By: Robin Ford Wallace, Reporter
“I think it’s pretty sad to slam people through the mud,” said incumbent Dade County Superior Court Clerk Kathy Page at her runoff debate with challenger Carolyn Bradford Lane. Then she corrected herself: “Or drag people through the mud.”
On reflection, the Sentinel would stick with “slam” every time. What went on Tuesday night at the American Legion calls for some pretty muscular verbs, and even sorely tempted by the reference to mud the Sentinel is trying to get through this without calling on the word “rasslin’.”
At these Aug. 7 follow-up debates hosted by Trenton’s Post 106 for survivors of the Republican primary, the two lady court clerk contenders duked it out first, the two career cops competing for the Dade County sheriff’s slot last, and it would be hard to call which was the nastier fight.
As at the Legion’s initial debates in May and June, moderator Tom Black asked candidates written questions from the audience, and one of the first ones to Ms. Page made her groan, “Sounds like somebody wants to keep hashing this out.”
The question was one Black deciphered with many a squint and a stumble, but it seemed to refer to a clerk’s office employee who had been charged with an illegal act, whether this person was fired or resigned, and why this person had not been prosecuted.
The background is a July Facebook frenzy that erupted when a document was posted on the social networking site concerning a third court clerk candidate. Beverly Floyd, a former clerk’s office employee, was eliminated in the July 31 primary after a letter from her personnel file published on Facebook brought into question how she came to leave her job.
The letter, written by Ms. Page, said she had given Ms. Floyd the choice of resigning or being terminated when, after some detective work on Ms. Page’s part, she discovered Ms. Floyd had improperly filled out a court paper for her brother.
“There was someone in my office that did have the option to resign or be terminated,” Ms Page said in answer to Tuesday night’s question. “No, I did not prosecute. I gave them the option to resign because I care about people, and I cared about this person.”
But Ms. Page’s track record in the care and treatment of people was her opponent’s primary line of attack. “I’ve had over 27 people come to me with problems from the clerk’s office,” Ms. Lane said. “Take out the six people that have been fired or have quit during Kathy’s tenure, you still have 21. That’s too many people with problems.”
Ms. Lane promised, if elected, to be a kind and accommodating clerk, not to fire employees indiscriminately, and specifically, to keep on Chief Deputy Clerk Kirby Hill in deference to his training.
And in answer to another audience question, she said no, she had had no part of posting anything on Facebook.
In the initial court clerk debate, Ms. Page had stressed her apprenticeship under Dade’s longtime court clerk Sarah Moore. In this runoff match, Ms. Lane dropped the same name, saying Ms. Moore had not only told her in an email she was capable of handling the clerk’s office but had added, “You have the people skills.”
Ms. Page had another name to drop, though: Telling the audience how efficiently her office was run, she said, “I have a judge here tonight that would stand up and I think he will tell you the same thing.” She added an aside to Judge Brian House in the audience, hoping she hadn’t embarrassed him.
Judge House did not stand up and tell the audience anything.
Ms. Page also called on her three clerk’s office subordinates, also all in the audience, to stand up, urging listeners to ask them how she treated them and how much she cared about the public and her job.
Ms. Page said being in a management position meant making tough decisions. She said she saw several other managers in the audience, and she gave them some advice: “I see some in here that would probably be better off maybe if they made a few of those tough decisions in their office.”
In response to one question posed to her, Ms. Page answered no, though she probably earned five weeks’ vacation a year, she did not take them.
In response to one about her qualifications for the job, Ms. Lane said she had not worked in a clerk’s office but had 40 years of office experience, 20-plus in administration, and had managed budgets three times the size of the clerk’s office’s.
Both candidates said they were Christians, and both mentioned being humble.
In the July 31 primary, Ms. Page received 1,627 votes, Ms. Lane 900, and Ms. Floyd 758. Ms. Page and Ms. Lane will face off in Aug. 21’s runoff.