September 30, 2014

Icon

Icon: Bob Butterworth

Florida attorney general 1987-2002; Florida Dept. of Children and Families secretary, 2007-Aug. 2008; age 66.

Mike Vogel | 12/1/2008

Lonnie Ingram
Bob Butterworth [Photo: Eileen Escarda]
» When you’re attorney general or sheriff or whatever else, you’re not the sheriff for the Democrats or independents or Republicans. You’re a sheriff for all the people.

» I went to the State Attorney’s Office (in 1971). We dealt with issues such as public corruption. We had a number of major cases. It was wonderful. We worked 20 hours a day, seven days a week. That was when the boom was developing here and the selling of licenses to build, the payoffs. You had ‘developer cities.’ You had so many things you don’t have now — fortunately don’t have now.

» I ran for the county judgeship in ’74. I had been only out (of law school) for five years.

» Every job had a different flavor to it.

» In the latter part of ’82, the governor and Cabinet asked me to take that job over (head of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles). They had issues of corruption. They were under a number of investigations at that time, a federal one, especially when it comes to hiring of minorities. The patrol at that time was pretty much in the dark ages. They would start a new academy up, 60 people. I said, ‘How many minorities do we have?’ “Twelve are minorities and, damn, it’s the best group we have, and 48 are white males.” They were so proud of themselves. I said, ‘This is great. Tell you what you do. You start your class with 12 majorities and 12 minorities.’ Ashen white. “We can’t start with 24. We can’t do that.” I said, ‘OK, if you review the files and if you find that we have 18 more qualified minorities, I will give you 30 and 30.’ It was miraculous as to how when they reviewed the files they ended up with 30-30.

» I had more support on the Republican side on my criminal justice issues than I did on the Democratic side.

» In ’86, crime was the biggest issue we had. Everybody tried to outcrime each other. My background back then, having been a prosecutor, judge, sheriff, pretty much lent into what people wanted in an attorney general then. Everything was going south. People lost confidence in the criminal justice system. Something had to be done. But sometimes you go too far. You start giving minimum mandatory sentences for non-violent crimes and maybe even crimes of addiction whereas you don’t have minimum mandatory time for a crime where someone really victimizes, hurts someone really badly.

» I believe we’re fortunate here in Florida. We’ve had fantastic governors. These are people of utmost dignity, utmost character. They’re going to do what’s right. Of course, a governor is going to make a decision if he can or should that might lean political. I mean, it’s a political process. I’ve never seen any governor make a decision that I’m aware of that was totally on politics and could care less about what effect it had on the state.

» It’s been 10 years since we resolved it (the tobacco settlement). Hopefully, we saved a bunch of lives. All we asked for in Florida was what Gov. Chiles wanted and that was they stop targeting our kids, they tell the truth about their product and some financing to cover what the state paid out for Medicaid. We didn’t want the world.

» The legitimate media I have never had a problem with in my 35 years of government, never had one problem.

» At DCF — and the governor mentioned this — he says, ‘We’re defending this agency against child advocate groups. We have the CBCs — community-based care partners — who don’t trust the agency. What is this?’

» We had an agency (DCF) that felt badly about itself. It got beaten up every day. It was in a hunker-down mentality. I think they’re glad (now) about where they work because they do good work and we got the message out. DCF has the best, I believe, arguably the best management team in government. It was not the change that I made. It was already there. It was just being able to take the clouds away, and the cloud definitely had to be openness and being fair — and getting rid of all those damn battles. I never want to battle publicly with another agency.

» I called staff in and said, ‘How do you plan on resolving all these cases?’ We have hundreds of them. Most of the public defenders and courts are pissed at us. Sheriffs are pissed at us because they have to keep people in the lockup. That’s very costly, and it’s not their job to deal with people that are insane. It was all, ‘We’re going to fight these cases as we always do and maybe two or three years from now the Supreme Court’s going to rule with us.’ Wrong answer.

» We do more for people than any other agency or all agencies combined, and we’re proud of it. Occasionally we have a mistake. We’ll learn from it.

» We deal with people at a time of crisis. We instituted our two-sense solution — a sense of urgency because it’s urgent for them, which means it is for us, and also common sense. If what you’re doing and saying in this particular case does not seem like it’s right but you’re following the regs, you must contact the supervisor immediately and let that supervisor determine immediately whether we should break the rules in this case.

» I like challenges. I like to fix things that are broken or that seem to be broken and try to make them better. I hope I made a positive difference.

Tags: Politics & Law, Florida Icon, Government/Politics & Law

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