‘It’s a political arm of the sheriff’s office at the expense of the taxpayers…’
(Charles Rabin, Miami Herald) Since Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel was suspended last month by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for his agency’s response to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas mass shooting, most of his command staff has either been forced out, resigned or been demoted.
Yet this much is clear: Newly appointed Sheriff Gregory Tony is not done with his housecleaning.
The latest to leave is Capt. Ira Goldberg, a tough-talking former Broward corrections officer who was criticized for an anti-gay Facebook post he made last year. It was directed at the leader of the Broward County Log Cabin Republicans, an organization that works within the Republican Party in support of LGBT rights.
In May, Goldberg suspected that Log Cabin Republican Gilberto Montalvo hired protestors to face off against Israel at a political event. In a Facebook comment directed at Montalvo, Goldberg wrote: “I hope you offered them money instead of sexual favors. Those men deserve better.”
Criticized at the time, Goldberg said he had no intention of taking down the post and invited Montalvo to complain to the news media, which he did. A sheriff’s office internal affairs investigation criticized Goldberg, finding that he had violated the department’s social media policy. He was docked a day’s pay, according police records.
Goldberg couldn’t be reached for comment this week. Asked about his departure, sheriff’s office public information officer Veda Coleman-Wright forwarded a form showing that Goldberg left on his own accord last Tuesday.
Also removed from their posts, according to a memo obtained by the Miami Herald, are seven members of a civilian community outreach group created by Israel, each of whom had take-home vehicles. Some are expected to get other positions with the county; others may be let go.
The outreach group was formed to be the eyes and ears of the sheriff’s office at events like homeowner gatherings or town-hall meetings. But, according Jeff Bell, president of the Broward Sheriff’s Office Deputy Association, it shifted into the political realm, often showing up at fund-raising events to promote Israel.
“It’s a political arm of the sheriff’s office at the expense of the taxpayers,” Bell said.
The political fallout at the sheriff’s office since Nikolas Cruz killed 17 students and staff members and wounded 17 others on Feb. 14, 2018, has been extensive.
On Jan. 11, DeSantis suspended Israel, calling the sheriff negligent and incompetent and claiming that he “egregiously” failed in training his deputies to respond to the attack on Stoneman Douglas. Deputies took cover behind their cars rather than enter the freshman building to confront the shooter, which has become the standard response to a school shooting.
Israel said he was devastated at what happened in Parkland and that he is fully responsible for the actions of his officers. But he wasn’t willing to take the blame for the students and teachers who were killed or injured.
“Like any good sheriff, I’m responsible for anything that goes on in BSO, good or bad,” Israel said. “But no one, not you, not me, is responsible for the deaths of these 17 people and 17 others shot, but this evil, evil person.”
After DeSantis stepped in, more dominoes fell immediately, with five command staffers resigning the day Israel was removed.
Israel has been raising money to fight for his job before the state Senate, which has the power to reinstate him but is unlikely to do so. He said that if the Senate or the courts don’t restore him to office, he has every intention of running for the sheriff again next year. He said the governor’s decision to suspend him was nothing more than keeping a campaign promise.
“I don’t know what the Senate or state or the federal court will do. I can’t see into the future,” Israel said. “But I’ve done absolutely nothing to warrant a suspension. And whether I get reinstated or not, I will run again.”
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