FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Broward Sheriff Scott Israel hosted a service today in honor of the National Day of Prayer, and while he didn’t mention the Parkland massacre, he did reference his own travails in light of the school shooting that left 17 dead.
Israel said God puts people in rough seas because their “enemies can’t swim.”
“If you seek shelter with the most high, you will be protected in the shadow of the almighty,” he said.
After an overwhelming no-confidence vote by his deputies’ union and with investigators — from both the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and Gov. Rick Scott’s public safety commission — looking into his actions after his agency’s failures in Parkland, Israel may need all the protection he can get.
“Everything is on the line right now,” said union chief Jeff Bell, who led the no-confidence vote and is encouraging Scott to suspend Israel from his post, alleging incompetence and neglect of duty.
The clouds surrounding BSO could explain the sheriff’s meeting with lobbyist Ron Book Tuesday night at J. Alexanders in Plantation. Book is one of the most powerful lobbyists in Tallahassee and has the ear of the governor, who has said he will decide whether or not to suspend Israel when the FDLE investigation into the BSO response to Parkland is completed.
Presenting a more serious potential conflict of interest for Israel is the fact that Book’s daughter, Sen. Lauren Book, sits on the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission, which is also investigating the shooting and BSO.
Bell said the meeting raises serious questions, saying the sheriff should take the same advice given to deputies who fall under investigation – stay away from potential conflicts of interest.
“Any time that you’re being investigated and you’re meeting with people who have direct ties with running that investigation or have family members of close friends that are involved in that decision making process you should always stay away from that,” Bell said. “We’re always held to a higher standard and we should know better so to put yourself in situation like that where you could even be accused of having a conversation to dictate the outcome of an investigation.”
When Local10 News investigative reporter Bob Norman asked Israel about the meeting with Book after the prayer service, Israel made it personal, accusing Norman of “bullying and disrespect.”
“So you’re not going to answer my questions?” Norman asked.
“None of your questions ever,” Israel said. “And I told you that four or five years ago, but thanks for coming Bobby.”
Book said the two men had bumped into each other earlier this week and that he made a suggestion they catch up some time, though he said he doesn’t recall them ever socializing in the past. He said Israel called him the following day and suggested they meet for dinner at J. Alexander’s.
While he conceded they discussed the Parkland shooting, Book said the subject of the investigations and the governor were never mentioned. He said the subject of his daughter sitting on the Parkland commission also didn’t come up.
Book also said he didn’t consider the meeting a conflict of interest because he did not discuss Israel with his daughter either and that the two keep such matters “separate” from each other.