Ethics complaint filed over Broward sheriff's yacht cruise

Scott Israel defended trip on 'This Week in South Florida'

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – A former Broward Sheriff's Office commander filed an ethics complaint against Broward Sheriff Scott Israel over a five-day cruise to the Bahamas aboard a campaign donor's $35 million yacht.

Israel paid a total of $1,500, or $300 for each member of his family, for five-days on the yacht that rents for $190,000 a week with campaign donor Robert Pereira. He said Broward Sheriff's Office lawyers told him state law only required him to pay the equivalent of an inexpensive cruise, which he did.

Israel didn't disclose the trip to the public.

"I did the laudable thing. I did the honorable thing as the sheriff of Broward County," Israel told Local 10's Michael Putney during a taping for "This Week in South Florida." "I could have claimed it as a gift, but I decided to pay for it."

Former Broward Sheriff's Commander Sam Frusterio sent an official complaint against Israel to the Florida Commission on Ethics on Wednesday.

"That's against the law as far as I'm concerned," Frusterio said.

Frusterio claims the sheriff undervalued the trip, and because Florida law requires elected officials to report all gifts valued at $100 or more, should have told the public about it.

"The public should know about any public official who goes out on a yacht that's $200,000 a week charter," Frusterio said. "They should ask the question, 'Why are they doing it?'"

Frusterio is a former friend of Israel -- he served as the sheriff's campaign treasurer in 2008 -- but the two men have had a falling out.

"I don't have nothing to gain here," Frusterio said. "If I do anything, it's going to be for the people of Broward County."

The sheriff's general counsel said Frusterio's complaint is "without merit," but the sheriff said last week on the radio he's all for an ethics investigation into the yacht trip.

"I would welcome that. When you did nothing wrong, you don't need to look around," Israel said. "We followed the letter of the law."

If the Florida Ethics Commission determines that Frusterio's complaint is "legally sufficient," an investigation will commence.