Scott Israel

DeSantis: Israel has “total right” to run again, “no similarities” between sheriff suspension and Trump impeachment

IMG_2094A day after a key Senate committee handed Gov. Ron DeSantis a major victory in his crusade against embattled Broward Sheriff Scott Israel, the governor pooh-poohed any parallels between his suspension of Israel and Congressional Democrats’ efforts to unseat President Donald Trump.

DeSantis, Trump ally whose endorsement by the Republican president help boost him to a primary election victory and ultimately into the governor’s mansion last year, also told reporters today that Israel, a Democrat who is running for re-election, has the right to seek office again.

During yesterday’s Senate Rules Committee, one of Israel’s supporters, who identified himself as a “lifelong Republican” who voted for the GOP governor, equated suspension of Israel — an elected official — to the ongoing impeachment effort.

Rules Chairwoman Lizbeth Benacquisto quickly shut down that argument, but a reporter asked DeSantis about any similarities after Tuesday morning’s Cabinet meeting.

“I see no similarities between a presidential impeachment and the removal of a county official. This is a provision of the Florida Constitution. It talks about 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,” DeSantis said. “Look, had we not acted, my fear was that more failures would have put more people at risk. So I think I acted appropriately and I think that the Senate ultimately will come to that conclusion.”

The Rules Committee overturned the recommendation of Senate Special Master Dudley Goodlette, who found the governor failed to present evidence supporting his decision to suspend Israel, one of DeSantis’ first actions after taking office in January. Goodlette, former Republican state representative who is highly regarded in legislative circles, recommended that the Senate reinstate the embattled sheriff.

But voting 9-7 along party lines after a marathon meeting yesterday, the Rules Committee supported the governor’s suspension. The full Senate will vote on the matter tomorrow at 2 p.m.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday morning, DeSantis thanked the committee, which heard emotional, heart-wrenching pleas from the families of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting victims. The families are united in their insistence that Israel be prevented from getting his old job back. Dozens of Israel supporters also attended the meeting, including numerous members of black churches who expressed their allegiance to the sheriff.

“It was a very long day, with that process,” DeSantis said Tuesday. “I also want to thank the Parkland families for coming. It wasn’t easy for them. This has been a long time coming. I think they really showed a lot of strength, and I look forward to the Senate disposing of this matter tomorrow, and look forward to moving on.”

The expectation is for another, party-line vote in the Republican-dominated upper chamber that will result in Israel being permanently ousted from his job.

Israel, who was re-elected in 2016 by more than 70 percent of Broward County voters, remains popular in most parts of the heavily Democratic county. He told reporters after the Senate committee vote last night that he believes he will be re-elected to the seat he held until he was booted by DeSantis in January.

DeSantis was asked if he would remove Israel again, should the sheriff win re-election.

“No, no, no, no. Look, the people can make that decision going forward. But then, what happens will be, they’ll be responsible for whatever decision is made in that respect. It’s not going to be something that is going to matter to me either way. I had to make the decision I had to make. Those folks can make whatever decision that they want to make,” the governor said.

When pressed about removing Israel a second time, DeSantis — a Harvard Law School grad — reiterated his stance.

“Well, obviously if there was another basis, but no. This is this. If the Senate does concur he be removed, there’s nothing in the Constitution that bars someone from then seeking the same office again. Totally has a right to do it,” he said.

 

Galvano on “awkward moment” in DeSantis SOS speech

DeSantis SOSGov. Ron DeSantis delivered his first State of the State speech to kick off the 2019 legislative session today, covering a wide range of topics and boasting about a variety of accomplishments since the Republican took office in January.

DeSantis bragged about ousting former Broward Sheriff Scott Israel, who was harshly criticized for how his office handled the deadly mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland last year. DeSantis replaced Israel with Gregory Tony.

Israel has appealed his suspension to the Florida Senate, which has the power to reinstate or remove elected officials.

During his remarks Tuesday, DeSantis noted that Israel’s suspension “will come before the Senate soon,” adding “the failures of the former sheriff 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,” the governor said.

When asked about his remarks later, DeSantis spoke about the families of the 17 students and school staff who were slain.

“Those families were really frustrated that action had not been taken against him. I did it within a couple days because to me, I thought it should have been done. It was just a point that not only did that give satisfaction to families but we have a guy in there now who’s really making positive changes,” DeSantis told reporters.

