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Why the delay
in finding Chiles?

By DIANE RADO

© St. Petersburg Times, published December 15, 1998


TALLAHASSEE -- A puzzling aspect of Gov. Lawton Chiles' death is why it took so long to discover his body. Florida's highest-elected official was out of sight of state security agents for up to eight hours on the day he died.


Lawton Chiles
1930-1998
State officials said Monday that while a routine investigation is being conducted into Chiles' death, the delay in discovering his body will not be reviewed.

"The family is satisfied with the job FDLE (Florida Department of Law Enforcement) has done, and so is Gov. MacKay," spokeswoman Susan DiLiddo said Monday evening. FDLE provides security for the governor.

Earlier in the day, MacKay was asked if he was concerned about the length of time it took to discover Chiles' body. "That's being reviewed," he said.

After phone calls between FDLE and MacKay's office, DiLiddo called the Times to clarify MacKay's statement.

FDLE executive director Tim Moore said a preliminary review of the events on the day of Chiles' death showed security officers "complied exactly with the policies and protocols they should have complied with."

The policy, in this case, was not to bother Chiles if he was in a private area of the Governor's Mansion. "We try our best to comply with the governor's directions in the private quarters of the house. He was clear on that, abundantly clear," Moore said.

On Saturday, FDLE agents last saw Chiles walking his dog outside the mansion shortly before 8 a.m. FDLE agents noted Chiles' entry into a private cabana area behind the mansion's swimming pool a few minutes later. His body wasn't discovered until shortly before 4 p.m., when he failed to appear at a reception for FDLE agents and state pilots.

During the time in between, agents never checked on Chiles, who died after an apparent heart arrhythmia -- an abnormal disruption in the heart beat. He was riding an exercise cycle at the time. A formal time of death has not been announced and a final autopsy report has not been completed.

Should agents have periodically checked on Chiles, despite his insistence on privacy?

State Comptroller Bob Milligan, one of the Cabinet officers who oversees FDLE, said he doesn't think there should be a change in policy.

"In public life, you do give up a lot of privacy. When you have those few opportunities to go off by yourself and not be bothered, it's a real blessing."

But Milligan added, "I think they probably should review the situation (the delay in finding Chiles' body). It's the smart thing to do."

Insurance Commissioner Bill Nelson, who has been concerned about security at the Capitol, refrained from answering a question about whether FDLE should do periodic checks of a governor in private quarters.

"I don't know the answer to that," he said. But he said he thought FDLE was "honoring Lawton's wishes for privacy." Nelson served on a study group examining security issues at the Capitol and concluded that vehicles have the ability to get too close to the governor's office.

When asked at a news conference about mansion security, MacKay said: "It's been done professionally."

Gov.-elect Jeb Bush has no plans to change security measures at the mansion, a spokesman said Monday.

 

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