TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The Florida Senate will uphold the suspension of former Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, despite the recommendation by the chamber's own special master that Israel be reinstated.
The Senate voted 25-15 Wednesday to uphold the suspension by Gov. Ron DeSantis, who accused Israel of negligence in the agency's handling of the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
The Senate appointed a special master to investigate the suspension.
In a statement, DeSantis said he hopes "the outcome provides some measure of relief to the Parkland families that have been doggedly pursuing accountability."
1. Why was the committee tasked with making the recommendation?
Israel was removed from office by Gov. Ron DeSantis in January. The governor's suspension order accused Israel of negligence in his office's handling of the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
DeSantis argued inadequate preparations had been made for responding to mass shootings, and that Israel is directly responsible for mistakes made by his deputies.
Israel chose to challenge his suspension under the terms of the Florida Constitution, triggering a Senate trial. Senate President Bill Galvano directed the Rules Committee to issue a recommendation.
2. How many votes were cast for and against the recommendation to uphold Israel's suspension?
The razor-thin vote was 9-8. It was cast Monday evening at the end of a nearly 12-hour hearing and generally pitted the committee's majority Republicans against its Democrats.
One notable exception was Sen. Tom Lee (R-Brandon), who warned that "a yes vote would be real easy... but I think it would set a really dangerous new precedent here in Florida."
3. Why did most of the panel's Republicans choose to reject the recommendation of the special master to reinstate Israel?
Senate Special Master Dudley Goodlette's recommendation, they argued, was not binding. In fact, they pointed out, Goodlette admitted that his conclusions were reached only after significant deliberation.
4. Why did others vote to overturn the governor's suspension order?
The governor's critics on the committee said he had overreached in making Israel responsible for the actions of individual deputies the sheriff himself agrees had made grave mistakes in their response to the Parkland shooting. And far from failing to prepare deputies for mass shootings, they say, the special master's findings make clear that Israel's office conducted multiple active shooter drills in advance of the events of February 14, 2018.
5. What happens next?
The committee's recommendation will be forwarded to Galvano and, by extension, the full Senate. The chamber is expected to vote on Israel's fate Wednesday.
Because Republicans maintain a modest majority and most vote with party leaders, it is likely that Israel's suspension will ultimately be upheld.