Friendly Fire

State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle should have coasted to election victory. Instead she's dodging bullets from the police unions in the political fight of her life.

Katherine Fernandez Rundle is trying to sign an oversize placard in the lobby of the Miami Police Department, but the felt-tip marker she's holding won't work. This is a signing ceremony to kick off a fundraiser for victims of domestic violence. Police chiefs from all over Miami-Dade County are standing stiffly behind a podium, strained smiles on their faces during the wait for a functional pen. A battery of TV cameras is trained on State Attorney Rundle, who can do little more than crack a quick joke about the department's budget woes. It's a small moment, but it neatly symbolizes her fortunes of late. Make that misfortunes. Rundle is up for re-election, and things could be better.

For instance, the police brass gathered here are skittish when it comes to talking about the race. Homestead's Chief Alexander Rolle smiles and sidesteps questions with a quick: “I'd rather not comment.” Coral Gables' Chief James Skinner notes dryly that men who run police departments generally don't announce their positions in political contests. Others simply laugh out loud when asked for comment.

The reticence arises from more than decorum. The race pitting Rundle against little-known Broward County prosecutor Alberto Milianhas divided the law-enforcement community. Unions representing the county's two largest police departments oppose her, putting Miami-Dade's number one law-enforcement official in the awkward position of being criticized by the very police officers she ostensibly leads. Milian, meanwhile, has gained traction with relentless talk about a weak, underperforming prosecutor's office he aims to whip into shape.

Rundle confers with Miami police officers during a training session
Photos by Steve Satterwhite
Rundle confers with Miami police officers during a training session
The fall that prompted it all: Bruce Kaplan (at podium) announcing his resignation from the county commission while John Rivera (left) lends support
Bill Cooke
The fall that prompted it all: Bruce Kaplan (at podium) announcing his resignation from the county commission while John Rivera (left) lends support
The man who would be State Attorney: Alberto Milian (left) with John Rivera
Steve Satterwhite
The man who would be State Attorney: Alberto Milian (left) with John Rivera
The man who would be State Attorney: Alberto Milian (left) with John Rivera
Steve Satterwhite
The man who would be State Attorney: Alberto Milian (left) with John Rivera
The man who would be State Attorney: Alberto Milian (left) with John Rivera
Steve Satterwhite
The man who would be State Attorney: Alberto Milian (left) with John Rivera
Rundle (right) is working harder than she should have to in this campaign
Steve Satterwhite
Rundle (right) is working harder than she should have to in this campaign

It wasn't supposed to be like this.

In 1996 Rundle ran unopposed. Even a year ago she looked to be a daunting candidate for re-election. Her seven-year incumbency gave her a huge head start on name recognition. She was the handpicked successor to her former boss, U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno, and that cachet extended far beyond the county. Crime rates had plummeted locally (a trend in big cities nationwide), thus allowing Rundle to take credit for achieving one of the top goals she'd set when first taking office. She counted some of the most influential local dignitaries as supporters, among them Donald Warshaw, Miami city manager and the trusted former police chief. Warshaw was an especially helpful weapon against her only significant enemy at the time: the countywide Police Benevolent Association (PBA). And most important, as 1999 ended she could boast of a $130,000 campaign war chest, enough money to intimidate any potential challenger. (That figure has since grown to roughly $380,000.)

But her clear command of the battlefield has slipped. Even though she is a heavy favorite to retain her seat following the November 7 vote, it is unclear whether she will ever be able to repair relations with the police unions. Further complicating matters, her stalwart law-enforcement defender, Warshaw, has been indicted by a federal grand jury for bilking a police department charity. Her opponent has been able to shift attention from the drop in crime to a perception that not enough has been done to combat public corruption. An embarrassing office melodrama became public when an ex-secretary successfully sued Rundle's office, claiming she was fired for complaining about sexual harassment. And former mentor Reno now threatens to become a serious liability in the politically powerful Cuban community, thanks to a kid named Elian Gonzalez.

