Miriam Oliphant

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Miriam Oliphant was the Supervisor of Elections [1] for Broward County, Florida, from January 2001, when she was elected to that position by over 65% of the vote, to November 2003 when she was suspended by Governor Jeb Bush for "...grave neglect, mismanagement and incompetence." Although even Democratic activists backed Bush's decision, Oliphant, the only African American holding a county-wide office at the time, enjoyed much support from the black community which reacted negatively to her ouster. In 2005, the Florida Senate voted 33 to 6 to uphold Governor Bush's removal of Oliphant. Although immediately following the vote Oliphant's attorney, Ellis Rubin, announced Oliphant would sue Governor Bush in Federal Court, no claim was ever filed.

Reason for Removal[edit]

Government investigators found that not only had her office neglected to perform some of its most essential tasks, but it had gone almost $1 million over budget. Among other findings was that Oliphant fired many experienced staff members, and replaced them with an all black and less (in some cases not-at-all) experienced friends and associates with significantly higher rates of pay. She hired a college admissions representative who didn't even know what a primary election was and put her in charge of registration and absentee ballots. She promoted a computer specialist, whom she'd met in her condominium building, to deputy supervisor.

One of the most questioned of Oliphant's personnel decisions was that of hiring a homeless man, Glen Davis, whom she met at the same shelter as her sister, who is also homeless. Davis, who was given mailroom duties, failed to process over 300 absentee ballots for a 2002 primary election. His performance notwithstanding, shortly before her removal Oliphant gave Davis a $5000 raise.

Due to Oliphant not hiring enough poll workers during the same 2002 primary, precinct voting locations had to open late and close early. All this was intolerable to Broward residents who had not forgotten the county's handling of the 2000 Presidential Election.

In February 2007, the Florida Elections Commission, which had originally fined Oliphant $55,000 and accused her of being "willfully and intentionally neglectful of her duties" dropped the fine. A state administrative law judge who heard the case agreed with Oliphant, who claimed she was not intentionally neglectful. His decision was based on an appeals court ruling in a separate case, where the Elections Commission was told it cannot fine elections officials for simply neglecting their duties but must show they intentionally set out to violate the laws or disregard them. [2]

Early Political Career[edit]

Around 1991, Oliphant was appointed by then-Governor Lawton Chiles to the Broward County School Board. She would subsequently win two elections to the office. Alan Schreiber, head of Broward County's Public Defender's office, helped Oliphant in her re-election campaigns. Oliphant had been a witness coordinator for Schreiber. She is now a Guidance counselor at Whiddon-Rogers Education Center she has been there since the year 2006.[citation needed]

Updated Career July 2009[edit]

Former Broward elections supervisor Miriam Oliphant and 122 other teachers and counselors lost their jobs Tuesday for failing to either renew or attain their teaching certifications.

While board members unanimously approved the dismissal, questions remain on how Oliphant moved to the top of the district’s salary scale for teachers. Her personnel file shows she never requested the credit the district gave her for her 23 years of experience with the State Attorney’s Office and the Public Defender’s witness management programs.

Still, she earned $75,200 last year as a guidance counselor at Whiddon-Rogers Education Center in Fort Lauderdale, despite only being with the school district for 16 months. Starting teacher pay last year was $39,300 and teachers usually have to work more than two decades to reach top pay.

Oliphant, who could not be reached for comment Tuesday, had until June 30 to earn her teaching certification, and lost her job Tuesday when she failed to pass the math portion of the certification test.

Broward Schools Superintendent James Notter said in an interview Monday is “no indication that there was any special treatment” for Oliphant, who spent ten years, from 1990 to 2000, as a Broward School Board member.

In November 2000, she was elected Broward’s elections supervisor but fell from power after the 2002 primary election, where polls opened late and closed early, and hundreds of uncounted votes were found in a file cabinet.

The Broward Teachers Union contract for counselors and other non-classroom employees allows for credit to be given for prior, directly related experience.

The school district verifies employment and experience with a candidate’s former employers, said Rebecca Brito, the district’s director of instructional staffing.

A district personnel form dated Dec. 28, 2007 showed Oliphant, who has a master’s degree in counseling, checked that she had no related work experience credit to request. There were no additional forms in Oliphant’s personnel file showing that she requested the credit that would allow her to get top pay.

Notter said Tuesday he was checking whether Oliphant, 54, may have made the request verbally.

Oliphant was suspended as elections supervisor by then-Gov. Jeb Bush in 2003, charged with incompetence and mismanagement. She ran again for that office the following year, but lost in a primary match-up against her replacement, Brenda Snipes.

Since she left office, Oliphant’s worked for Realty of South Florida before she was hired by the school district.

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