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Politics

It's Over: Senate Removes Broward Sheriff from Office

October 24, 2019 - 8:00am
Parkland families watch from the Senate Gallery
Parkland families watch from the Senate Gallery

Heeding the pleas of parents whose children were slaughtered in the state’s worst school shooting, the Florida Senate delivered a major victory Wednesday to Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis by removing embattled Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel from office.

DeSantis, as a candidate for governor last year, pledged to oust the Democratic sheriff for failures associated with the February 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that left 14 students and three staff members dead and another 17 people injured.

In one of his first acts after taking office in January, the governor suspended Israel, accusing the sheriff of “incompetence” and neglect of duty for the sheriff’s office’s handling of the Parkland school massacre and a mass shooting at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in 2017 that killed five people.

DeSantis thanked the Senate, which has the power to remove or reinstate elected officials, for backing his decision to oust Israel.

“I hope the outcome provides some measure of relief to the Parkland families that have been doggedly pursuing accountability," DeSantis tweeted.

Scott Israel Wednesday
Scott Israel Wednesday
Wednesday’s 25-15 vote defied the recommendation of a special master appointed by Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton. Special Master Dudley Goodlette, a former Republican state representative from Naples, recommended last month that Israel be reinstated, finding that DeSantis’ lawyers failed to present evidence to support the suspension.

The full Senate vote --- in which three Democrats joined the Republican majority --- came two days after the Senate Rules Committee ignored Goodlette’s recommendation and voted to back removing Israel from office. That vote came after emotional entreaties from family members of the Parkland victims.

On Wednesday afternoon, a cadre of the Parkland victims’ families watched from the public gallery during more than two hours of impassioned Senate debate that highlighted a conundrum facing many lawmakers.

Sen. Tom Lee, a former Senate president and the lone Republican to oppose Israel’s removal, sparked the discussion with a warning about the precedent-setting nature of removing an elected official who has not been charged with any crimes.

“We’re not voting on anything that’s in your mind or anything that’s in your conscience. We’re voting on what’s in the (governor’s) executive order,” Lee, R-Thonotosassa, said. “Forevermore, what we do here today, in support or opposition to this executive order, is now a part of legislative lore. It is precedent.”

Senators repeatedly referred to former Broward County sheriff’s deputy Scot Peterson, who was the Parkland school’s resource officer and lurked as accused killer Nikolas Cruz unleashed a volley of bullets inside what was known as Building 12. Peterson was arrested in June and charged with 11 counts related to his inaction during the massacre.

“There is grave concern among law enforcement that what we are doing here today is anti-law enforcement. Those aren’t my words,” Lee added.

But Sen. Rob Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican who is a former prosecutor, argued Israel “got his day in court” when he made his case before the Senate special master. Bradley emphasized the state Constitution gives the Senate the power to decide his fate.

“I am quite comfortable that if we are talking about precedent, if a future Senate wants to see how to do one of these things, this would be a very, very good model to use going forward. I think that it has been a model that should actually be admired and repeated,” Bradley said.

Following the Senate vote, Tony Montalto, whose 14-year-old daughter, Gina, was among the slain students, told reporters the Parkland families were “happy that the Senate saw fit” to uphold Israel’s removal.

“As I’ve said before, he was not the right man for the job. The systemic failures were exposed in Parkland but could have easily affected any other city in Broward that use the services of the sheriff’s office while he was in command,” Montalto said.

But Israel, who is seeking to be elected to the post again in 2020, issued a prepared statement that accused the Senate of using a “sham process.”

“Your vote has been stolen and the results of our 2016 election have been overturned. From 450 miles away, the governor substituted his judgment for yours and installed his own sheriff in Broward County,” Israel said.

Sen. Lauren Book, a Plantation Democrat who has served on a statewide commission responsible for investigating the school shooting, argued that the removal of Israel bolstered Peterson’s case, because the deputy could blame his failures on the lack of training by the sheriff.

“We’re writing the defenses for him, and I just don’t know how we can do that,” Book said. “There are times, senators, when we must take a position that is neither safe nor political nor popular. Trust me, I know, but we must take it.”

But Sen. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, accused Israel of being responsible for a series of “institutional failures” that led to the Feb. 14, 2018, tragedy, saying the families deserved accountability.

Rouson, in contrast to Lee, urged his Senate colleagues to vote their conscience.

“It is a tough decision. I make this decision today, not based upon a primary opponent, not based on the next election. But I make it because I believe it is the right decision,” said Rouson, who was joined by fellow Democrats Annette Taddeo of Miami and Randolph Bracy of Orlando in voting to remove Israel.

