Has Gov. DeSantis been suspending elected officials in haste?

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Just a few days after his inauguration, Gov. Ron DeSantis made some tough moves on January 11:

He suspended Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, the elected sheriff who served during the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood Airport shooting in 2017, and the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mass shootings in 2018. Those incidents caused multiple deaths.

DeSantis also suspended Mary Beth Jackson, an elected school superintendent in Okaloosa County who had been a subject of two grand jury investigations in 2018 in connection with incidents in the district. Neither of the grand juries led to criminal charges.

In both executive orders by the governor, the suspensions related to allegations of “neglect of duty and incompetence.” But it appears that things didn’t turn out as DeSantis expected, with both suspended officials fighting back hard at the Harvard-trained governor.

A special master who reviewed the sheriff’s case recommended that Israel be reinstated to his elected position “because the Governor has not proven the specific charges of suspension” in the executive order.

The sheriff’s case now goes to the Florida Senate, which will convene in a special session Oct. 21 through 25 to consider the reinstatement or removal of Israel.

Senate President Bill Galvano said in a statement earlier this week that the special master’s report and recommendations are advisory in nature, and “whether a suspended official is ultimately removed from office or reinstated is determined by a vote of the Senate.”

Gov. DeSantis disagreed with the special master’s analysis and recommendations, according to a statement.

“The victims with families impacted by the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School deserve justice and accountability,” DeSantis said. “Floridians were appalled by Scott Israel’s repeated failures and expect their senators will provide the accountability that the Parkland families have sought for the past year and a half.”

However, Sheriff Israel has labeled his suspension “as a political tool by Governor DeSantis to secure financial and political support.”

Former Okaloosa school superintendent Mary Beth Jackson’s case continued for six months of  court fights, Senate hearings, school board concerns and community strife, with DeSantis ultimately reinstating Jackson — paving the way for her to resign.

The resignation allowed for myriad benefits, including her pension, and Jackson has already gotten a recent, lump sum payout of $200,721.12, according to state officials.

Now that she’s retired, she can also collect her regular monthly benefit. Jackson, a twice-elected Panhandle superintendent, began getting that benefit in August, and the monthly amount was $5,582.36, according to retirement information from the Florida Department of Management Services.


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