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In another move that is fueling accusations of heavy-handed ethnic politicking by the White House, all three nominees for the post of U.S. Marshal in South Florida have been rejected and a new slate of nominees will soon be sought. It’s the second time in recent weeks that the White House has spurned finalists who were vetted and recommended by a federal nominating commission and told commissioners to find new candidates. Earlier this month, the Daily Business Review first reported that the White House asked Florida’s Republican-dominated Federal Judicial Nominating Commission to submit three new names for a vacant Miami federal judgeship after quietly rebuffing the JNC’s first three choices. In both instances, the decision to turn aside finalists selected by nominating commissioners under objective published criteria has been accompanied by bitterness and accusations that the selection process is being subverted by President Bush to help his brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, get re-elected. “The White House is asking for Cuban Americans,” said one Anglo candidate for a federal appointment who did not want to be identified. “It’s all politics.” “There are a lot of furious people out there,” said a high-ranking federal law enforcement official in Miami. The U.S. Marshals Service is the nation’s oldest federal law enforcement agency. Besides rounding up fugitives, chief among its duties today is the protection of federal judges and courthouses. None of the South Florida finalists for either the federal judgeship or the U.S. marshal were of Hispanic origin. Both President Bush and Gov. Bush are on record as supporting more ethnic diversity in public appointments, but the brand of diversity they’re seeking is unclear. Various political and law enforcement sources said the White House favors installing Cuban Americans in office now because it will enhance Gov. Bush’s re-election chances. “Jeb knows Cuban Americans support him,” says one knowledgeable political observer in South Florida. “He wants to make sure they come out to vote.” The governor’s press office did not respond Thursday to a request for comment. The three nominees who were rejected for the job of U.S. marshal in Miami are respected, longtime law enforcement veterans in South Florida. They are: Doyle Jourdan, director of the Miami office of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement; Shawn Conboy, a U.S. marshal’s Service veteran attached to a federal organized and drug enforcement task force; and James Goldman, chief investigator for the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service in Miami. Goldman, said to be the Justice Department’s choice for the marshal post, is perhaps best known for leading the raid that safely scooped up young Elian Gonzalez from the home of his Miami relatives. Both the judicial and the marshals nominating commissions were created last year by Gov. Bush and Florida’s two senior Republican congressmen, Rep. Bill Young of St. Petersburg and E. Clay Shaw Jr. of Fort Lauderdale. Bush, Young and Shaw appoint each of the members. Florida Department of Law Enforcement boss James T. “Tim” Moore is chairman of the seven-member marshals commission. Other members include prominent Democrats, Florida Attorney General Bob Butterworth and Broward State Attorney Michael Satz, and a Republican Party activist and Cuban-American from Hialeah who served as an elector for President Bush in 2000, Maria de la Milera. Moore did not return three phone messages seeking comment. Satz, through a spokesman, said he was unaware the marshal nominees had been rejected and has not been contacted about reconvening the commission to nominate others. A spokesman for the U.S. Marshals Service in Washington, Sanjay Karnik, said, “We can’t confirm or deny reports about potential U.S. marshal nominees.” According to procedural rules, commissioners are obliged to find “the most qualified, conscientious and dedicated persons available,” while giving equal job opportunity to everyone. In the first go-round, the commission reviewed the applications of 224 persons who began applying last fall for three open U.S. marshals slots in Miami, Tampa and Tallahassee. The commission invited 19 applicants for interviews, and 17 candidates were actually interviewed, said Heather Smith, an FDLE spokesman for Moore. Jourdan, Conboy and Goldman, all Broward residents seeking to be U.S. marshal in Miami, were among nine finalists chosen by the commission in January. That’s three nominees for each slot. Every finalist was interviewed by representatives of both the Justice Department and the White House. According to five sources familiar with what happened, Conboy and Goldman were informed in early March that they had been eliminated from consideration. For a time, Jourdan, a registered Republican, looked to be a shoo-in for the marshal job. But in the last two weeks, he learned he was also out of the running, two sources said. Jourdan declined comment. Conboy also wouldn’t comment. Goldman didn’t return phone calls to his office. Meanwhile, sources said, the White House is allowing the remaining finalists for each of the two upstate marshal posts to proceed toward formal nomination by the president. Thomas Hurlburt, director of public safety in Orange County, is the lone candidate for U.S. marshal for the Middle District of Florida. Deputy FDLE commissioner Dennis Williamson is the only finalist still standing for U.S. marshal for the Northern District of Florida. The U.S. Senate must confirm whomever the president ultimately nominates. Both parties have used nominating commissions for some time to try to professionalize the selection of federal judges. According to one knowledgeable source, however, this is only the second time that such a commission has been employed in Florida in a search for marshals. What’s happened has shaken the faith of some who expected the choice to be based solely on merit. “It’s kind of shocking,” said one law enforcement source involved in the process. “They had this whole process and this is what happens?” Asked another, rhetorically, “If this thing is supposed to be about the process, … what does that say about the future?”

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