“I'd be lying to you if I said I didn't think the police endorsements weren't important,” says Rundle supporter Bob Levy, a political consultant. “What the impact will be is not known.”

Another confidant, who asked not to be identified, puts the matter more bluntly: “Is she running scared? Absolutely.”

Rundle's predicament is partly of her own making. Her office has been slow to present an image that it is adequately fighting public corruption and is equally slow to resolve some of its larger cases. Critics say she's too quick to hand off politically sensitive investigations to federal authorities.

The incumbent insists her dilemma is the product of a political vendetta orchestrated by John Rivera, head of the 6000-member PBA, whose antipathy toward Rundle began after her office investigated a county commissioner friendly to the union. Despite assertions to the contrary, it's true that Rivera helped recruit Alberto Milian to run. But it also is true that Rivera has tapped into a broader sense of dissatisfaction among the troops.

In almost any other year, Rundle could have easily and quickly dispatched Milian, whose most noteworthy recent accomplishment was punching out a defense attorney in the Broward County Courthouse. Instead, for the first time in her career, she is facing the political equivalent of friendly fire.


In the past 43 years, Miami-Dade residents have known just three State Attorneys, a sign of the trust the public has historically placed in the officeholder. Richard Gerstein, a respected old-school liberal, served 21 years before retiring in 1978. He passed the torch to his indomitable chief assistant, Janet Reno. Only two years into her tenure, Reno faced a major setback when four police officers accused of beating to death a black motorcyclist were acquitted at trial. Afterward rioters in Liberty City were heard chanting, “Reno! Reno!” She spent the next couple of years relentlessly meeting with members of the black community to mend fences.

Four years later, in 1984, Reno faced her first consequential challenger. By that time Dade County's demographics had dramatically shifted toward Hispanics, the majority of whom were politically active Cubans. Reno found herself up against José Garcia Pedrosa, Miami's city attorney who would later become city manager for both Miami Beach and Miami. Reno won a hard-fought re-election. Rundle, who on Reno's behalf made inroads into the Cuban community, where her father was a well-known figure, was promoted to chief assistant state attorney for community affairs. (Rundle had joined the office in 1978, working in the trenches as a prosecutor for five years before ascending to her administrative role.)

Reno's record on public corruption is still debated, but her reputation was always that of a straight arrow who, whatever her failings, maintained the integrity of the office. This respect carried her through four terms. Twice she ran unopposed. When the Clinton-Gore administration selected her to head the Justice Department in 1993, Rundle succeeded her.

Katherine Fernandez Rundle certainly had the right pedigree for a political post in Miami. Her father, the late Carlos Fernandez, was a pillar of the exile community, a judge who later became a radio commentator. Rundle's own education mixed local loyalty with achievement. She graduated from the University of Miami in 1973 and from the University of Cambridge Law School in England three years later.

In contrast to the constrained, somewhat stiff Reno, Rundle seems to be a natural politician. Bright and engaging, she exudes a practiced if guarded charm. At age 50 she is trim and vigorous, her sharp green eyes clear and penetrating. She runs her staff of 1200 (300 of which are prosecutors) from a capacious fourth-floor suite in the State Attorney's Office at 1350 NW Twelfth Ave. During interviews there she routinely keeps senior staff members nearby to help with problematic questions.

When Rundle first took office in 1993, Miami civic leaders were in a panic. New forms of violent crime, including carjacking, and new targets such as tourists had blackened the county's sunny image. “Three weeks after I took office,” she recalls, “we were being called the crime capital of the country. Embassies were issuing advisories about visiting Miami. It was awful.”

She helped put together Dade Partners for Safe Neighborhoods, a task force of business leaders, school officials, and law-enforcement heads to address the mayhem. The group pushed for more prison beds to hold suspects and lobbied the governor and legislators to pass new get-tough laws.

