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Politics

Ken Detzner Was 'Very, Very Close' to Removing Supervisors

February 4, 2013 - 6:00pm

Because of the myriad problems across the state in the 2012 election cycle, Florida senators want more accountability over county elections supervisors.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Ken Detzner says he was very, very, very close to suspending a few supervisors from office last year, but didnt because current law makes such action extremely difficult.

Detzner, who released a report on the 2012 contest on Monday that included proposals to improve future contests, told members of the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee a day later that better defined standards are needed for the roles of supervisors.

On Monday, Detzner said he was now focused on improvements rather than heads because of 2012 problems that were widely reported out of Palm Beach, St. Lucie, Miami-Dade, Broward and Lee counties, where "each county had different and unique problems" including a "lack of good planning." But at the same time, updated guidelines should be included in any election reform for how incompetent or underperforming supervisors can be removed from office.

Without pointing fingers -- similar to the general statements in his 2012 election report to Gov. Rick Scott -- Detzner on Tuesday said there were unspecified situations in the general election and earlier contests in 2012 in which an election in a county came very, very, very close, in my opinion, to a decision to have somebody relieved of their duties."

He said that while he thought about taking measures to remove a supervisor, he was never asked by Scott to consider such an action against an elected official.

I can assure you that the trouble and problems in certain areas caused me to think about that issue, said Detzner, who conducted a tour of the most problem-plagued counties following the November election.

Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami, in looking at Detzners proposal for future elections, said the state needs more oversight because of the lack of performance and preparations by supervisors in St. Lucie, Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties as they testified before senators last month.

"I would like to see from you or from our staff anything or something that would hold these supervisors accountable," Diaz de la Portilla told Detzner, adding, rules are needed to address the suspension or replacement or probation for those who fail to perform by the governor's office, by the secretary of state."

Scott, who said he wants voters to feel good about the states election process, declined to comment later Tuesday on any proposal to give the secretary of state more oversight of the supervisors.

Id have to look at what theyre proposing, Scott said.

Currently, other than voters, the governor can remove a supervisor, but the process isnt easy.

Scott was able to remove Madison County Supervisor Jada Woods Williams in 2011 after she was arrested on an alleged voter fraud charge involving a local school board member.

In 2003, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush removed Miriam Oliphant from her post in Broward County following accusations of mishandling the 2002 Democratic gubernatorial primary, with voters receiving bad ballots and inaccurate registration information. Some polls opened late, others closed early and thousands of votes were not counted until a week after the election.

Bush acted after receiving a report from then-Florida Secretary of State Glenda Hood, which found that Oliphant's office was "a very disjointed organization and unprepared to handle future elections.

During that time, Detzner was chief of staff in the secretary of state's office.


Reach Jim Turner at jturner@sunshinestatenews.com or at (772) 215-9889.

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