Ethics commission finds probable cause against Broward County sheriff

Commission votes to take no further action

By Bob Norman - Investigative Reporter

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Scott Israel has become accustomed to enforcing the law as Broward County sheriff, but on Friday he was in Tallahassee facing allegations that he broke the law when he took a lavish vacation on a campaign donor's $35 million yacht and failed to report it to the public as a gift.

After an extensive investigation into Israel's family vacation on campaign donor Robert Pereira's NewVida yacht, the appointed commission found probable cause on two counts that the sheriff violated the law when he didn't report the trip, according to commission sources. But it also voted to take no further action.

"It's typical Tallahassee government up there," said complainant Sam Frusterio, a former BSO official and one-time campaign treasurer for Israel.

Israel was silent as he walked out of the hearing room, opting to stand behind his attorney, Ronald Meyer, who also refused comment before saying on the phone that the sheriff was "pleased with the outcome."

Israel had claimed he didn't violate the law because he paid $1,500 for the cruise for his family of five -- Carnival rates -- on the yacht with a 12-member crew that rents for $190,000 a week.

The commission disagreed, finding that by law he should have reported the gift to the public, but simultaneously deciding not to investigate any further or punish the sheriff in any way.

The investigative file won't be made public until next Wednesday, along with an audio recording of what transpired during that hearing.

"If you can get away with something like this what kind of message does that send?" asked Frusterio. "If one of those deputies, he or she, did this and they found out about it, it would go to an investigation and they would be reprimanded, but if you're an elected official I guess that doesn't happen."

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