In 1998 Rundle helped craft and promote a bill that closed loopholes allowing people to sell handguns at gun shows without conducting background checks. That same year she pushed the so-called Jimmy Ryce bill, which was named after the South Miami-Dade boy who'd been brutally murdered and which allows courts to keep those convicted of sexual assaults in a treatment facility if they are still deemed to be a threat after their sentence is completed. “This is a sharp difference between this administration and my opponent,” Rundle says of her legislative efforts. “My opponent has said over and over again: “We don't need new laws; we need better enforcement of existing laws.'”

Rundle also is quick to point out that while crime rates are falling across the nation, “we're light years ahead of everybody,” violent crimes having dropped more than 30 percent over the past six years. She has added an average of thirteen new positions per year for the past six years (not including an annual attrition rate of about 36 positions per year) and loosened Tallahassee's purse strings to fatten her department's budget by more than $20 million over the past seven years to $58.7 million today. (Recent reports, however, show that rapes and domestic violence have climbed by as much as twenty percent from 1999, a disconcerting development for a State Attorney who trumpets that she established Florida's first felony domestic-violence unit in 1986.)

By her critics in law enforcement, Rundle is perceived as a well-intentioned administrator whose office has trouble handling complicated conspiracy cases. “Any controversial case she dumps to the feds,” complains one highly placed Miami police official. As an example he cites the John Does, a Liberty City drug syndicate. Miami cops took the case to federal prosecutors after Rundle's office allegedly showed reluctance in pursuing the investigation. The two agencies ended up prosecuting the gang together, winning several convictions.

And of course there is the catch phrase of this election: public corruption.

The notion that the State Attorney hasn't done enough to combat public corruption is not unique to Rundle. Her predecessor was dogged by similar complaints. In 1990, after twelve years in office, Reno had brought to trial only five elected officials. She preferred to leave the lion's share of the work to the U.S. Attorney's Office. Prosecutors insist this is a natural division of labor: State prosecutors handle the meat-and-potatoes cases like murder, robbery, and rape, while passing along the more costly intricate matters to the feds, who have greater resources and stronger tools for prosecution.

In 1980 the office had five lawyers handling organized crime and public corruption. Under Rundle the public-corruption unit has become a freestanding division, one of only a handful in the state, and employs nine prosecutors, up from six only two years ago. Since 1994 the unit has handled 227 cases, according to Chief Asst. State Attorney Trudy Novicki. In that time ten elected officials have been prosecuted, although not all were handled by the public-corruption unit. The prize catch in that list is Humberto Hernandez, the former Miami City commissioner.

Humbertico, as he was affectionately known by his Little Havana constituents, was snared during the apogee of public corruption in Miami-Dade County: the 1997 Miami mayoral race. Rundle's office ended up prosecuting 65 people for voter fraud, including Hernandez. Federal authorities, however, already had charged Hernandez in a separate bank-fraud scheme, stealing the State Attorney's thunder. “Bert Hernandez is in federal prison because of the U.S. Attorney's Office,” John Rivera points out. “Rundle got some misdemeanor vote-fraud conviction against him.”

Novicki strongly defends her prosecutors' work: “Excuse me? I think we tried and convicted him first, and then the feds pled him. And as I understand it, his conviction in state court helped facilitate the federal plea.”

But when the issue is public corruption, it's not so much who is prosecuted as who isn't. Rundle didn't hesitate to step in when it appeared former Miami Mayor Xavier Suarez was trying to usurp the city manager's authority and fire police Chief Warshaw back in 1997. Her office filed a violation-of-city-charter charge against him, which Suarez settled by agreeing to stop his interference. But two years later when Warshaw, now as city manager, alleged that Miami Mayor Joe Carollo was violating the charter by ordering him to fire police Chief William O'Brien following the Elian Gonzalez raid, Rundle didn't get involved.

Warshaw didn't fire O'Brien, so Carollo fired Warshaw, claiming a rationale unrelated to Elian. Warshaw sued. Rundle then attempted to mediate the civil dispute. When that didn't work she simply dropped the whole thing.

