Broward elections chief will stay for now, Bush says
Compiled from Times wires
MIAMI -- Gov. Jeb Bush put a damper Friday on a move by the Broward County Commission to oust embattled Elections Supervisor Miriam Oliphant, saying he would not exercise his authority to fire her unless there is concrete evidence that she has engaged in intentional wrongdoing.
The governor's decision came hours before county commissioners were scheduled to take up a resolution formally asking Bush to suspend Oliphant. The commission, which oversees county affairs but has no authority to fire Oliphant from her elected position, canceled a meeting on the issue.
Oliphant has been under pressure to resign amid questions about financial mismanagement and concerns, growing out of the botched September gubernatorial primary, that her office is inadequately prepared to handle local elections Feb. 11 and March 11.
"I will not suspend Ms. Oliphant prior to the upcoming municipal election cycle unless she is indicted or I am presented with specific, concrete evidence that she has engaged in criminal or ethical wrongdoing," Bush wrote in a letter to commissioners.
Oliphant, who is under investigation by the State Attorney's Office because of the $1-million budget shortfall in her office last fiscal year, expressed relief.
"I have always known that I can do this job," Oliphant said.
County Mayor Diana Wasserman-Rubin said she was disappointed.
"I am saddened that recent events do not seem to contribute to a resolution of very serious issues," Wasserman-Rubin said.
Broward commissioners and several mayors have grown increasingly frustrated with Oliphant's progress in planning the elections. Coral Springs canceled a March election last week because of a lack of confidence in Oliphant.
Oliphant asked county officials last week for $191,676 to run the February elections because she forgot to budget for them. She later said she didn't need the assistance.
A possible deal with a company to handle technical aspects of the municipal elections fell through after Oliphant skipped a Wednesday meeting with its representatives.
Bush has repeatedly said he prefers voters to decide whether Oliphant keeps her job when she comes up for re-election in 2004.
"I share the public's frustration and dismay over Ms. Oliphant's persistent inability to instill confidence in the soundness of her operations," Bush said in his letter Friday. "Nonetheless, Ms. Oliphant is a duly elected official."
Also Friday, former Oliphant aide Bob Cantrell filed a whistleblower lawsuit against his former boss, who fired him in December after he gave a statement to State Attorney's Office investigators.
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From the Times state desk
From the state wire