "respond to anyone who says they are owed money," although he stopped short of demanding Freeman return the money.
"We are not the courts and we are not the police," Siegel said. "I can't hold Shahid Freeman upside down and shake money out of him."
Siegel recommended that people who felt cheated go to the state attorney and file charges. But Camacho said undocumented people are unlikely to go to the authorities to press fraud charges, out of fear. He said the party should be held responsible.
"The DEC should pay that money back," he said. "Siegel should have written to all the other Democratic clubs and told them not to do business with Shahid."
Camacho, who according to Siegel has an important campaign position in heavily Hispanic zones in the county, said the incident has led him to consider changing his registration to independent.
"But I won't do that now," he said. "The party needs me." He reiterated his demand that Siegel leave the chairmanship.
Mejia, president of the Hispanic Democratic Caucus, said he also lost confidence in Siegel, but said Siegel's status as vice chairman of the state party would make it difficult to remove him. Ramos said he was opposed to trying to remove Siegel, given the upcoming election. "We don't need that kind of trouble now," he said.
Siegel said people who want him out as chairman will have their chance. He is up for re-election this year. He expressed regret about the recent events.
"Anything that interferes with our ability to build a campaign structure and get out the vote is a serious matter," he said. "But I don't care if they like me, as long at they go out and do their jobs in the campaign. And I'm sure they won't undermine the campaign just to get back at me. They are good Democrats, too good for that."
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