Broward County

Union members send message to Broward Sheriff Scott Israel: We've lost confidence in you

Broward Sheriff Scott Israel said it made him 'sick to my stomach' when he learned that the school resource officer had not entered Marjory Stoneman Douglas to confront the shooter.
Broward Sheriff Scott Israel said it made him 'sick to my stomach' when he learned that the school resource officer had not entered Marjory Stoneman Douglas to confront the shooter.

The results are in: More than 80 percent of the Broward Sheriff's Office Deputies Association members who voted have no confidence in Sheriff Scott Israel.

But that's not the entire picture.

Only about half of the union's members voted and the deputies association is one of several that represent Broward Sheriff's Office employees. The straw poll also won't have any major effect on the elected sheriff, who is not up for re-election until 2020.

Another union, the Federation of Public Employees, last week wrote a letter to support Israel on behalf of the 2,500 BSO employees it represents.

Still, Jeffrey Bell, president of the union said the symbolic vote — 534 of the 628 who voted had no confidence — should send a clear message to Israel, who has faced sharp criticism over how he handled the aftermath of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in February.

"He fails to listen to the people," Bell said during a news conference. "He fails to listen to the membership and he wants to blame everyone else for his problems."

During the last week, the association, a chapter of the International Union of Police Associations, allowed its 1,300 members to vote, both electronically and in person, to share their discontent with the sheriff.

But according to Israel and to Bell, the vote was about much more than just Parkland. Tough labor contract negotiations between the union and management have stalled. Israel said he spoke with Bell a few weeks ago and the union president told him that in the wake of the Parkland shootings it would probably be a good time to cement a deal.

Members want a 6.5 percent raise and management is only offering them 3 percent, Israel said.

Negotiations between the two have become so acrimonious that Bell accused Israel of ducking responsibility since the shooting. He said the sheriff's department has become rudderless.

Israel countered that he hasn't changed his schedule one bit, only agreeing with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to refrain from discussing Parkland until its review on deputy response is done.

Thursday evening Israel said via Twitter that he is "accountable to the citizens of Broward County."

"My job is to continue to do this job I was elected to do, which is to ensure the safety of Broward County's 1.9 million residents," he said. "I will not be distracted from my duties by this inconsequential IUPA union vote, which was designed to extort a 6.5 percent pay raise from this agency."

At the news conference, Bell called Israel "a complete liar."

"This has never been about a contract," he said. "This has been about his longstanding bad policies. His failure at leadership."

Israel, who was first elected to office in 2012 and was reelected in 2016, is not up for reelection until 2020.

Despite several calls from Republican lawmakers for Israel's suspension by the governor after the Parkland shootings, it's not something that is often done in Florida unless it's for a criminal offense. Section 7 of the the Florida Constitution allows the governor to suspend an elected official from office "for malfeasance, misfeasance, neglect of duty, drunkenness, incompetence, permanent inability to perform official duties, or commission of a felony, and may fill the office by appointment for the period of suspension."

Bell said Thursday that he is calling on the governor to take action and remove Israel.

"I cannot tell Gov. Scott how to do his job," Bell said. "I am asking him to reevaluate the position of sheriff here in Broward County. If he feels that Sheriff Israel must be removed or suspended, we will fully support him in that decision. But be forewarned, for the governor, if he leaves him in place that means he agrees that Sheriff Israel is an amazing leader and he is not. And if another incident happens, this will be on the hands of Gov. Scott, not the employees of the Broward Sheriff's Office."

Thursday night, Scott's office put out a statement regarding the vote, saying the governor "believes that people must be held accountable for the reported failures in response to the school shooting in Parkland."

"Once that investigation is complete, and we have all the facts, the appropriate steps will be taken to hold people accountable. Governor Scott is absolutely disgusted the BSO deputy did not rush into the school to save these victims," the statement read.

Miami Herald news partner CBS4 contributed to this report.

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