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Judge rules DeSantis within his authority to suspend Israel

Broward County judge says governor's executive order meets 'judicial threshold'

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – A Broward County judge has ruled that Gov. Ron DeSantis was within his authority to suspend Sheriff Scott Israel.

Broward County Judge David A. Haimes ruled Thursday that the court's role isn't "to assess the merits of the allegations" but to "determine whether such allegations meet the minimum judicial threshold."

Haimes said the Republican governor's Jan. 11 executive order to suspend Israel, who is a Democrat, lists specific grounds -- "neglect of duty and incompetence" -- that meet the "jurisdictional threshold" set forth in the Florida Constitution.

DeSantis cited Israel's handling of last year's Parkland school shooting and 2017's mass shooting at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in his executive order.

"I am pleased that the court recognizes my authority as governor to suspend a public official for reasons of neglect of duty and incompetence," DeSantis said.

Israel was elected sheriff in 2012. DeSantis appointed former Coral Springs police Sgt. Gregory Tony to replace the two-term sheriff, who is trying to get his job back.

The ruling clears the way for a Florida Senate hearing on Israel's suspension. However, Israel told Local 10 News reporter Michael Putney that he will appeal Thursday's ruling.

"While we value Judge Haimes' studied decision, the constitutionality of Sheriff Israel's suspension will be tested in Florida's appellate courts," Israel's attorney, Ben Kuehne, said in a statement. "The governor's overreach of the limited suspension authority has never before been used to replace a political opponent at the urging of the National Rifle Association. The governor's disagreement with Sheriff Israel's decisions is not a basis to remove him from office."

DeSantis said he will ask the Senate to move forward with the formal process of removing Israel from office.

"Broward County deserves professional law enforcement leadership that will safeguard the best interests of the community and work diligently for the protection of life," DeSantis said.

Kuehne said only Broward County voters should have the authority to decide who should be their elected sheriff.

"Sheriff Israel remains duty-bound to serve his community as decided by the voters of Broward County," Kuehne said.