Suspended After Parkland Shooting, Former Florida County Sheriff Sues Governor to Get Job Back
By Skyler Swisher
Former Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel is challenging his suspension in a petition filed Thursday in Broward County Circuit Court, alleging that Gov. Ron DeSantis exceeded his legal authority when he ousted him from office.
Stuart Kaplan, an attorney representing Israel, said DeSantis' latest comments in his State of the State address Tuesday motivated the lawsuit.
DeSantis said any senator who would vote to reinstate Israel would "thumb his nose" at the families who lost loved ones in the Parkland school shooting. The Florida Senate is responsible for upholding or reversing the governor's suspension order.
Kaplan blasted the governor Thursday morning and called his statement to senators "reprehensible" and "deplorable."
"It was clearly a threat to the Senate," Kaplan said. "He has tainted the ultimate decision-makers. We don't believe he can get a fair hearing."
The petition alleges "DeSantis engineered a political power play that interferes with the right of the public to determine their elected officials." Israel is entitled to reinstatement, the petition states.
Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, said the Senate's review of Israel's case will likely be put on hold because of the lawsuit.
"We'll wait and see how that plays out," he said.
A hearing had been tentatively scheduled for the week of April 8.
Helen Aguirre Ferre, a DeSantis spokeswoman, defended the governor's comments, saying Israel's neglect of duty and incompetence was evident after the Parkland shooting last year and the Fort Lauderdale airport shooting in 2017.
"It is lamentable that Scott Israel refuses to be held accountable for his actions," she said.
On Jan. 11, days after taking office, DeSantis suspended Israel from office and replaced him with Gregory Tony following the turmoil and outcries sparked by the killing of 17 staff and students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
At the time, DeSantis said, "the massacre might never have happened had Broward had better leadership in the sheriff's department."
Later in January, Israel formally began the process of trying to get his job back by notifying the Florida Senate that he was challenging the governor's action.
Even with the lawsuit pending, Israel will continue to pursue reinstatement before the Senate, Kaplan said.
Galvano called DeSantis' comment about Israel on Tuesday an "awkward moment" for the governor. He said the Senate will deliver a fair hearing.
"We are not going to be a rubber stamp for the governor," Galvano said.
(Staff writer Gray Rohrer contributed to this report.)
(c)2019 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)