Politics abound in BSO

Sheriff Scott Israel hires several with political ties

By Bob Norman - Investigative Reporter

BROWARD COUNTY, Fla. - To the victor goes the spoils -- that's the nature of the Broward Sheriff's race, which saw newly sworn-in Sheriff Scott Israel beat incumbent Al Lamberti in November for an office with 6,000 employees and a nearly $700 million budget.

"You're a politician first and a sheriff second," said Nova Southeastern University law professor Robert Jarvis.

But Israel says he wants to "depoliticize" the office.

"I don't know if you can [depoliticize the office] totally but you can change it from the way it's been," said Israel.

"It's the most powerful position in Broward County," said Finkelstein.

Finkelstein largely depoliticized his own office, but BSO is much larger in every way and has a storied history of politics.

"You have the ability to hand people jobs, and I don't mean minimum wage jobs, I mean jobs with six figure salaries," he said.

Israel has hired a number of his campaign workers at BSO, including Ron Gunzburger, his campaign strategist and son of county commissioner Sun Gunzburger, as general counsel at a salary of $205,000 a year. Israel has also hired his campaign manager, Amy Rose, at a salary that has yet to be disclosed.

"She'll be involved in community outreach and governmental affairs," said Israel. "I wouldn't offer anybody a job if they weren't qualified for it."

Israel has also hired Pembroke Pines Commissioner Angelo Castillo for an administrative job at BSO with a salary of $140,000, along with Castillo's wife, Lisa, who will be Israel's chief of staff at a salary of $115,000, making them nearly a quarter million dollar couple.

"They're coming aboard not because their the Castillos," said Israel. "They're coming aboard because they're consummate professionals."

Israel is also considering bail bondsman Wayne Spath, who gave more than $10,000 toward his election campaign, for a job overseeing the jail population, an apparent conflict of interest.

"I've told him that and unless he (Spath) sells or diverges the bail bonds business, he wouldn't be considered," said Israel.

And during his swearing-in ceremony last week, Israel had 66-year-old construction magnate Robert Pereira, who contributed $250,000 to a pro-Israel PAC, and Pereira's wife Sion in seats of honor, right next to the sheriff and his wife.

"I have great hope that he's going to be a good sheriff," said Finkelstein. "What I fear is power corrupts people."

"We won't be political," Israel said. "You won't see bagels with the sheriff. You won't see bagels with me."

Israel said one move he was making to depoliticize the office was to ban campaign contributions from deputies to his campaign in 2016 – but he was realistic.

"You're never going to take politics out of it," he said.

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