DeSantis: Time to move on after Florida Senate removes Sheriff Scott Israel
State senators vote 25-15 to uphold governor's decision to suspend sheriff
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis said Thursday it's time to move on, one day after the Florida Senate voted to uphold his decision to suspend Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel.
The Senate voted 25-15 Wednesday to remove Israel from office, going against a special master's recommendation for reinstatement.
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.
"I wish it didn't take this long, but it did, and so now we move ahead," he told reporters during a news conference in Tallahassee.
Special Master Dudley 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.
But the Republican-controlled state Senate sided with the parents of the Parkland school shooting victims, many of whom lobbied to hold Israel accountable for the failures of the Broward Sheriff's Office during the tragedy.
"To the voters in Broward County, I am sad to report that politics won the day," Israel said in a statement shortly after the decision. "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."
DeSantis appointed Gregory Tony to fill Israel's position.
All five Democratic state senators whose districts include Broward County (Lauren Book, Oscar Braynon, Gary Farmer, Kevin Rader and Perry Thurston) voted against Israel's removal.
But it wasn't enough to overcome the near-unanimous support by Republicans, as well as the three votes from Democrats Randolph Bracy, Darryl Rouson and Annette Taddeo. Tom Lee, who represents portions of Hillsboro, Pasco and Polk counties, was the only Republican who voted to reinstate Israel.
"The decision by the Florida Senate represents the conclusion of a lawful process permissible by the Florida Constitution," Tony said Thursday in a statement. "The scope of their entire evaluation and decision has held no bearing on the responsibilities, obligations or oath we've taken to protect and serve our residents."
Tony went on to say that his office is "focused on delivering the highest level of service" to the nearly 2 million residents in Broward County.
"We will continue correcting long-ignored issues of the past by putting public safety first," Tony said. "Today's BSO is significantly different than the BSO of Feb. 14, 2018, and not just because of the higher emphasis on training, equipment and technology. Today's BSO is more diverse and reflective of Broward County. Our neighborhood policing policies of park, walk and talk and our neighborhood support teams are playing a key role in our efforts to rebuild community trust. I want to thank the men and women of this great agency and the public for their support as we continue to move forward."
Israel was elected sheriff in 2012 and won re-election in 2016. He has already filed to run for sheriff in 2020.
"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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