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FORT LAUDERDALE (CBSMiami) — Suspended Broward County sheriff Scott Israel, has formed a legal defense fund to fight his recent removal from office by Gov. Ron DeSantis, according to CBS4 News partner The Miami Herald.
The Herald states Israel’s lawyer believes the decision to remove Scott from office should be left to the voters, not the governor.
The Scott Israel Defense Fund was formally incorporated through the state’s Division of Corporations by Israel’s former campaign manager, Amy Rose, who is listed as the fund’s president.
Ben Kuehne, a Miami attorney hired by Israel, told the Herald there are funds in the account but he would not reveal how much the defense fund has raised so far or who has contributed. He added that 100-percent of the funds will be dedicated to the mounting legal costs.
Israel, 62, a two-term Democratic sheriff and 30-year law enforcement veteran, was suspended Jan. 11 for alleged neglect of duty and incompetence related to his department’s response to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, which left 17 people dead and 17 others injured.
On the day Gov. DeSantis announced his removal, Israel fired back.
“Let me be clear, I wholeheartedly reject the statements in the Governor’s executive order as lacking both legal merit and valid factual basis. There was no wrongdoing on my part.” He added, “Sadly, this suspension is not about what occurred on Feb. 14,” he said. “This was about politics, not about Parkland.”
Some parents of Stoneman Douglas victims and conservative state lawmakers began pushing for Israel’s ouster shortly after the shooting when it was revealed that the Broward deputy assigned to guard the school, Scot Peterson, had not gone into the building to confront the shooter and his AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, but took cover outside. Other Broward deputies who arrived during the shooting also didn’t enter, even while officers from neighboring Coral Springs charged inside.
As it turned out, Israel had modified the department’s policy from stipulating that deputies “shall” enter a building in such a crisis to they “may” do so — although it has been standard practice in the wake of past school massacres to train officers to go in immediately and try to take down the shooter.
Ten months after the Parkland rampage, and just before he was suspended, Israel changed the policy back to “shall.”
Israel said he had adopted the word “may” in the policy to give deputies discretion and prevent “suicide” missions. Three deputies who failed to confront the shooter were placed on restrictive duty, and two others — including the school resource officer — have since retired.
DeSantis appointed former Coral Springs police Sgt. Gregory Tony to replace Israel. Tony will serve out the remainder of Israel’s term, which is up in 2020, unless Israel succeeds in being reinstated.
According to the Herald, Stuart Kaplan, a Palm Beach attorney and Kuehne’s co-counsel, said that by Tuesday Israel will formally request a hearing before a special master to be appointed by Florida Senate President Bill Galvano. The appointed official will be tasked with conducting a hearing on the merits of Israel’s suspension and issuing an advisory report, which will be sent to the Rules Committee for consideration.
In a memorandum sent to senators on Thursday, Galvano said he intended to appoint real estate attorney and former Republican state Rep. Dudley Goodlette as the special master in Israel’s hearing, if one were to be formally requested.
Kaplan and Kuehne are also considering filing a lawsuit in state or federal court. A favorable ruling in court could “enjoin” the suspension and render moot the special master’s recommendation, which would be presented to the Republican-controlled Senate, Kaplan said.
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