Una Clarke Claims There Was Something Subliminal in Her Loss to Owens

In a separate complaint, Kelleher claims that Perry returned to the polling site at 2 p.m., flashed credentials indicating he was a poll watcher, and had a dispute with Grant. "Nick Perry stated that as a resident he had a right to be a poll watcher," Kelleher wrote. Grant, Kelleher reported, cited a section of election law that forbids elected officials from acting as poll watchers. Again, she claims, Perry brandished his credentials "and stated that he wrote the laws."

An irate Perry uses words like "fabricated" and "unfounded" in responding to the charges. He says that Clarke's camp picked on him because "they're looking for avenues to get out of the grief" of losing to Owens. "It is a race Una Clarke should not have run," he emphasizes. Perry denies he violated any laws while campaigning for Owens at P.S. 198. "I was 100 feet from the entrance to the polling site," he insists. "I was reminding voters that I was supporting Major Owens, and that was a legitimate operation. I was not inside the building."

Una Clarke says that fanning rumors she is a closet supporter of Rudy Giuliani was the "dirtiest trick" of the Owens campaign, and that it fooled immigrants she believes otherwise would have voted for her. Clarke and some of her campaign workers say that a widely circulated flyer had a photo of Giuliani, who is reviled in black communities, spliced in next to her.

The councilmember charges that Owens supporters distorted a group photo that included the mayor, singer Harry Belafonte, and diplomats who had been invited to City Hall to mark the 35th anniversary of Jamaica's independence. "They cropped that picture and moved us closer together, leaving myself and the mayor standing, smiling," Clarke fumes. "They then took that to the Haitian community in those electoral districts where they know that the mayor is truly hated and said, 'We told you how close she is with him. Here is a picture to prove it.' They waited until the last minute when I could not respond to that kind of stuff."

Clarke watched her Haitian support erode in areas like Park Slope. "They did a lot more to support Major than I thought they would," she laments. "I was out there for Abner Louima and he was not," Clarke claims. "I was out there for Patrick Dorismond. He was not. I have educated more of their children than he has."

The Haitian backlash might have a lot to do with a misunderstanding between Clarke and Lola Poisson, an associate of Ray Joseph, co-publisher and editor of the influential Haiti Observateur newspaper. Clarke claims that Poisson and Joseph blamed her for the loss of a $400,000 grant the city had awarded to Lakou Lakay, an agency formerly headed by Poisson. The grant stemmed from a program Clarke had created to help immigrant communities that lacked "culturally appropriate" referrals to mental health services. Four grants were awarded: They went to the Latino community in Washington Heights, an Asian American community in Queens, a Russian community in South Brooklyn, and to Poisson's agency in Flatbush. Clarke insists that the grant was designed specifically to provide information and referral services for people with mental health problems. Instead of referring patients to accredited psychiatric institutions, Clarke claims that Poisson "went into full practice in a clinical setting without any license at all."

City officials tried to bring the Haitian agency into compliance with grant rules, providing more than one year of technical assistance. The agency tried group counseling of clients, but that didn't work, according to Clarke. "The city called me in to let me know that they had decided to close the program," Clarke says. "There was nothing I could do about it." Poisson, who is running for Clarke's council seat, says that the department of health repeatedly had certified her agency from 1996 to '99. "If we were not in compliance, why didn't they tell us that?" asks Poisson, who resigned earlier this summer. She contends that the rescinding of the grant "is political" because Clarke "went along with the decision."

Suddenly, Clarke found herself being lambasted in the Haiti Observateur. "Rather than writing the true story—that [Poisson] tried to practice psychiatry with money that was intended for an information and referral center—they attacked me. The money was not my money. They thought I could have gotten the money back." Joseph says that he is "flattered" to know that "the Haiti Observateur helped to defeat Una Clarke." The respected journalist recalls accompanying Clarke to Lakou Lakay to "announce the bad news" that the agency had lost its funding. "She kissed me on the cheek," Joseph scowls. "We wrote a story and told Haitians exactly what happened." Haitians, he adds, "depend on their leadership, especially their press, to tell them what to do."

In a Clarke-Owens rematch, Clarke vows not to make the same mistake again. "I will be more organized now that I understand the kind of work that the labor unions and special-interest groups did on Major's behalf," she says. "We were outnumbered 10 to 1 and sometimes 10 to 0."

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