It’s finally happened…..former Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel has finally been officially removed from office!
If that name sounds familiar, he’s the man many people remember as the cowardly sheriff during the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting.
He’s out, take a look:
From the Sun Sentinel:
After hours of debate filled with gripping, emotional details about the Marjory Stoneman Douglas massacre and soaring rhetoric about constitutional rights and the weighty responsibilities of elected officials, the Florida Senate voted Wednesday to permanently remove suspended Broward Sheriff Scott Israel.
The 25-15 vote was mostly along party lines with Republicans, who are a majority in the Senate and loyal to the Republican governor, generally supporting removal while most Democrats voted to reinstate the Democratic sheriff. All five Broward senators voted for reinstatement, despite the wishes of Parkland parents.
Israel, whose leadership was seen as so flawed by the governor and family members of Parkland victims that it contributed to some of the 17 deaths and 17 injuries, has been out off office since Gov. Ron DeSantis suspended him in January.
“I hope the outcome provides some measure of relief to the Parkland families that have been doggedly pursuing accountability,” DeSantis said in a statement after the vote. DeSantis cited incompetence and neglect of duty in connection with the 2018 Parkland massacre and the 2017 Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport shooting.
Israel, who was in Tallahassee but not present for the vote, decried the process that led to his removal. “Politics won,” he said in a telephone interview with the South Florida Sun Sentinel. He said the “process was as a sham. It was a farce."
Israel, who has previously announced his intentions to run to retake the job in 2020, said the voters would return him to office. “We’re going to get back in.”
State senators had the authority to deliver the final verdict on whether to permanently remove or reinstate him. Wednesday’s outcome was seen as likely, especially after a vote Monday in the Senate Rules Committee, which recommended removal after 10-hour hearing.
During Wednesday’s debate, senators invoked the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., the classic play “A Man for All Seasons,” and the sign on President Harry S. Truman’s desk proclaiming “the buck stops here.”
A large contingent of family members and dozens of supporters — and a large group of Israel supporters — were at the Rules Committee on Monday.
Only about two dozen spectators were in the Senate gallery on Wednesday for the final vote.
And from the AP:
The tragedy of the Parkland school massacre framed a developing political drama in Florida’s capital, as a divided legislative panel on Monday sided with the state’s Republican governor in removing a county sheriff accused of mishandling the response to the shooting that killed 17 people.
The mostly party line vote by Florida’s Senate Rules Committee sends the matter to the full chamber, which is expected to consider it Wednesday.
The highly charged session was a victory for Gov. Ron DeSantis, who suspended Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel just days after taking office in January. DeSantis faulted Israel’s handling of the Feb. 14, 2018, shootings that took the lives of 15 students and two staffers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
The committee rejected the recommendation of an official the Senate had appointed to investigate the suspension. That investigator, former state Rep. Dudley Goodlette, concluded that DeSantis was wrong to remove the sheriff from his job.
“There was a case to be made, it just wasn’t made,” Goodlette told the committee.
Afterward, Israel said that if the full Senate finalizes his ouster, he will seek election for his old job.
His lawyer, Benedict Kuehne, called the proceedings “a shill” for the governor.
Israel’s allies on the panel — all Democrats — argued that removing Israel circumvented the will of the voters in Broward County.
Some relatives of those killed in the Parkland tragedy gave emotionally charged testimony to the panel.
“Even after 20 months, it is difficult to find meaning in this tragedy,” said Ryan Petty, whose 14-year-old daughter Alaina died in the massacre.
“We didn’t understand the magnitude of the failures by law enforcement. The testament to that failure is 17 dead children and teachers, 17 more with life-altering injuries — a burden we must bear forever,” Petty said.
DeSantis had promised on the campaign trail that he would remove Israel. He did so as one of his first actions after taking office, accusing the sheriff of neglect of duty and incompetence in his department’s response to the shootings.
“This is an extraordinary case,” George Levesque, DeSantis’ lawyer told the committee. “The governor’s not out there willy-nilly suspending sheriffs because of the actions of deputies.”
Levesque said Israel should be held responsible for the three failures at his department: not appropriately investigating threats made by suspected shooter Nikolas Cruz before the massacre; deputies who didn’t rush into the school to confront Cruz during the shooting; and not establishing an effective command base to respond to the shooting.
The sheriff’s supporters traveled more than 400 miles from Broward County, just north of Miami, to Florida’s capital city to urge lawmakers to reinstate Israel, who was first elected in 2012.
“Please be the body that doesn’t turn its back on the voters of Broward County,” said Patti Lynn. “Our county voted for Sheriff Scott Israel. It’s up to the voters of Broward County to remove him.”