Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Larizza Wants to Smooth Election Rancor; the 7th Judicial Circuit State Attorney-Elect Says There's No Beef with Office Employees

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Larizza Wants to Smooth Election Rancor; the 7th Judicial Circuit State Attorney-Elect Says There's No Beef with Office Employees

Article excerpt

Byline: DANA TREEN

State Attorney-elect R.J. Larizza says his contentious and successful campaign to oust incumbent John Tanner in the 7th Judicial Circuit is not going to extend into his taking over of the office.

"My campaign and my issues were with their leader, not them," he said last week of prosecutors and others who work for Tanner. "My concern wasn't so much with the lack of prosecutions or judgment issues."

Larizza, 50, will go from his private practice in St. Augustine, where he has one associate attorney, to an operation of 214 employees and offices in four counties. But he said he is not planning to clean house.

"The message I want to send is I have made no decisions about terminating anyone's employment," he said. "There are a lot of good people [there] who do a good job."

Larizza, who worked for Tanner until leaving in 2002 to open his own practice, said he has already contacted staffers in the circuit.

Some State Attorney's Office employees in the circuit that covers St. Johns, Volusia, Flagler and Putnam counties will want to leave, Larizza said, but that is normal in a change of this type.

The office has 80 attorneys, 21 investigators, 13 victim advocates and 100 support staff, according to Tanner spokeswoman Linda Pruitt. The budget is about $16 million.

When he leaves office in January, Tanner will have served as state attorney for 16 of the last 20 years.

Since losing the election, Tanner, 69, has visited offices in the circuit and told employees he had an assurance from Larizza that jobs were not on the line. "I encouraged my people to stay," he said.

Larizza said he will visit the offices after a planned vacation in the Florida Keys. "At this point, I am positive about the transition," he said.

Larizza said he wants to open liaisons with law enforcement and community groups and may appoint a person to those tasks.

"I want to be more proactive with prevention," he said. "I don't want kids to commit crimes. There will be a community-based prevention initiative."

Larizza said he also will establish a merit- and performance-based pay and promotion system he said the office has been lacking. …

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