- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 19, 2002

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. Officials are keeping records on the Broward County supervisor of elections in hope that Gov. Jeb Bush will take the first step to remove her after the Nov. 5 election after accusations of numerous infractions and ethical lapses committed over the past several months.
Opponents of Miriam Oliphant, elected in 2000, have been frustrated with her performance in office not only owing to the charges of mismanagement, but by the fact that all criticism of the black elected official has been turned into a racial issue.
The local black community has "played the race card" any time Miss Oliphant has been criticized, and "if she were not black and if this were not a Democratic county, where candidates need the black vote, she would be gone by now," said Jean Hanson, former chairman of the Broward County Republican Party.
"Everything that has anything to do with her is turned into a racial issue," said one county official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Some of the accusations of errors and malfeasance revolve around budget money that has been unaccounted for and the recent revelation that much of a state grant given to her office went to political cronies.
This week it was also discovered that 18 new touch-screen voting machines are missing.
When it was found that Miss Oliphant's office had been culpable in the Broward County primary-election debacle last month, U.S. Rep. Alcee L. Hastings, Florida Democrat, said the governor would suffer politically if he removed Miss Oliphant at that time.
"I dare the governor to remove her," Mr. Hastings told a local newspaper shortly after her mistakes were uncovered. "He'll create a firestorm he'll need Katherine Harris to count the votes for him again."
Mrs. Harris was the secretary of state who oversaw Florida's disputed 2000 presidential-election aftermath.
Local black leaders recently urged Mr. Bush's opponent in the gubernatorial campaign, Democrat Bill McBride, to protect Miss Oliphant from "good old boy Democrats" who blamed her for the primary fiasco.
"Wisely, he did not get involved," said Art Kennedy, Mr. Hastings' chief of staff.
Mr. Kennedy said the racial animosity "cannot be ignored. But we've tried to stay away from that. After the election, things will clean themselves up."
Miss Oliphant did not return phone calls yesterday.
Several local black leaders also failed to return calls yesterday, including local NAACP head William McCormick and Keith Clayborne, publisher of the Broward Times, a black newspaper that has supported Miss Oliphant.
Miss Oliphant late last month ceded most of her duties for the general election while holding on to her $122,000-a-year salary.
State law allows the governor to suspend Miss Oliphant, who would then go through an impeachment process.
"I think there is a lot of accountability right now being asked of her, if for no other reason than she overspent [her budget]," said Broward County Commissioner John E. Rodstrom Jr.
As for the accusations of financial favors to friends, Mr. Rodstrom said, "That just goes to the evidence that is piling up as to where the money went."
Among the accusations of errors committed under Miss Oliphant's watch:
Moving money from a $603,000 state voter-education grant to her political allies. This included a $50,000 payment to a private company to recruit poll workers.
Failing to heed the cautions of county commissioners, who on the eve of the primary called Mr. Bush and told him that at least 52 poll workers recruited by Miss Oliphant had not bothered to pick up their instructional materials and were unlikely to open their polling sites on Election Day. The governor sent monitors to Broward County in response to the warnings.

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