Ft. Lauderdale, FL – The Broward County sheriff blamed for the failed police response to the massacre at a Parkland high school has requested a state senate hearing to challenge his suspension.
Stuart Kaplan, attorney for former Broward Sheriff Scott Israel, said newly-elected Florida Governor Ron DeSantis doesn’t have the authority to suspend the sheriff for things that happened before he was elected, the Sun Sentinel reported.
Kaplan also called the campaign pledge that DeSantis made to remove Sheriff Israel “improper.”
The challenge argued that allowing a newly-elected governor to get rid of the sheriff in that manner was utilizing “this removal process as a house cleaning tool to undermine the integrity of the democratic process to allow the voters to decide as to whether or not Scott Israel should remain or should be voted out,” the Sun Sentinel reported.
“Scott Israel was elected through the democratic process. The voters of Broward County spoke,” Kaplan said. “Our position is that the democratic process should remain in place and only in the most extreme circumstances” should a removal or suspension be considered.
DeSantis suspended former Sheriff Israel just three days after he was sworn into office, and appointed former Coral Springs Police Sergeant Gregory Tony to replace him.
The suspension order blamed the former sheriff for failing to provide training, and for authorizing inconsistent policies that contributed to the failed response at the Feb. 14, 2018 school shooting scene, the Sun Sentinel reported.
During a press conference given by a group of parents who lost children in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shootings, the governor said he didn’t want to focus his comments on Sheriff Israel’s suspension.
“I have no interest in dancing on Scott Israel’s political grave,” DeSantis said. “Just suffice it to say that the massacre might never have happened had Broward had better leadership in the sheriff’s department.”
He told reporters he didn’t want to detail the “neglect and incompetence” of Sheriff Israel’s administration.
“We lay it out in the suspension order – and I don’t have the inclination to rehash his failings,” DeSantis said.
Sheriff Israel has been the subject of intense criticism after it was discovered that members of the Broward Sheriff’s Office (BSO) failed to respond to the active shooter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in accordance with modern law enforcement training.
An investigation conducted by a special commission established by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, at the request of former Governor Rick Scott, determined that multiple BSO deputies had failed to make any attempt to stop the shooter as they listened to him shoot 34 students and staff.
Seventeen people were killed as a result of the Feb. 14, 2018 massacre. Another 17 were wounded.
Former Sheriff Israel’s attorneys have also challenged the special master appointed by the president of the state senate to hear cases of officials, the Sun Sentinel reported.
J. Dudley Goodlette, a former state representative from Naples, was appointed to the position on Jan. 24. His responsibilities entail holding a hearing and submitting an advisory report.
But the former sheriff’s attorneys requested “the appointment of an experienced administrative hearing officer with no significant existing or prior relationship to the Florida Legislature or any of the parties to this proceeding.”
“[We] believe the interest of justice and considerations of neutrality are best served through the appointment of a person with judicial and administrative experience but without substantial involvement in partisan political matters,” they wrote in their challenge.
The new sheriff’s appointment was greeted with enthusiasm by Broward sheriff’s deputies, who have been trying to oust Sheriff Israel since last spring.
The Broward Sheriff’s Office Deputies Association had asked the now-former governor to intervene after the deputies union held a vote of no confidence in April of 2018, and the membership voted against Sheriff Israel by 534 to 94.
But Sheriff Israel stayed in charge throughout the remainder of that governor’s administration.