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Delaney plans to stay at UNF for foreseeable future; raises concerns about U.S. Attorney nominee

Despite his recent involvement in state and national politics, UNF President John Delaney said he hopes to remain at the university for the next decade and does not plan to run for public office again.

Delaney said he relishes his role at UNF and views his political engagement as beneficial to the university.

Delaney served for two terms as the mayor of Jacksonville from 1995 to 2003 and served as the interim chancellor of the State University System Board of Governors from October 2008 to October 2009.

“There’s a lot of days that I feel like I have a much bigger impact at UNF on the community [of Jacksonville] than what I did as mayor,” Delaney said.

Last summer, Gov. Charlie Crist placed Delaney on the shortlist to succeed retiring Sen. Mel Martinez, whose departure created a vacant U.S. senate seat.

Delaney said he spoke with UNF’s Board of Trustees about the possible appointment, and they were supportive of the move. If he would have been appointed, an interim president would have been selected, and Delaney would have returned to UNF after finishing former Sen. Mel Martinez’s term, he said.

He said that Gov. Crist’s former chief of staff, George LeMieux, told him to start looking for a place to live in Washington, D.C. and to start thinking about staff members to hire.

Delaney said Crist was “98 percent” sure on selecting him to fill the vacant seat.

Crist ended up selecting LeMieux instead. Delaney said he was “relieved” when he heard the news.

“I think that [the U.S. senate] would’ve been a fun gig, but I’m glad it didn’t happen for a lot of different reasons,” Delaney said.

Late last year, Delaney made local and statewide headlines speaking out on political and public policy issues.

He addressed the city’s Charter Review Commission Dec. 10, 2009 regarding whether to change the way the Duval County School Board and Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Sheriff are chosen.

Delaney favors an appointed school board and sheriff, but said the latter would be politically impossible. He penned an editorial for the Florida Times-Union explaining his position Feb. 8.

He has also taken a stance against to the nomination of former State Attorney Harry Shorstein to become U.S. Attorney.

Delaney wrote a letter which has set off a political firestorm even though Delaney said he wrote it as a private citizen, sending the missive from his private address.

“There’s a rule in politics — he who defines first, defines last,” Delaney said.

Shorstein and his allies have defined Delaney’s concerns as political in nature, though he insists he has no personal issues with Shorstein, Delaney said.

Shorstein, a Democrat, and Delaney, a Republican, had a “great relationship” for many years, Delaney said. He even endorsed Shorstein in 1996 for state attorney.

State and local media outlets, specifically the Florida Times-Union and the St. Petersburg Times, “have substantially got it [coverage of the letter] wrong. Dramatically wrong,” Delaney said.

Shorstein downplayed the situation.

“I don’t want to readdress those issues, I think they speak for themselves,” Shorstein said. “You have supporters, and you have detractors.”

He said he would rather the White House, which makes the final determination on his nomination for U.S. Attorney, focus on his record.

“My record is very, very public,” Shorstein said. “It’s pretty much an open book.”

Shorstein’s record is at the center of Delaney’s misgivings, mainly because Shorstein has used grand juries as a vehicle to settle “political grudges,” Delaney said.

“Let’s say two neighbors are fighting. … If one of them says, ‘Hey, there’s a dead body buried in the backyard!’ then don’t you think the cops would go look to see if there’s a dead body there?” Delaney said. “Why don’t you look at the substance of what some of these concerns are? But it’s easier to write it as a political thing.”

Shorstein called the grand jury reports credible.

“If you were questioning the efficacy or the credibility of a grand jury report, you should just read it yourself and see if it adequately explains its findings, conclusions and recommendations,” Shorstein said. “I think they speak for themselves.”

Shorstein may not agree with his critics’ characterization of his record but he respects their first amendment rights, he said.

“At one time I was willing to give up my life to protect those rights [as a Vietnam veteran], so he can say whatever he thinks is appropriate,” Shorstein said.

Matt Corrigan, chair of the UNF political science and public administration department, said he didn’t feel qualified to speak about Shorstein’s legal credentials for being U.S. Attorney. But he did note that no one should be surprised that Delaney would remain politically active.

“One of his [Delaney’s] major strengths was that he was involved in public policy and public affairs,” Corrigan said. “When you have someone like that you can expect them to stay involved.”

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    Still LaughingFeb 18, 2010 at 3:07 pm

    Through his personal and unprofessional attacks on Shorstein, Delaney has defined himself first and last as a malicious, unethical politician. UNF should be able to do much better for its president.