The Florida Senate next week will begin moving forward with an appeal by suspended Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, a Democrat stripped of his post by Gov. Ron DeSantis last month.
The sheriff’s suspension was one of the Republican governor’s first actions after taking office on Jan. 8. Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, has tapped former state Rep. Dudley Goodlette to serve as a special master for probes into Israel and suspended Okaloosa County Superintendent of Schools Mary Beth Jackson, who was also removed from office by DeSantis.
Israel and Jackson requested hearings from the Senate, which has the authority to remove or reinstate officials suspended by the governor. In a letter to the Senate late last month, Israel’s lawyer, Benedict Kuehne, requested a “full and fair evidentiary hearing before a neutral and disinterested hearing officer,” as authorized by the state Constitution, but objected to Goodlette presiding over what will essentially be a trial. Instead, Israel sought “the appointment of an experienced administrative hearing officer with no significant existing or prior relationship to the Florida Legislature or any of the parties to this proceeding,” Kuehne wrote on Jan. 29. The “interests of justice and considerations of neutrality are best served through the appointment of a person with judicial and administrative experience but without substantial involvement in partisan political matters,” the lawyer wrote. Goodlette has set a case management conference for 1 p.m. Feb. 19 to begin the process.
Three days after he was sworn into office, DeSantis suspended Israel, accusing the law enforcement chief of “neglect of duty” and “incompetence” related to the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last February. Israel, who was first elected in 2012, has faced fierce criticism for his agency’s handling of the Parkland shooting, in which 14 students and three faculty members were killed and 17 people were injured. Israel has strongly protested his removal, and recently indicated he intends to seek re-election to the post next year.