For months before the mediation, Warshaw had been under suspicion for allegedly embezzling money from the police charity known as Do the Right Thing. Rundle steered clear of the case and left the investigation to federal agencies. “I have to “conflict off' any criminal investigations, because I have a professional relationship with the manager....,” she had told reporters earlier, noting that Warshaw had supported her earlier campaigns.

Scoffs Milian: “If I were a crook, I'd want her as the State Attorney also. Here's an example of the corruption and embezzlement from a pension fund and charity, and when the allegation first surfaces, the State Attorney ignores them. And when [Warshaw is] fired, the State Attorney tries to mediate. And when mediation fails, she recuses herself because he's a campaign contributor. I don't know of any prosecutor who's ever been called to the scene of a crime to mediate between a criminal and an accuser.”

“It was never a state case,” Rundle counters. “The IRS was involved, as well as federal programs. It was a federal case. I think the FBI did a superb job investigating that case.”

According to figures compiled by the PBA from the governor's legal office, Rundle's administration leads the state in “new executive assignments,” matters the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office asked to have assigned elsewhere because of conflicts of interest. Rundle's camp notes that the number of recusals is high because her office is the busiest in the state. (Rundle recused her office 38 times last year. Next highest was Palm Beach County, with 31. But Miami-Dade handled twice as many cases as Palm Beach.)

This may be a no-win situation for Rundle. She's criticized for handing off cases -- many of them public-corruption cases -- in which she has some conflict of interest. But imagine the criticism if she didn't hand off those cases. “The public-corruption issue is a complete red herring,” says Bruce Udolf, who was chief of the local U.S. Attorney's public-corruption unit for five years and is now a private attorney in Broward County. “It's just not a fair characterization to say they don't do enough. If you look at most state prosecutor's offices around the country, very little of their resources are used to address public corruption. It's an area traditionally dominated by federal authorities. The resources are just not available at the state level to the extent they are at the federal level.

“Corruption investigations are very difficult, requiring hundreds of thousands of dollars in resources and sometimes years of investigation. Most local offices can't justify that kind of expenditure. Look at Broward -- you rarely see corruption cases handled at the state level. And the political implications of having one elected official investigate another make it very difficult. Miami-Dade County is unique in that it probably prosecutes more corruption cases than any county in the country. And [the SAO] do an exceptional number of those cases in conjunction with the Department of Justice.”

One other factor complicates the subject, especially in politically charged Miami-Dade. “When you start to be aggressive in areas of public corruption, that's when you make enemies,” Rundle notes wearily.


She knows whereof she speaks. In fact most of her current problems can be traced to a public-corruption case. In 1997 her staff investigated Bruce Kaplan, a county commissioner at the time, for mortgage fraud. In an April 1998 agreement with prosecutors, Kaplan pleaded no contest to misdemeanor charges of filing false financial disclosure forms and agreed to resign from office and not run again.

Throughout the lengthy investigation, Kaplan's biggest supporter was the PBA's John Rivera. The union boss publicly excoriated Rundle and prosecutor Joe Centorino, head of the public-corruption unit. Kaplan had been a major benefactor of the county police department during his tenure. Even after Kaplan's resignation, Rivera called him law enforcement's “best friend.”

Rundle has another term for the disgraced politician: She calls him the union's “moneyman.” No matter what criticism Rivera levels against Rundle, the origins of his feud are clear, she says: “It's a smoke screen. It all goes back to Kaplan.” The irony that Rivera now criticizes her public-corruption record is not lost on her.

Rivera, a sergeant with the Miami-Dade Police Department, is a political fighter. He has launched his union into pitched battles in Hialeah, where Mayor Raul Martinez won re-election despite PBA opposition, and in South Miami, where police support was crucial to electing Mayor Julio Robaina. Rivera's constant attacks also helped oust former county Department of Corrections head Donald Manning.

