18th December 16:41
DCF hire has ties to Bush family (abortion)
DCF hire has ties to Bush family
By Megan O'Matz and Mark Hollis Staff Writers Posted August 30 2003
A New York activist and outspoken opponent of *** rights hired this
week to a top job in Florida's Department of Children & Families has
links to the Bush family.
James H. K. Bruner, former executive director of the Christian-based
New York Policy Council, is the son of an Episcopalian minister, the
late Laman H. Bruner Jr.
The elder Bruner was the chaplain of the New York State Assembly and
rector at Kennebunkport, Maine's St. Ann's Episcopal Church, where
Gov. Jeb Bush's father, former President George H. W. Bush, is a
On Friday, Gov. Bush's spokeswoman said Jeb Bush had no role in hiring
Bruner, who will earn $82,000 annually as "special assistant to the
general counsel" of DCF. Though Bruner, 45, is an attorney, he is not
yet licensed to practice law in Florida. That process could take six
months to a year to complete.
Bruner described himself in an interview Friday night as a "old
acquaintance" of the governor's younger brother Marvin, whom he said
he has known since childhood.
Bruner said he has not seen Marvin Bush in about two years and
insisted that his Bush family connections had no role in his being
hired at DCF.
"I did not reach out to them in any means for this position," Bruner
Bush spokeswoman Alia Faraj said: "This was a decision made by [DCF]
Secretary [Jerry] Regier, and Mr. Bruner was hired based on his
qualifications and his experience in the child-welfare system.
"Agency staff decisions are usually handled by the agency heads, and
this was no exception," Faraj said.
As the public face of New York's family policy council in Albany,
Bruner disrupted abortion rights gatherings, waged a campaign against
free weekly newspapers carrying lewd pictures, and argued that medical
evidence proves "the homo***ual lifestyle is unhealthy and should not
be supported by the state."
The father of six bemoaned the decline of traditional marriages and
warned that schools are becoming tools for the "pro-homo***ual
Bruner may prove to be the most controversial appointment made by
"If you could turn back time to 1950, Jamie [Bruner] would be very
happy from a public policy point of view," Libby Post, president of
Albany's *** and ******* Council, said, referring to his nickname.
In bringing Bruner on board, Regier may reopen questions about his own
Christian conservative views, a topic that sprang awkwardly to the
surface a year ago when he was tapped by Bush to take over the
flailing agency. In a surprise to the Bush administration, Regier's
name appeared on a 1989 essay supporting spanking children even if it
leaves "bruises or welts" and objecting to women working outside the
home without the husband's consent.
More recently, the secretary has come under fire for forcing
rank-and-file workers to participate in a character education training
program developed by evangelist Bill Gothard and for DCF's attempt to
persuade a judge to appoint a guardian for the fetus of a young woman
****d in an Orlando group home. The issue is on appeal.
"Most people, given the diversity of our state, would like to see
people in positions of power in state government who believe in
tolerance, diversity of understanding and other points of view," said
state Rep. Nan Rich, D-Weston, a children's advocate. "I don't believe
that [Bruner's writings] can be called tolerant and understanding."
A close associate of Bruner's said Wednesday that he is to assume a
high-level position within DCF.
"He's just below the secretary," said Steve Kidder, the new executive
director of the New York family policy council.
Regier, in an interview Thursday, said Bruner will not be involved in
setting DCF policy.
Regier said Bruner sent him his resume and his staff "vetted it to see
if he might have some experience helpful to the department." Regier
said he later met Bruner in March in Washington, D. C., at an annual
meeting of the Family Research Council, another Christian conservative
organization. Regier was its founding president.
Bruner said his exact responsibilities in the General Counsel's
Office, where he said he began work on Monday, have not been made
"I won't be setting policy. I may be able to give some history and
background," he said.
Asked whether Regier was aware of Bruner's ties to the Bush family,
DCF spokeswoman Jackie Cooper said: "At the time he introduced himself
that was not mentioned."
Bruner's resume lists his religion as "Episcopalian (Born-Again)," and
notes: "My father was President G. H. W. Bush's pastor in
Kennebunkport for 30 years."
Regier said Bruner will help DCF's general counsel, Josie Tamayo,
review the work of field attorneys and will help Tamayo in handling
legal matters in "the child abuse and neglect arena."
"That's really his area of expertise," Regier said, noting that Bruner
has 20 years of experience in family, dependency and administrative
His resume shows that he served from 1988 to 1992 as a trial counsel
in the Albany County Department of Social Services prosecuting child
abuse and neglect cases. From 1986 to 1990 he was a hearing officer
for the New York State Division for Youth.
The West Legal Directory lists his specialty as "real estate law."
In recent years, according to newspaper stories and interviews with
people familiar with him in Albany, he has been a religious radio and
TV host, a Republican legislative candidate and spokesman for the
Albany-area Christian Coalition.
Some described him as a gadfly.
"He created this kind of soft veneer over what was a profoundly
anti-***, anti-choice, anti-single-mother agenda," said Matt Foremen,
former executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda, a ***
The New York Family Policy Council's legislative agenda included
opposing same-*** marriage, equal rights for ***s and *******s in
housing and employment, and schools' efforts to end bullying and
discrimination by teaching tolerance of ***s and others.
In January, Bruner appeared at an Albany rally commemorating the 30th
anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, and confronted New York Assemblywoman
Deborah Glick, a pro-choice advocate, in an argument captured on
In an interview Thursday Glick, a Democrat, recalled Bruner as
"peculiar," saying he appeared tense and rigid. "He didn't strike me
as someone who was overly employable," she said.
State Sen. Evelyn Lynn, an Ormond Beach Republican and self-described
political conservative, said it is "very disturbing" that Regier hired
Bruner. Lynn is chairwoman of a Senate panel that oversees DCF.
"With all the people who are available, it shouldn't be necessary to
hire someone who is controversial," she said, "especially when we are
trying to do the best to focus on children."
Regier said Bruner's views on abortion, marriage and *** rights "are
held by millions of conservatives in Florida and certainly would be in
line with the governor's views."
Bruner said the media attention to his appointment are "just sad
sidetracking and unfortunate politicizing."
Megan O'Matz can be reached at email@example.com or