Hearing set for Broward Sheriff Scott Israel's ethics case

Complaint centers around sheriff's yacht trip

By Bob Norman - Investigative Reporter , Ben Candea

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - An investigation by the Florida Ethics Commission of a yacht vacation taken by Broward Sheriff Scott Israel has been completed and a probable cause hearing date has been set for Jan. 24 that will give Israel a chance to have his say.

Commission staff has made an initial finding of probable cause that Israel violated ethics laws when he didn't report his family's vacation on the $35 million NewVida as a gift, Local 10 has learned.

The appointed commission will vote after the hearing on whether it agrees.

Israel and his family paid $1,500 to go on the cruise with Robert Pereira, who donated $250,000 to the sheriff's campaign in 2012.

"He's a giving man. He's a wonderful man," Israel told Local 10 last July. "I didn't take a freebie of any kind."

Former Broward Sheriff's Commander Sam Frusterio filed a complaint with the Florida Commission on Ethics, claiming Israel undervalued the cruise. He previously served as a campaign treasurer for Israel.

"For a $190,000-a-week cruise, that's not a good example," said Frusterio.

The commission set a hearing for the matter in Tallahassee on Jan. 24. Israel has hired Tallahassee-based attorney Ron Meyer to represent him.

The Broward Sheriff's Office issued a statement Tuesday, saying: "This is an active matter and the sheriff has no comment at this time, nor will anyone else on his behalf."

Pereira also gave Israel $850 worth of party passes to the Mar-a-Lago Club on New Year's Eve, according to state financial records.

An earlier version of this article stated that the commission found probable cause that the sheriff violated ethics laws. It has since been corrected.

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