Sheriff hiring county commissioner's brother

When Broward Sheriff Scott Israel asked the county for a whopping $93 million budget increase on May 21, commissioners shot down the request.  

But one commissioner, Marty Kiar, had only positive words for the sheriff.

"I just want to tell you I think you've done a very good job as our sheriff, I'm very proud to call you my sheriff," he said at the budget meeting. "... It is one of the most transparent budget requests I've seen ... and I have a great deal of respect for you for doing that."

What Kiar didn't tell the public then was that his own brother, Marc Kiar, was in the process of getting a job at the sheriff's office. And this past week BSO notified Marc Kiar, a private school teacher at Mary Help of Christians elementary in Parkland, that it was paying his way through the police academy and would hire him when he graduates.

"My glowing remarks for the sheriff have nothing to do with my brother," said Commissioner Kiar. " I think our sheriff is an excellent sheriff he's doing a very good job. You know what if I go back in time to last week maybe I would have mentioned that, but I wasn't trying to keep anything from the public."

Kiar said he introduced his brother to Israel at an AFL-CIO campaign event last fall and the two hit it off in part because both have ties to Parkland, where the sheriff lives. Kiar says he also told the sheriff about his brother's ambition to become a police officer. 

"They felt they had a lot in common," said Kiar. "I thought it was very nice ... the sheriff  was running a difficult election but still took the time to talk to my brother and let him know what it takes to be [a cop]."

Kiar said he didn't plan to recuse himself from votes on the sheriff's budget when his brother is hired. He said the relationship with the sheriff and the hiring of his brother would have no effect on his votes.

"Both the sheriff and I are incredibly honest people," he said.

Israel said he spoke to Marc Kiar several times but didn't make the decision to hire him. He said Marc Kiar went through the application process like everyone else and was selected on his merits. Upon questioning, the sheriff also said it was not a political hire and there was "absolutely no quid pro quo." 

Kiar is actually the second Broward County commissioner's relative hired so far. He hired hired Ron Gunzburger, son of Commissioner Suzanne Gunzburger, as his general counsel. Ron Gunzburger was also his campaign strategist.

Suzanne Gunzburger received a rather wishy-washy ethics opinion from the county saying that technically under the law she could vote but that "in order to avoid the appearance of impropriety, you may also abstain from voting [on sheriff-related issues]."

Gunzburger has said she's decided to abstain from voting on the sheriff's budget -- which accounts for 52 percent of the county's discretionary budget -- to avoid the appearance of a conflict.

Kiar said his brother, as a deputy, will fall under the collective bargaining agreement and therefore won't be affected by his votes.

He said he is certain that his brother won't get special treatment as a result of his political allliance with the sheriff and that the relationship will not affect his vote on the sheriff's budget in any way. 

"I'll hold the sheriff accountable every step of the way," said Kiar. "I'm certainly not going to ask that it benefit my brother and this sheriff is a very good moral person. He's not going to help my brother based solely on how I vote, I honest to God believe that."

He is now asking for ethics opinions on the matter from the county and state.

"My brother got the job because he's an incredible kid who wants to make a big difference for this community," he said. "And this sheriff would not hire him if he didn't believe that."