E-mails urge election supervisor's ouster

Published: Wednesday, January 15, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 15, 2003 at 1:49 a.m.

MIAMI (AP) - Gov. Jeb Bush has received about 1,000 e-mails urging that he fire Broward County elections supervisor Miriam Oliphant, the target of intense criticism from county officials demanding she resign.

The governor, who has the right to fire Oliphant though she's an elected official, wants to wait until state prosecutors complete their investigation of Oliphant's performance as election supervisor before making any decision, Bush spokeswoman Elizabeth Hirst said Tuesday.

Bush has said that he would like to leave the decision to Broward voters.

"He believes that it is in the best interest of everyone involved to see what the state attorney's investigation concludes," Hirst said.

The e-mails were in response to a South Florida Sun-Sentinel columnist who in Sunday's editions urged Bush to remove Oliphant and asked readers who agreed to contact the governor's office.

Meanwhile, Broward county commissioners asked Oliphant to enlist outside help, possibly from the Secretary of State's office, for upcoming municipal elections in February and March.

"A lot is riding on the next two elections and how she handles them," commissioner Ben Graber said.

Graber said Tuesday the commission requested that Oliphant ask for the state's help, much like she did for the November election. Then the Secretary of State asked the U.S. Justice Department to send monitors for the November election, and Attorney General John Ashcroft agreed.

The Secretary of State's office had not received any formal request from Oliphant or the commission as of Tuesday afternoon, spokeswoman Jenny Nash said.

Oliphant did not return phone calls Tuesday.

She has been under heavy criticism since several Broward polling places opened late and vote tallies were delayed during the Sept. 10 primary. As a result, the governor and county officials then pressured Oliphant into giving up most of her responsibilities to former deputy supervisor Joe Cotter, who has resigned.

Oliphant overspent her budget by nearly $1 million, and commissioners are still waiting for details of how she plans to pay for the municipal elections. County commissioners received a report on Monday explaining how her office plans to pay for the elections, but some lamented it was incomplete.

On Monday, Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jim Naugle and Davie Mayor Harry Venis called for Oliphant's resignation.

"I wish she would resign," Jim Naugle told the Sun-Sentinel. "It's just so many different things that have gone wrong and the public's confidence in the election process has truly been shaken."

Venis said Oliphant had opportunities to fix problems in her office but failed to do so.

Weston Mayor Eric Hersh has also called for Oliphant's resignation, and urged county commission members and other mayors to join him.

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