FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Just a few hours after the brazen escape of a first-degree murder defendant he was supposed to make sure to secure, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel claimed it was money -- not mismanagement -- that was to blame for an alleged killer on the loose.
"Today my worst fears were realized. We have been battling Broward County for three years now asking for adequate staffing for the courthouse," Israel said. "If the county is listening, we need more money. We need more people."
Then he took a direct shot at county staff and commissioners.
"Philosophically there's a difference between Broward County and your sheriff," he said. "The county believes that my job is to save dollars. I believe my job is to save lives."
The sheriff's injection of blame and budget issues before even addressing the escape of still-at-large accused killer Dayonte Resiles has led to widespread criticism and lent ammunition to his political opponents prior to the Aug. 30 primary.
"The first words out of Scott Israel's mouth was blaming the county commission for the problems at the courthouse," Democratic opponent Jim Fondo, a former Broward Sheriff's Office commander, said. "The reality is he's deflecting the blame."
Fellow Democratic contender Willie Jones, a former Broward sheriff's sergeant, said Israel failed to "take ownership" of the situation.
"We need to get (Resiles) off the streets," Jones said. "Why play the blame game?"
But it was county officials who responded with the most devastating response to the sheriff's claims of lack of funding.
Officials pointed out that the county offered Israel and BSO $2.6 million last year for the sole purpose of courthouse security, but the sheriff failed to accept the funds. The offer, which was put in writing in the form of a memorandum of understanding, would have doubled the number of armed deputies at the courthouse from 29 to 58.
The offer also specifically stated that the new funds would allow the sheriff to guarantee that every high-risk inmate like Resiles could be accompanied by at least one armed deputy in addition to a bailiff.
For unknown reasons, the BSO did not have an armed deputy in the courtroom with Resiles on Friday morning when he escaped past two unarmed bailiffs and ran out an emergency exit.
"We wanted to make sure that any funding that was provided for courthouse security would remain with courthouse security," assistant county administrator Alphonso Jefferson said. "BSO could have gotten that money in the October time frame."
Jefferson said he didn't know why Israel didn't take advantage of the offer.
Neither Israel nor BSO replied to questions from Local 10 News on Monday about the failure to accept the money or the lack of an armed deputy escorting Resiles.
Fondo said the issue isn't really about money at all, but leadership, calling out Israel for increasing command staff and numerous community affairs positions that are for political purposes.
"When you have these high-profile cases, these violent criminals, you have to have the protection and you got to have the foresight to put the armed guards with the bailiffs," he said. "You got the resources. You have to deal with the problems."
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