We often wonder how so many underqualified people attain power in government. This week we have two wonderful examples to ponder.

So Gov. Jeb Bush scanned the entirety of Broward County to find just the right person to fill the important and lucrative position of clerk of the courts. And all he could find was a 69-year-old Republican political hack who screwed up the clerk of the courts' computer-system purchase as an overpaid consultant.

The governor's staff should have called a few more people. Like us. We reported two years ago that the $27 million Integrated Justice Information System was a giant mess and the computer consultant hired by the late Robert Lockwood to evaluate the proposed program was not a respected computer guru but merely a former lobbyist. Worse yet, the lobbyist hardly knew how to turn on his computer, according to a county commissioner. Yep, it was Ed Kennedy, our new clerk of the court.

When questioned about his job as computer consultant, Kennedy said Lockwood brought him on "to bird-dog and ramrod the scenario." Oh, a lobbyist. And we know who got ramrodded. Taxpayers gave Kennedy more than $100,000 for his fine work. At the time Commissioner Lori Parrish said, "Ed Kennedy was a glad-hander. He doesn't know anything about computers."

The amazing thing is, he's not really politically astute either. After eight years as a county commissioner, the incumbent managed to lose his 1992 reelection campaign. But the new appointment starts to come into focus when you see that Bush figured the only way a Republican could win the election for clerk is with a nine-month head start. Gives Kennedy time to figure out that computer.

Nothing gives us as much glee as a nasty case against a politically connected prosecutor. After all, those who routinely put people in prison deserve close scrutiny, and a local federal attorney is being put on trial by the media in Washington, D.C.

U.S. attorney Richard Scruggs has been outspoken and relentless in his pursuit of three Broward residents accused of being gun runners to Ireland. He's gone so far as to say they should be charged with terrorism!

Scruggs is himself now accused of illegally providing secret, classified information to reporters. Additionally the security infraction was covered up because of his close association with his prosecutorial buddy, Janet Reno. He worked with Reno in Dade County, and she gave him a high-level job in Justice.

The Washington Times reported last week that Scruggs released classified information about an FBI electronic eavesdropping operation against the Japanese group Aum Shin Rikyo in 1995. The unauthorized disclosure to two book authors was supposedly illegal. Scruggs told the Times he "indirectly confirmed" the classified information but denied being the original source. For some reason Scruggs avoided prosecution.

Scruggs protected Reno from criticism of the Waco/ Branch Davidian fiasco by authoring a report that basically cleared the government of serious wrongdoing; that entire episode is now being reinvestigated. Would a federal prosecutor spin evidence to clear his friend and boss?

Scruggs was also criticized in a more recent Justice Department report on the mishandling of the case of Los Alamos scientist Wen Ho Lee. Seeking to find a level where he could do less-noticeable damage, he was shipped back home to South Florida. Oh boy.

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Tom Walsh
Contact: Tom Walsh