His tactics are bruising, his offensives constant. He lambastes those he deems foes in the monthly PBA newspaper the Heat. And this year his favorite target has been Rundle. “Kathy Fernandez Rundle touts her “war' on public corruption though it is nonexistent,” read one recent headline. While Janet Reno's relationship with the PBA was rocky at times, she never faced the kind of organized resistance Rundle is experiencing.

“Our officers are out there risking their lives daily, making more arrests each year. They're doing their part fighting crime,” Rivera fumes. “And every year the State Attorney's Office has been dropping more and more cases. And public corruption is a joke. If public officials are stealing millions and millions of dollars each year, it hurts our ability to collectively bargain. It's very insulting to us.”

In fact over the past twelve months Rundle's office has maintained a relatively constant “no action” rate. From September 1999 to August 2000, the State Attorney's Office either dismissed or withdrew charges in 12,701 felony cases out of 39,874, about 30 percent, a figure that's remained stable over the past ten years. (The greatest factor contributing to that is the failure of witnesses and victims to appear in court, a phenomenon Rundle believes may be more pronounced here because of the number of tourists and illegal immigrants in Miami-Dade.) By comparison Broward, the next busiest State Attorney's Office in the state, had a nineteen percent no-action rate in 1999, the only year numbers were available. That office, though, handles far fewer felony cases, 22,245 last year.

As summer rolled around there was no higher priority for Rivera than unseating Rundle. “We were looking [for an opponent], no ifs, ands, or buts,” Rivera recalls. He approached a few people but couldn't get a taker. Then he read a story in the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel about a veteran prosecutor being reprimanded by the Florida Supreme Court for slugging a defense attorney. This past October Milian punched Ty Terrel in the face after disagreements over jury selection in a criminal case. Milian says Terrel elbowed him in an elevator first. A juror saw the fracas, prompting the judge to declare a mistrial. “I probably crossed the line,” Milian allows, “but I don't make apologies for the fact that I'm a fighter. I fight for the victims of these crimes.”

That kind of talk excited Rivera. “I saw passion,” he recalls. “I saw a guy who cared more about victims' rights than a criminal's freedom. All the stuff we've been lacking around here for years. So I contacted a friend and said, “You know what we need? We need someone like that Broward prosecutor to run for State Attorney down here.'” His friend, whom Rivera declines to identify, called back a few days later and told him: “You've got your guy.”

“It's true if he hadn't had that brawl, we wouldn't have heard about him,” Rivera muses. “The fact that he hit a defense attorney -- do we condone it? No. But why did he do it? He cared about his job. And that's what we need around here.”

Rivera has gone to great lengths to portray Rundle as soft on crime. In Milian he found what he considers her polar opposite. Rundle, a Democrat, is less overtly hawkish. Milian, a Republican, is a proud member of the National Rifle Association. “I'm pro-gun to the end,” he told the Broward-Palm Beach New Times last year.

The 39-year-old military man is happy to cast himself as the anti-Rundle. While she touts her legislative record, her budget accomplishments, and her management skills, Milian responds simply: “I think the public is ready to elect a prosecutor, not an administrator or a politician.”

His supporters hope his background will play well on Calle Ocho. His father, Emilio Milian, is a well-known Cuban-exile journalist who lost both legs in a Miami car bombing in 1976, after repeatedly denouncing violence during his radio shows. (Emilio Milian has been the subject of two New Times cover stories: “The End of the Silent Years,” February 1, 1989; and “Breach of Faith,”November 16, 1995.)

Such brutality framed the candidate's emerging world view. “We were in police protective custody for two years, and perhaps that's one of the reasons I feel very close to law enforcement,” Milian says. Following high school he joined the army and then studied at Miami-Dade Community College and Florida International University, after which he went to law school at Florida State University. As a second lieutenant in the army reserves, he saw combat in Panama and the Gulf War. He's been a prosecutor with the Broward State Attorney's Office since 1988 and boasts an 80 percent conviction rate in 300 jury trials.

