Justice for Ruby Green
Justice for Ruby Green
Tuesday, August 18 was the day of Florida's Primary Election, in which Ruby Green ran for Broward County Public Defender. Less than 12 hours after losing to Gordon Weekes, her boss, Howard Finkelstein, the current Broward Public Defender, fired her, seemingly for challenging Gordon, his endorsed choice for the position, and at Gordon's rumored request.
Ruby campaigned as the people's candidate. With almost no money and resources, she earned 32.08% of the votes to Gordon's 47.95% in a race where over 216,000 Democrats voted. Her platform focused on her experience as an exemplary Assistant Public Defender and highlighted her triumph as a single mother who had excelled against challenging odds.
Ruby is a Black woman, who, after her visionary campaign for change ended, was fired at 8:34 a.m. on Wednesday, August 19 via text, in addition to an email message that didn't address her by name and showed as "sent from my iPad."
If you're thinking this is the perfect story for South Florida's "Help me Howard," the news segment, which seeks justice for viewers who feel they have been wronged, you'd be right; except the actual WSVN 7 Help me Howard is the same Howard Finkelstein who fired Ruby in an at-will state, meaning there does not have to be proven cause for termination, but in so doing, one cannot violate a person's legal rights or fire in retaliation.
Howard, who had made his support widely known for Gordon, the only other Black candidate in the race, was quoted in the local column, Broward Beat, which cited emails where Howard claimed he was planning to fire Ruby for comments made against the office but was waiting until after the election so that he would not pull a James Comey (meaning influence the results). Howard didn't elaborate on what comments she made; however, if Ruby said anything criticizing her opponent, it did not diminish the ability of the Public Defender's Office (PDO) to support its clients.
For Howard to publicly support Gordon, while not allowing anyone in the office talk about the election, and to then immediately fire Ruby, is patriarchal at best, retaliatory against her right to run for office, at worst. Furthermore, because the PDO is a government entity, not a private company, she is protected under her First Amendment right to free speech during a campaign.
Highlighting flaws as a means of improving the PDO doesn't hurt the office; putting a Black woman out, leaving her, and her child without health benefits during a pandemic, does, as does placing individuals unable to afford a private attorney in the care of another public defender with an already full workload.
To fire a Black woman who dared to run for political office infringes on her right to campaign. It silences all who might one day hope to challenge the system, and in a very real way is a dangerous threat to the democratic process. As such, the community demands the immediate restoration of justice through the following actions:
- Ruby Green should be given a proper severance package. A new administration generally provides time for a job search before laying off existing employees. A firing based solely on retaliation in under 12 hours during a pandemic is as unique as it is cruel. Howard Finkelstein and Gordon Weekes were aware of Ruby's home life. Howard and Gordon were aware that with a young child, she was not paid enough to have savings.
- WSVN 7 News should immediately stop production of "Help Me Howard." It is professionally hypocritical and intellectually dishonest of Howard Finkelstein to give legal advice when he literally did the type of thing people seek counsel for in the segment. Patrick Fraser should continue alone, or alongside a person who has a proven track record of working immensely harder than most others in the Public Defender's Office. The show should also be renamed; and we think either "Ruby to the Rescue" or "Rescue Me Ruby" sounds like a suitable replacement.
- Gordon Weekes must issue a public statement apologizing for his attacks on Ruby Green's character and ability. The harm brought to a Black woman running for a political seat and to the Public Defender's Office, is irreparable; however, in stating remorse for the negative consequences of his actions, as well as documenting the improvements he plans to implement, we can begin to heal as a county.
Thank you for your time, your signatures, and your commitment to justice.