Incoming secretary of state not ready to assess Oliphant

Published: Saturday, January 11, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 10, 2003 at 10:31 p.m.
MIAMI BEACH - Incoming Florida Secretary of State Glenda Hood said she will work to improve the integrity of the state's elections but declined Friday to offer her assessment of the embattled Broward County elections supervisor.
Hood, the outgoing Orlando mayor, said she doesn't know the details of the criticism surrounding supervisor Miriam Oliphant and is withholding judgment.
"I know there are some very strong feelings that there should be a change and I think ultimately that decision will have to be made," Hood said. Oliphant has been under heavy criticism since the botched Sept. 10 primary in the county.
Hood was named by Gov. Jeb Bush last month to become Florida's first appointed secretary of state. She takes office Feb. 26 and will become the state's chief elections official.
Bush could fire Oliphant, who is elected, but has said he prefers leaving her tenure up to voters. Oliphant, who has been criticized for overspending her budget by nearly $1 million, is under investigation by state prosecutors.
Hood said she "may have a very strong feeling come the 26th of February but I . . . don't know all the details of the situation."
Bush plans to ask the Legislature to expand Hood's duties from overseeing state elections and licensing businesses to include growth management. He wants the Department of Community Affairs to merge its community planning and growth elements into the secretary of state's office.
Hood said she met with supervisors of elections in Crystal River this week and their ability to uphold voter confidence would remain her top priority.
"The integrity of the election process is important not only to each of us that serves in a leadership position, but first and foremost, to the voters in Florida, the citizens who exercise their responsibility," Hood said.

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