Broward Sheriff's Office captain hires brother-in-law, violating anti-nepotism policy

Case draws criticism from sheriff's political opponents

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – After Broward Sheriff Scott Israel put one of his most trusted aides, Capt. Jonathan Appel, in charge of Broward Sheriff's Office's new body camera program, it was time for Appel to hire a technician to manage and edit all the video produced by the deputies.

Appel became personally involved in the hiring process, first referring and then recommending a 47-year-old old freelance typesetter named Mark Manofsky for the job.

What he apparently didn't disclose at the time was that Manofsky was his own brother-in-law, the husband of his wife's sister.

Appel did more than just help get Manofsky hired. He also got him a $20,000 raise in his starting salary.

The day after Manofsky was offered the $44,346 job in writing by human resources manager Diana Viscarra, Appel wrote his own memo to human resources, requesting that Manofsky's pay jump to the step 9 level, $65,519, and had a discussion with Dafne Perez,  the director of BSO's office of management and budget, to get her support for his brother-in-law's pay hike and make sure the funding for it was available. 

"Mr. Manofsky's skill set demands a much higher salary in the current job market," wrote Appel in a Feb. 25 memo to Maj. Chadwick Wagner, the human resources chief. "I know we will not be able to secure his services at anything lower than step 9."

The BSO quickly approved the pay hike, and Manofsky was hired at the $65,519 level.

Appel's role in hiring Manofsky before padding his paycheck not only appears to blatantly violate BSO's anti-nepotism policy, which forbids any employees from employing or advocating employment for relatives, but also could violate Florida ethics law, which bans public officials from hiring relatives, including brothers-in-law.

When Local 10 News investigative reporter Bob Norman caught up with Appel outside BSO headquarters, the captain didn't answer any questions before getting in his car and driving away. The case drew criticism from Israel's political opponents.

"It's about serving the community, not serving our friends and families," Willie Jones, a former BSO sergeant who is running against Israel for sheriff in the Aug. 30 primary, said.

When BSO officials learned of the relationship, there was no internal affairs investigation. Instead, the agency simply issued a "counseling report" to Appel, telling him, "You are reminded that it is proper to recuse yourself from the employee selection process if you have a personal relationship with a candidate."

And that was the end of it.

The hiring process was not reopened and Manofsky remains working in the unit that is overseen by his brother-in-law, Appel, which also appears to violate the sheriff's policy.

Fellow Democratic candidate Jim Fondo, a former BSO commander, questioned Manofsky's qualifications to be hired for the job in the first place.

Manofsky listed a Broward Community College degree in computer science and an Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale diploma in layout and production art. His work history as a typesetter for a publishing company and a trade show display designer appears to have involved little film editing, though he listed himself as proficient at the Final Cut editing system.

"Find another person more qualified to run that program," Fondo said. "It's a critical program."

Norman left two detailed voice messages on  Manofsky's phone at BSO , regarding the hiring process and Manofsky's qualifications, but the messages have gone unanswered.

Both Fondo and Jones blame Israel for not holding Appel accountable and for not rectifying the situation.

"You don't hire a relative like that," Fondo said. "And they definitely don't work directly under you, not at BSO."