Gov. Ron DeSantis is expected on Friday to suspend Broward Sheriff Scott Israel and replace him with a former Coral Springs police sergeant with a background in active shooter training.
DeSantis will make the announcement at the Broward Sheriff’s Office headquarters on Friday afternoon, a source said.
“We have an event that we’re doing tomorrow,” the governor’s press office said Thursday night. “The governor’s going to issue a statement on holding government officials accountable.”
DeSantis press office declined to provide any more details about what would happen on Friday.
But a Sun Sentinel source said Israel’s replacement, former Coral Springs Police Sgt. Gregory Tony, will be presented at the event.
When asked earlier in the week if he was going to be the new sheriff, Tony, 40, of Boca Raton, said he could not comment either way.
He left the Coral Springs Police Department after 12 years in 2016. Tony now has his own company, Blue Spears Solution, which specializes in active-shooter training and provides threat assessments on schools and other businesses.
Tony would be the county’s first black sheriff.
Israel’s leadership of the agency has come under intense scrutiny, and he’s received extensive criticism over the Feb . 14 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre in which 17 people were killed and 17 wounded.
“I heard a change is happening. As it is at headquarters, it seems we should expect it,” said Fred Guttenberg, who added that he did not hear the information directly from the governor’s office.
Guttenberg’s daugher Jaime was among those killed at the school.
Stuart Kaplan, an attorney representing Israel, said he had no more information about what would happen on Friday. “We have heard nothing from the governor’s office, only what was released,” he said.
Many family members of victims and people in Parkland, where the school is located, blame Israel for the agency’s handling of the killer during interactions before the shooting and the way it handled the situation on the day of the massacre. Israel’s agency came under scrutiny over repeated visits to the school shooter’s home before the massacre, a deputy’s failure to enter the school and try to stop the shooting, and Israel’s assertion of “amazing leadership” in a widely panned cable television interview.
The Florida Constitution gives the governor power to suspend public officials for “malfeasance, misfeasance, neglect of duty.” Governors routinely remove public officials who are arrested or charged with crimes.
U.S. District Judge Mark Walker this week ruled that former Gov. Rick Scott’s suspension of Broward Supervisor of Elections Brenda Snipes was flawed because she didn’t have an opportunity to present her side.
On Thursday, DeSantis said the ruling in the Snipes case didn’t change his thinking on suspending local officials because anyone affected would get a hearing in the Florida Senate — unlike Snipes, who resigned before she could have a hearing.
“Any suspensions going forward the Senate will hear it, so people are going to be able to defend in front of the Senate,” DeSantis said at a stop in Stuart dealing with the South Florida Water Management District.
A report from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission detailed a series of problems with the agency’s performance during the massacre. But the report didn’t recommend Israel’s removal. Bob Gualtieri, the sheriff of Pinellas County and commission chairman, said he didn’t see grounds to remove Israel. Gualtieri, like Scott, is a Republican.
But commission member Ryan Petty, whose daughter Alaina was killed at the school, said the sheriff should be removed.
So has Andrew Pollack, whose daughter Meadow was killed in the massacre. Petty and Pollack were both members of DeSantis’ transition team, along with Pollack’s son Hunter; Max Schachter, an MSD commission member whose son Alex was killed at the school; student Kyle Kashuv; and Jeff Bell, president of the deputies union at the Sheriff’s Office. As a candidate, DeSantis said he was working with Pollack — and attended the private unveiling of Meadow Pollack’s tombstone last year.
Israel hasn’t seen any reason to leave office. “I am committed to BSO and the safety of Broward County. I will remain sheriff for so long as the voters of Broward County want to have me,” he said last month.
During the gubernatorial campaign, DeSantis said if he’d been governor at the time of the massacre, he’d have suspended Israel from office. He also called on Israel to resign and said the sheriff failed to lead and didn’t accept responsibility. “I can tell you in the Navy if a ship has run aground, it doesn’t matter if the captain personally did that. The captain is relieved of duty. I think it’s an issue of accountability.” .
DeSantis was circumspect on Wednesday, during a stop in Miami at which he announced a new state Supreme Court justice. In response to reporters’ questions on Israel, he said “I shall return very soon.” When pressed about whether he’d made a decision on Israel, he repeated that he’d return soon, adding that it’s “not going to take forever.”
Staff writers Skyler Swisher and Tonya Alanez contributed to this report.