Gov. Ron DeSantis told reporters Tuesday he expects the Republican-majority Florida Senate to back his removal of suspended Broward Sheriff Scott Israel in a floor session scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.
Whether that will be a slam-dunk decision isn’t clear.
A Senate-appointed hearing officer, Special Master Dudley Goodlette, recommended reinstatement for the sheriff, finding that “the Governor has not proven the specific charges of suspension,” records show.
And the Senate Rules Committee voted narrowly Monday night in support of the governor. The vote was along party lines, with Republican State Sen. Tom Lee not voting. Lee represents parts of Hillsborough, Pasco and Polk counties.
DeSantis said: “This is a provision of the Florida Constitution. It talks about the neglect of duty or incompetence. Obviously, we’ve seen multiple failures out of that agency. In fact, that agency under his leadership lost the state certification, and now it’s being reinstated under the new sheriff.”
“Had we not acted, my fear was that more failures would have put more people at risk,” DeSantis said. “I think I acted appropriately, and I think that the Senate ultimately will come to that conclusion.”
DeSantis also says it would be up to Broward County voters to decide whether to elect Israel again if he runs for his former post. He says he would have no grounds to remove him if he is elected again, unless there were new incidents of the sheriff failing to carry out his duties.
Shortly after taking office in January, DeSantis removed Scott Israel from his elected post, saying the Broward sheriff had demonstrated incompetence in his handling of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre that left 17 students and staff dead in 2018. He also cited the sheriff’s role in the 2017 shooting at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport that left five dead.
Israel was elected by Broward voters in 2012 and re-elected in 2016.
Sheriff Israel has labeled his suspension “as a political tool by Governor DeSantis to secure financial and political support.”
DeSantis notes he took similar action against the elected Okaloosa County school superintendent and an elections supervisor in Palm Beach.
In the case of Mary Beth Jackson, the Okaloosa school superintendent, DeSantis ended up reinstating her, paving the way for her to resign. The resignation allowed Jackson to get lucrative retirement benefits.
Although some Republicans claim the move to impeach President Donald Trump is an attempt to overturn the 2016 election, DeSantis says he sees no parallels in his decision to remove the Democratic sheriff of Broward County.
Talking to reporters on Tuesday, DeSantis said he sees “no similarities between a presidential impeachment and the removal of a county official.”