Sheriff suspended in Florida shooting appeals judge’s ruling
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — A Florida sheriff who was suspended after the Parkland school shooting is appealing a judge’s decision to dismiss his lawsuit challenging his suspension.
A judge ruled Thursday that Gov. Ron DeSantis’ executive order removing Scott Israel as Broward County sheriff was consistent with the Florida Constitution. DeSantis has said Israel displayed poor leadership and failed to keep children safe before and during the Valentine’s Day 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that left 17 people dead.
The sheriff has said DeSantis overstepped his constitutional authority and interfered with the public’s right to determine their elected official. He appealed the dismissal of his lawsuit to Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal.
“The constitutional question involving the Governor’s political use of the limited suspension power is so very important that it should be resolved by Florida’s appellate courts,” Israel’s attorneys said in a statement Friday. “Sheriff Israel’s appeal will ask the appellate judges to constrain the Governor’s suspension and removal power, restricting it to what has historically been allowed for clear violations of constitutional and statutory duties of elected officials. ”
The Florida Legislature, which must approve DeSantis’ decision to suspend Israel, is reviewing the matter, but says it would wait for Israel’s court proceedings to play out.
After the judge’s ruling Thursday, the governor said in a statement he pleased that the “court recognizes my authority as governor to suspend a public official for reasons of neglect of duty and incompetence,” and said he will ask the Senate to move forward with its review.
Several parents of slain students had pushed the newly elected Republican governor to remove Israel, a Democrat. Calls for Israel’s ouster began shortly after the shooting when it was revealed that the deputy assigned to guard the school, Scot Peterson, had not gone into the building to confront the shooter, but took cover outside.
Before the shooting, Israel had changed his department’s policy to say deputies “may” confront shooters, instead of “shall.” Critics say that gave eight deputies an excuse for not confronting the gunman during the shooting.