Suspended Broward County sheriff sues DeSantis, seeking reinstatement

Lawsuit calls governor's move to suspend Israel 'political power play'

By Peter Burke - Local10.com Managing Editor, Michael Putney - Senior Political Reporter

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Suspended Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel is suing Gov. Ron DeSantis, petitioning a South Florida court "to demonstrate the authority and legal basis" for his suspension.

The petition for writ of quo warranto was filed Thursday morning in Broward County court.

According to the lawsuit, DeSantis "exceeded his constitutional authority in suspending Sheriff Israel for political reasons not within the scope of the constitutional suspension prerogative."

Shortly after taking office in January, DeSantis issued an executive order suspending Israel for "neglect of duty and incompetence" related to how his office handled last year's mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

DeSantis appointed former Coral Springs police Sgt. Gregory Tony to replace the two-term sheriff.
Israel is seeking injunctive relief to get his job back.

"The governor engineered a political power play that interferes with the right of the public to determine their elected officials, and of Sheriff Israel to execute his duties of office in a manner consistent with the Constitution and laws of Florida," the lawsuit said.

It goes on to call Israel's suspension "an invalid exercise of authority."

DeSantis repeatedly said while campaigning for governor that he would have removed Israel from office. During his State of the State address Tuesday, DeSantis spoke about Israel's upcoming Senate hearing challenging his suspension and said the former sheriff's failures "are well-documented."

"Why any senator would want to thumb his nose at the Parkland families and to eject Sheriff Tony, who is doing a great job and has made history as the first African-American sheriff in Broward history, is beyond me," DeSantis said.

Gregory Tony is introduced as the new sheriff of Broward County after Gov. Ron DeSantis suspended Scott Israel, Jan. 11, 2019, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Israel told Local 10 News senior political reporter Michael Putney in a telephone interview Thursday morning that he was "flabbergasted" when he heard DeSantis' remarks.

"It was shameful and reckless," Israel said. "I hope and pray the Senate won't buy into that. For him to say they would snubbing the parents in Parkland (by not upholding the suspension) shows how politically motivated he is. The only person snubbing someone is Ron DeSantis snubbing the voters of Broward County."

A spokeswoman for the governor's office said in a statement that Israel's "neglect of duty and incompetence was evident after the tragic mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland and the Fort Lauderdale airport shooting in 2017."

"It is lamentable that Scott Israel refuses to be held accountable for his actions and continues to hold disregard for the law," spokeswoman Helen Aguirre Ferre said.

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