Israel's suspension 'power grab' by DeSantis, suspended sheriff's attorneys say

Court filing claims governor provides 'false narrative'

Scott Israel's legal team is calling his suspension "an executive power grab" by Gov. Ron DeSantis.
Scott Israel's legal team is calling his suspension "an executive power grab" by Gov. Ron DeSantis.

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Attorneys for suspended Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said Gov. Ron DeSantis' executive order removing Israel from office "is nothing more than an executive power grab" aimed at their client.

In a court document filed Wednesday with the Florida Supreme Court, attorneys Stuart Kaplan and Benedict Kuehne argue that DeSantis "offers a false narrative, devoid of actual facts, that Sheriff Israel is responsible" for the Feb. 14, 2018, mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland that killed 17 people and the Jan. 6, 2017, shooting at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood Executive Airport that killed five others.

DeSantis, who is a Republican, suspended Israel, who is a Democrat, shortly after he was sworn in as governor in January, citing "neglect of duty and incompetence."

But Israel's attorneys argue that the governor's suspension order "does not identify a single mandatory duty of the sheriff that was neglected or incompetently executed or administered."

Attorneys for DeSantis, however, filed a response Tuesday citing the findings of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission report, which revealed "grave concerns and serious failures" by Israel "that were directly attributed to the loss of life." The response also attributed an internal investigation report that concluded Israel's "serious failures in leadership and decision-making contributed" to the airport shooting.

A Broward County judge ruled earlier this month that DeSantis was within his authority to suspend Israel, but Israel's attorneys appealed the decision. The state Supreme Court is now reviewing the issue.

Israel's attorneys believe DeSantis overstepped his constitutional authority when he suspended their client and appointed former Coral Springs police Sgt. Gregory Tony to the position.

"The governor's suspension order failed to identify with any semblance of factual support an itemized, articulated duty of office for which duly elected Sheriff Israel is legally responsible," they said.