Faced With Two Employees Campaigning For His Job, Howard Finkelstein Forbids Office Politicking

 

BY BUDDY NEVINS

Faced with two of his lawyers wanting his job, Howard Finkelstein has prohibited campaigning in the Public Defenders Office. 

Finkelstein is retiring after the 2020 election.

 

Howard Finkelstein

 

Assistant Public Defenders Gordon Weekes and Ruby Green are running to replace him.

In a pointed memo to Weekes and Green last week, Finkelstein warned:

“This office must continue to keep focused on our clients. I will not allow it to turn into a political battlefield.”

He noted that his predecessor Public Defender Al Schreiber was “political and enlisted his employees to work for candidates and contribute to campaigns. When I took office, I felt very strongly that the Law Office of the Public Defender should not be a political machine and the employees should not feel compelled to participate in politics, other than exercising their constitutional right to vote…. 

“Therefore, I want to set some ground rules going forward. I will not allow any politicking in the office. While I understand that you have friends and colleagues who may want to support you, they have to come to you outside the office, on your time. You are not to approach any employee about volunteering for or contributing to your campaign. If you find this untenable, you will have to resign to run. I am very aware of what occurred in other Public Defender offices when more than one attorney ran for the elected job. The offices were torn apart and the clients and employees suffered. Your decision to run was your decision- it was not our clients or our employees and it should not negatively affect their lives. Obviously you also must follow campaign laws, submit vacation requests for any campaigning during working hours, and refrain from using office computers or supplies for any campaign purpose.”

Finkelstein has criticized Schreiber’s politicizing the Public Defender’s Office in the past. From 1977 until he retired in January 2005, “Big Al” Schieber used his office to become one of Broward County’s bona fide political bosses.

 

Alan Schreiber (2014)

 

 

Refreshingly outspoken for a politician, Schreiber was seemingly unconcerned with his public image. In 1992 he was quoted,  “They say Clinton is a draft dodger, a pot smoker and a womanizer — I like those qualities in a man!”

Once when I was in his office, he suggested that one of his female lawyers give me a lap dance. And she was in the room! And I was a Sun-Sentinel columnist at the time!

Big Al didn’t care what those words would look like in print since his political machine made him unbeatable.

He seeded the Democratic Party organization with Public Defender’s Office employees to control the largest block of Democratic Executive Committee members — roughly 100 out of 700 seats.   

At one time, Scheiber effectively controlled the local Judicial Nominating Commission, the group that recommend who would become a judge, through members tied to him.

Mitch Ceasar, the Broward Democratic leader at the time, was part of Schreiber’s orbit. Ceasar’s wife had a job as a consultant to the PD’s office.

Courted by candidates from the Courthouse to the Governor’s Mansion, Schreiber held fundraisers at his home and employees were expected to attend and even fork over money.  His lawyers got time off to campaign for candidates that Schreiber blessed. 

Many assistant public defenders didn’t mind the politics. They were well paid and some had received five-figure signing bonuses to join the Public Defender’s Office.  Favored employees were even invited to his Courthouse office for Friday afternoon drinks from his legendary frozen daiquiri machine.

Under Finkelstein, the office is very, very different. He never wanted to build a political machine. His memo states that he wants employees to be focused on defending the poor and not politics.

Yet despite the memo, Finkelstein had no problem in an email to Browardbeat.com publicly endorsing one of his two lawyers running to replace him: Gordon Weekes. 

“I am wholeheartedly endorsing Gordon. He is a mensch, a good and righteous man, and a leader…Ruby has done a good job for us and is a valued member of the staff but is very young and inexperienced and has no idea how a large 23 million dollar a year government agency runs.”



10 Responses to “Faced With Two Employees Campaigning For His Job, Howard Finkelstein Forbids Office Politicking”

  1. Count. LF Chodkiewicz Chudzikiewicz says:

    What kind of voters would elect an Al Schreiber?

  2. Barry Harris says:

    Howard I agree with you as far as no Campaigning in the PD Office. I also agree with a lot of people will remember you as keeping Politics out of the Public Defendrrs Office.

  3. Frank J. Combs says:

    I agree with Howard totally. Politics has no place in a public office and it says a lot about South Florida that he has to warn them two years before the election.

    We are going to miss Howard.

  4. Channel 7 says:

    Will he still have his TV gig when he retires?

    FROM BUDDY:

    Here is what Finkelstein told me about continuing his legal feature “Help Me Howard” on WSVN 7News in Miami after he retires from the Public Defender’s Office in two years: “As long as they will have me I will continue to do it. It really is a blessing in my life that I can help people through the show.”

  5. Recovering Catholic says:

    Have always secretly wished that Howard was a Republican. Smart and courageous man guy who comes straight from the heart. Never have I seen this man address the disenfranchised in a way that is self serving or opportunistic. His retirement will leave a spot that neither candidate can fill. From far across the other side of the aisle, all the best to you Howard.

  6. Too Many Memories to Miss this Guy says:

    Miss the hypocritical little…who forbids politics, but publicly endorses one of the contenders…

    The same hypocritical little…who once filed a Bar Complaint against one of his own lawyers. The Bar blew it off.

    The same little…who wants to represent everybody by aggressively seeking out persons who are … or may be … indigent. I’m sure the defense bar will remember that fondly…

    Miss him? LOL!

    FROM BUDDY:

    I redacted mean spirited, nasty name calling in this comment.

  7. Timothy Beavers says:

    Just what I would expect from a man of Howard’s integrity. Let us all hope that his successor, whomever that may be, will lead the Public Defender’s office in the same manner Howard has so well for so long.

  8. zigy says:

    breaking news Howie is planning to run against mikey, we will finallllly find out which of the two is taller , not that mr nevins ` is censored material lol… good luck Howie….

  9. DJT says:

    “Big Al” seems like my kind of guy!

  10. zigy says:

    big al is now in Austin Texas,, doing criminal defense , and , I hear, he is back big time in politics, seems you cant keep an old horse down. not bad for a old Indiana boy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

*