Sheriff Israel admits failing to report gifts accepted while in office

Florida Ethics Committee says BSO sheriff violated state gift laws

BROWARD COUNTY, Fla. – After a Florida Ethics Commission investigation determined Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel violated state gift laws, he has now admitted to accepting yet more gifts from supporters while in office, and failing to report them to the public.

An attorney for the Florida Ethics Commission slammed Israel in a closed-door hearing for accepting a party and a vacation cruise on a campaign donor's yacht, saying the sheriff was way out of bounds.

"It is just beyond reason that five people could get a flight and take a five-day cruise on a private yacht in the Bahamas for $1,500," said Florida Ethics Commission Advocate Diane Guillemette. "It doesn't smack of rationality."

After the commission found he violated the law, Israel has apparently come to his senses, admitting in forms Friday of two parties in his honor at the home of Democratic Party hosts Darren and Fabiana Covar.

The two parties, the first in early April, the second in late May, occurred at a home on the Intracoastal in Pompano Beach. The total value of the gift to Israel: $1,000.

The first party at the swank home served as a chance for Israel to thank his campaign supporters, complete with custom cakes, food, beverages and a speech to his supporters. The second was a luau on the couple's patio. Sources who were invited said the sheriff's wife Susan handled the invitation list.

Attorney Darren Covar didn't return calls, but Local 10 learned that at the time he was working as an attorney for Club Cinema, a club run by former kingpin Sam Frontera, and hounded by allegations of underage drug use, BSO cracked down on the club and Local 10 found no evidence of any special treatment.

Because the parties were campaign-related, they should have been reported as campaign contributions, but the Florida Elections Commission told Local 10 because the parties occurred so long after the campaign was over, it falls into an unenforceable gray area of the law.