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Florida Senate votes to uphold decision to remove Sheriff Scott Israel from office

State senators vote 25-15 in favor of upholding governor's decision

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Suspended Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel won't be getting his job back.

The Florida Senate voted Wednesday to uphold the decision made by Gov. Ron DeSantis to suspend Israel, going against a special master's recommendation to reinstate him. The vote was 25-15 in favor of upholding the suspension. 

A special master recommended last month that Israel be reinstated, but the Florida Senate Rules Committee voted 9-7 along party lines recommending to uphold Israel's suspension. 

"To the voters in Broward County, I am sad to report that politics won the day," Israel said in a statement. "Your vote has been stolen and the results of our 2016 election have been overturned. From 450 miles away, the governor substituted his judgement for yours and installed his own sheriff in Broward County." 

Senators who were not part of the Rules Committee spent time asking questions of Special Master Dudley Goodlette before hearing the recommendation from the Rules Committee. 

DeSantis suspended Israel in January, citing "neglect of duty and incompetence" during two mass shootings in Broward County -- at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in January 2017 and at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine's Day 2018.

Goodlette, a Republican and former state lawmaker, wrote in his 34-page report that DeSantis failed to present any evidence to support the Republican governor's position.

"Had more evidence been offered, you know, my recommendation may have been to remove the suspended sheriff, but based upon the evidence that was presented, I concluded my recommendation was for reinstatement," Goodlette told committee members during Monday's hearing.

Special Master Dudley Goodlette testifies before the Florida Senate as he shares his recommendation for reinstatement of suspended Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, Oct. 21, 2019, in Tallahassee, Florida.

But some parents of the Parkland school shooting victims lobbied state senators throughout the week to uphold the suspension.

The vote was a relief for parents like Lori Alhadeff, whose daughter, Alyssa, was among the 17 people killed in the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

"Mr. Israel needed to be held accountable for the many failures and incompetencies that he had as sheriff," Lori Alhadeff told Local 10 News.

Tony Montalto, whose daughter, Gina, was also killed, echoed Alhadeff's thoughts. 

"I think that leaders who let down their community through systemic failures should be removed," he said.

Israel, who is a Democrat, has called the suspension politically motivated.

DeSantis appointed Gregory Tony to fill Israel's position.

"Today I have issued an executive order suspending Scott Israel as the sheriff of Broward County," Gov. Ron DeSantis said outside the Broward Sheriff's Office, Jan. 11, 2019, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"I thank the Florida Senate for tending to this matter," DeSantis said in a statement. "I hope the outcome provides some measure of relief to the Parkland families that have been doggedly pursuing accountability."

Israel was elected sheriff in 2012 and won re-election in 2016. He and Tony have both said they will run for sheriff in 2020.

"Tonight, I want the people in Broward County to know that I came here to fight to make good on my promises to you and to finish the job you entrusted me to do," Israel said. "Despite this power grab that fight will continue."


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