The governor said he’s “not worried at all” about the Senate process.

“But I do think it was an important action we took early in the administration. I just wanted to highlight it,” he said.

Senate President Bill Galvano, who appointed former House Rep. Dudley Goodlette as special master to oversee Israel’s appeal and make recommendations, wasn’t keen on DeSantis’ veiled threat.

“Of everything that was in that speech, that was a bit of an awkward moment for the governor,” Galvano, R-Bradenton, told reporters.

Galvano said he asked himself if a senator made a comment about the Broward sheriffs but didn’t believe that was the case.

“Look, he has every right to suspend him and has his reasons for doing so. But the Senate also has a role, and we’re going to do it right. We’re going to have due process and we’re going to vet through the suspension and we’ll make a decision. I’ve asked our senators to give it the respect that it’s due and not to prejudge. That’s the role of the Senate. I’ve said this before. We’re not just going to be a rubber stamp for the governor,” he said.

Broward schools host day of “service and love” on first anniversary of Parkland shooting

AlyssaAlhadeff

Next month’s Valentine’s Day marks the tragic, one-year anniversary of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in which 14 students and three faculty members were slain and 17 others were injured.

The Parkland massacre — one of the nation’s worst mass shootings — sparked a months-long investigation, stricter school-safety requirements and changes to the state’s gun laws.

The horrific event also resulted in the ouster of former Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, whose removal was  one of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ first actions after taking office last week.

Broward schools are planning a series of ways to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the tragedy, including “A Day of Service and Love” at MSD High School.

“It will be a day to give back to the community in honor of MSD’s 17 fallen eagles, the students and staff who were lost one year ago,” the Broward County school board said in a press release highlighting some of the Feb. 14 events.

The Parkland high school will be open from 7:40 a.m. until noon, “during which time students can participate in service projects including serving breakfast to local first responders and packing meals for undernourished children,” according to the release.

At 10:17 a.m., all of the county’s schools — in addition to those in and outside of Broward  — will be asked to join the district in observing a moment of silence “to honor those whose lives were lost and recognize the injured.”

Other highlights of the one-year commemoration include:

At Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School:

  • Students will begin projects at 7:40 a.m. and will dismiss at 11:40 a.m. The school will close at noon.
  • District staff and community partners will provide service-learning activities alongside MSD staff.
  • Mental health staff will be available and the Wellness Center, located on the school’s campus, will be open.
  • Therapy dogs will be available.
  • BCPS Technical Colleges will provide Services with Love to staff and students, including but not limited to manicures, massages, and healthy cooking demonstrations.

At schools throughout the District:

  • Schools will remain open on February 14, 2019.

  • Schools are encouraged to participate in “A Day of Service and Love” and engage students in school-based activities that serve others within their schools or local community. Specific activities will vary per school.

  • The District is providing guidance to school leaders regarding the one-year Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School commemoration.

  • The entire District will observe a moment of silence at 10:17 a.m.

Bondi: ‘I would have gone in’ without a gun

Attorney General Pam Bondi claimed she would have entered the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School — even without a gun — during the Feb. 14 school shooting that left 17 people dead.

Bondi’s comments Monday come as investigations into the actions of first responders. A Broward County deputy, Scot Peterson, who was the school’s resource officer resigned after it was revealed that he remained inside his car as the slaughter went down.

“Let me put it this way, when you have a school full of students, and your duty is to protect those students, even if I didn’t have a firearm I would have gone into that scene. That’s what you do. That’s what the coach did who was a true hero,” Bondi said during an appearance Monday on FOX News show Fox & Friends.

Bondi also said that not everyone has been honest about the response from the Broward Sheriff’s office, but she did not elaborate.

“It’s all going to come out in the investigation,” Bondi said.

Gov. Rick Scott has directed the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to review the events leading up to 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz’s killing spree as well as law enforcement’s response on the day 14 students and three faculty members were killed.

The Florida House Public Integrity & Ethics Committee is set to discuss an investigation into local agency actions relating to the shooting later today.

Bondi favored Scott’s approach over demands that Broward Sheriff Scott Israel resign from politicians like House Speaker Richard Corcoran and most of House Republican caucus.

In addition to Peterson, three other deputies remained outside of the school during the mass shooting, according to media reports.

Bondi suggested that statements she’s received from some at the sheriff’s office “weren’t honest with me, nor were they honest with the governor.”

By Jim Turner.