He maintains that his command of soldiers, his courtroom experience, and his passionate commitment to fighting crime qualify him to run the state's busiest prosecutor's office. As if to mitigate his macho image, Milian is careful to note his love of books. He drops the names of Camus, Borges, and Whitman, and reminisces about exploring his father's vast library while growing up.

Milian speaks eloquently about his motivations. “I arrived here from Cuba at a very young age,” he says. “I came from a society that was turned upside down because of the revolution. The rule of law went out the door; habeas corpus was suspended in 1959 and has never been respected again. In Miami I grew up in a lot of political turmoil. I remember the day Martin Luther King was killed. I remember the riots. I remember the political violence here in the 1970s. And the lesson I learned was that the rule of law is essential to a civilized society. American society, for all its shortcomings, has always worked toward a goal of having the rule of law overcome the rule of men. And that's where a great deal of my passion comes from in law enforcement.”

Despite his noble intentions, Milian's passion has gotten him in trouble before. The Miami Heralddredged up a 1985 fistfight he had with another student while attending law school; that altercation resulted in his conviction on a misdemeanor count of battery. Defense attorneys in Broward have complained that as a prosecutor he frequently provoked them. “Every once in a while he would invite me out to the garage to fight with him,” Maury Halperin told the Broward-Palm Beach New Timeslast year. Halperin added that that he respects Milian and since then has contributed money to Milian's campaign.

At least three other times Milian's courtroom behavior has cost him a trial. In 1992 his clashes with a defense lawyer were noted during an appeal of a criminal case. “The attorneys engaged in several shouting matches before the judge,” the Fourth District Court of Appeal wrote in its decision to throw out the conviction and hold a new trial. “During that time Mr. Milian called the defense attorneys “maggots' and “poor excuses for humans beings.'”

In 1993 Milian told a judge that the jury on a case he had just prosecuted was “made up of buffoons” and “lobotomized zombies” after they found a defendant guilty of misdemeanor crimes instead of felonies. The verdict stood but a panel of the district court's judges condemned the hotheaded behavior: “Even if this had been one isolated instance of an emotional outburst, Mr. Milian's conduct would be deplorable. Unfortunately this instance is not isolated.”

In 1997 the court of appeals overturned another murder conviction because, during closing arguments, Milian told jurors that anything less than a conviction would establish a “one-free-murder rule” in the community. “It is improper for a prosecutor to infer to the jurors that a conviction will serve some larger social good beyond the confines of the trial,” the judges wrote.

While Milian was never reprimanded by his bosses for his behavior, the cumulative effect of such behavior has scared off many potential supporters. Miami criminal defense attorney Sam Rabin, a former assistant state attorney, is no fan of Rundle. Nonetheless he says he'll have to grudgingly vote for her this election. “I've known Kathy for a long time,” Rabin says. “We are in significant disagreement on a number of issues related to how she handles her office. But given what I know about her opponent, I believe she is the best of the available choices.”

As the campaign season began this past summer, Rundle had more to worry about than Rivera and Milian. Sherry Rossbach, an ex-secretary in the State Attorney's major crimes unit, was suing Rundle. Rossbach was fired in 1998 ostensibly for becoming personally involved with a hit-man witness for the prosecution, but she claimed she was terminated for complaining that a senior prosecutor sexually harassed her. In July her case went to court, where a jury believed her and awarded her $230,000. The trial judge later overruled the sexual-harassment verdict, saying there was not enough evidence. But he did let stand the jury's finding that Rossbach's firing was an act of retaliation. The timing was inauspicious: Milian had just announced his candidacy.

Not long after that, things picked up for Miami-Dade's top law-enforcement officer. The district office of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), the county's second-largest police union, endorsed her. A large FOP advertisement in the July 17 Herald touted the State Attorney as “a friend to law enforcement.”

