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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Tanner Booted from State Attorney Job

Tanner loses State Attorney Job

DAYTONA BEACH - State Attorney John Tanner was voted out of office in yesterday's election. The winner, R.J. Larizza successfully campaigned against special interests and was widely supported by law enforcement and the working class.

Despite having raised only a fraction of Tanner's massive war chest, Larizza's anti-corruption message carried the votes.

True to form of late, Tanner refused to acknowledge his loss until this morning and alleged that it was due to "low voter turnout". However, low voter turnout is what incumbents always pray for as it usually favors them. "It's a sad day that negative campaigning and outright lies may have defeated us." Tanner added with customary arrogance in an interview with the Daytona Beach News-Journal.

The popular online news source Real Daytona had a most picturesque opinion:

One arrogant, corrupt government red-neck down with dozens left to go in the capital of the Red-Neck Riviera.
Real Daytona

Tanner's campaign was heavily funded by special interests in Daytona Beach. Among his supporters were local multimillionaires Therese Doan (See City of Daytona Beach buys small 20-foot strip of land from campaign financer for $320,955), Hyatt Brown (Brown and Brown, NYSE:BRO), Jon Kaney (Cobb & Cole), James France and Lesa Kennedy (ISC, NASCAR) and car dealership mogul Glenn Richey (Jon Hall), who is also Mayor of Daytona Beach.

Tanner's loss has been attributed in great part to his reluctance to investigate and prosecute the large number of corruption complaints against Daytona Beach city officials. Many of Tanner's supporters have been beneficiaries of diverse contracts, land purchases and even the funding of personal hobbies, all financed by taxpayers and awarded by the City Commission with little transparency. Some of these are the subject of criminal complaints which had been pushed under the rug by Tanner's office.

After a long-term incumbency, Tanner had developed a reputation of self-entitlement and "above the law" attitude. An arrogance that the voters just could not allow any more.

Before being elected State Attorney, Tanner was considered a top notch prosecutor and an outstanding lawyer. Indicted for a man's death at 25, Tanner later would win death sentences for nine killers. A born-again Christian, Tanner often mixed his strong religious convictions with his job. Not afraid of controversy, while he braved personal threats to pray on death row with mass murderer Ted Bundy, he showed no mercy in sending Aileen Wuornos to die. He had won and then lost the State Attorney's job once after publicly crusading against pornography. He returned humbled to win back the job, easily winning several elections without opposition. Until now.

The voters deserve responsible, ethical and effective leadership from their State Attorney. The Latin phrase "Carpe Diem" Seize the Day, is my motto. Each breath and each moment we experience is special and unique. We must seize those moments in an effort to make our community and our world a better place.
R.J. Larizza

A former probation officer, Larizza had once worked for Tanner as a prosecutor in his St. Augustine office. Backed by the law enforcement community, Larizza fought a hard-charging campaign over the past several months. His campaign criticized Tanner for not asking the court to unseal for public view a grand-jury report in connection with his investigation of practices at the Flagler County Jail.

The grand jury didn't indict Tanner on criminal charges but issued a report in December that has been sealed while Tanner challenged its contents. His friend Jon Kaney (Partner of Cobb and Cole), who is also general counsel for The Daytona Beach News-Journal, was hired in October of 2006 as part of Tanner's defense team at a rate of $265 an hour. Tanner's defense cost the state about $200,000 which also was a source of controversy. Kaney had been sworn in that October as an assistant state attorney.

What public purpose is served by putting a gag order on the grand jury's investigation?

I think most hardworking taxpayers want to see how their elected public officials are conducting their public duties and if the grand jury had some criticism, I think the public has a right to know.

Dominic Calabro
President and CEO of Florida TaxWatch, a nonprofit, nonpartisan government watchdog group.

The State Attorney plays a most important part in the prosecution of crime, he must be committed to justice and not to personal agendas, conviction rates, wins and losses and pleasing cronies and campaign financers. That commitment starts at the top and sets the example for all to follow.

We can only wonder at how power, politics and the undue influence of special interests play a role in changing the personalities of otherwise outstanding citizens.

Larizza's platform was correct in that even prosecutors must work collaboratively to reduce or eliminate some of the root causes of many crimes: poverty, weak families, hopelessness, and poor-quality education. These are precisely the side effects of corruption infestation in city government.

As the old west saying goes, "There is a new sheriff in town" and malfeasors in city hall will be scrambling for cover. Little by little, step by step, our city will eventually get cleaned-up.

The citizens are tired; they are mad and will not take any more abuse.

Florida Times Union: Larizza wins over incumbent Tanner in state attorney race
Orlando Sentinel: Newcomer takes job away from Tanner
Seventh Judicial Circuit Court of Florida

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