Sen. Victor Torres, however, criticized the Senate process as too political.

 “I view the action we are about to take not as a vote for Sheriff Israel or against Gov. DeSantis, but rather a vote to uphold the Constitution of the state of Florida and the right of the Florida Senate as a legislative body of this government to act as a check of the executive branch when it oversteps its authority and the will of the voters,” Torres, D-Orlando, said.

Israel’s lawyer, Ben Kuehne, indicated that the ousted sheriff might appeal the Senate action to a federal court. Kuehne has repeatedly raised concerns about a lack of due process in the Senate proceedings.

“I give good faith to every senator here, but the good faith is not the same as due process protections. And in some of their haste to contrive reasons to support a governor’s decision that is not supportable, there was a lack of fundamental fairness, fairness that one of the senators even pointed out everybody is entitled to. To take away that office deprives the people of an important right,” Kuehne said after the Senate vote. “The people have given, vested in a public official, important responsibilities that can’t be taken away arbitrarily, and really that’s what we saw here.”

--- News Service staff writers Ana Ceballos and Jim Turner contributed to this report.

Comments

So Miss Lauren Book is suggesting to allow Isreal back into office so Deputy Peterson couldn’t use Isreal’s dismissal due to incompetence as an excuse? Just shows where her mind is, she would reinstate the incompetent Sheriff, and prosecute Peterson and declare the matter solved? A very serious lapse of judgment on Book’s behalf.

Finally this piece of rancid garbage is removed for good. That's what you get for dereliction of duty while watching our children get murdered.

Unanimous agreement!

Apparently, given that the 'special master' had already determined within the greater framework of American jurisprudence that DeSantis' suspension of Israel was in error and wrong ... tinhorn Republicans have once again evidenced that they believe themselves to be above the law ... like their model(s) in Washington. (Or, maybe, it was just a puerile partisan thing ???)

The goal of supercharged electrons is to plant the seeds of chi rather than greed. Life-force requires exploration. The planet is radiating electrical impulses. Balance is the healing of self-actualization, and of us. By condensing, we grow.

Apparently, given that the 'special master' had already determined within the greater framework of American jurisprudence that DeSantis' suspension of Israel was in error and wrong ... tinhorn Republicans have once again evidenced that they believe themselves to be above the law ... like their model(s) in Washington. (Or, maybe, it was just a puerile partisan thing ???)

It’s the gov. Obligation to protect the people of Florida. Israel did a massive fail and kids died!!! No thx, the POS Israel can rot. Justice served! Go away, far away Israel!

Partisan GOPper tools! It'll be a hoot if the guy simply runs for sheriff again and gets re-elected! Go, go, Scott!!! LOL

You're a sick person in light of his failure live were lost. Young adults just starting out. This has nothing to do with politics it has to do with the civility of this situation. Scott Israel made a bad choice at the time of the shooting. Looking back he never kept his department up to date on training for exactly this type of a situation. GoGO Scott.... you're probably a GO GO Hillary which again indicates your response.

Only disgraced former Sherriff Israel would claim victim status.

I'll be happy when I pull up to the drive-thru and he asks: "would you like fries with that?" That will make my day.

Hey, I'll claim it, too! I've clearly been a victim of the crimes being committed by those in charge in Tallahassee and in Washington.

Then we must correct the problem by taking back the House in DC.

Finally the "COWARD OF BROWARD" has been removed. A long overdue process for the grieving families that lost children. Interestingly enough Israel had his photo taken with HRC. Both fell short of their duties causing good Americans to die. HRC Benghazi Israel Parkland shooting. Both gave orders to, or failed to engage the enemy all for "Political Correctness." For the past 3 yrs., when I address groups I tell them the two most dangerous things we are faced with is Political Correctness and Global Warming. Both are excuses, hoaxes for hidden agendas.

Any "swampfox" would be eagerly looking forward to the further inundation of Florida due to the ongoing process of global warming. LOL

...another brain-dead warmist

Let us hope that this decision marks the time of the wake up call, law enforcement is held to a higher standard that is why they have special privileges, when you need help you should be able to unquestionably "Trust" law enforcement.

You know - it all boils down to whether the voters are smart or stupid based on whether they can effectively discern if any particular candidate for any elected position is totally competent, exhibits expertise, has performed with excellence, and is irrefutably moral, responsible, and accountable. When's the last time you can recall that the voters were smart???

When is the last time you found such a candidate?

EXCELLENT!

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