But the union's district office apparently hadn't consulted with its individual police departments. Within weeks the Miami and Miami Shores lodges, as individual FOP branches are called, broke with headquarters and announced they were backing Milian. (The Miami Police Department lodge, with 1500 members, was the size of all other county FOP lodges combined.) Capt. Tony Rodriguez, president of the Miami lodge, says Rundle became quite upset when he called to let her know his group was breaking with the district endorsement. “Yeah, I was disappointed with that,” Rundle confirms. “On the other hand, I recognize that John [Rivera] and Tony are close.”

For his part Rodriguez says that while he knows Rivera, he did not speak to the PBA boss before making this decision. “We think Milian brings much more to the table,” Rodriguez reports. “She's been there seven or eight years and has done a job that is not at all satisfactory. Because of her policies, we have a tremendous lack of teamwork between police and prosecutors.” Rodriguez cites the same reasons as Rivera: the number of dropped prosecutions and an apparent unwillingness to pursue tough or complicated cases.

Rundle's streak of bad publicity didn't let up. Shortly after the Miami FOP pulled its endorsement, a Miami-Dade Police Department detective called Rundle and told her Seth Gordon, her campaign strategist, was the prime suspect in the 25-year-old murder of his own wife. No charges have ever been filed in the case, and no new evidence has been developed over the years. The investigative file remains closed to the public, but it was reviewed by the Secret Service in the late Seventies when Gordon was asked to head Jimmy Carter's presidential campaign in Florida. Its contents didn't disqualify him from that position, nor for a later position as an executive assistant in Florida Attorney General Bob Shevin's administration.

Someone leaked to the Herald news of the detective's call to Rundle. In the wake of the ensuing publicity, Gordon quit.

By late September Milian's mug was plastered on posters and billboards all over the county. The accompanying message: Milian was the candidate supported by police. Rundle's campaign workers pegged the cost at nearly $100,000. But Rivera says volunteers worked to put up the posters for free and that he received permission to use billboards abandoned by candidates after the primary season. “In all,” Rivera offers, “I want to say we spent about $25,000.”

As a countermeasure at least one police chief has been vocally supporting Rundle. North Miami Beach Police Chief Bill Berger says the PBA's tactics in the campaign have unnerved him. “Definitely it appears [Rivera's] motives are vengeance, and I'm real concerned about that. I think Kathy has great ethics and credibility. I like Mr. Milian. He's a very sharp man. But he doesn't have the experience. This is not a job you can cut your teeth on and learn as you go along.”


Polls taken by Schroth and Associates show Rundle with a decisive lead. Rob Schroth terms it nearly insurmountable. “Her job-performance rating came in at 63 percent,” Schroth says. “Generally that means you lack any vulnerability. I've been in this business a long time, and I've never seen anyone come from that far behind. Right now there does not exist a valid rationale to fire her and hire Alberto Milian, a relative unknown with a checkered past.”

John Rivera laughs when told this. He says the Schroth poll was taken in the early summer, before Milian began campaigning. He is still predicting “the greatest upset in Dade County history!”

But even if Rundle wins, as expected, it won't mean police union opposition will disappear. “If Kathy is fortunate enough to win,” Rivera vows, “she's going to have to learn she can't do business as usual. Listen, she needs us as much as we need her. When we work in harmony, everyone benefits. When we don't, the public suffers.”

How will the public suffer? “If police officers don't trust or believe in the prosecutor, they may not make as many cases or work as hard on them,” says Richard Sharpstein, a criminal defense attorney whose loyalties are split. Sharpstein does a lot of work for the PBA but is a Rundle backer. “If Kathy wins she'll need to hold a peace conference. Cops and prosecutors are a team; they're Batman and Robin. Without good relations there's a definite impact.”

Understandably Rundle refuses to look past the election itself. “We can do a better job selling ourselves,” she insists. “We're not, as an office, good salespeople. That's why I'm looking forward to this election, so I can talk about my record. We've all fallen for this trick of focusing on public corruption, but the larger issue is: We took this county from paradise lost to paradise found.”

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