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Protecting Their Own.

You may remember former Sheriff Scott Israel who was front and center after the horrific shooting that took place at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida in February of 2018.

Israel became a focal point in the aftermath when it was learned that his deputies not only did not enter the school to stop the shooter, but did not even attempt to seal the area and allowed the shooter to walk off campus. The actions of the department as a whole and Israel were criticized in a report by the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission issued in January, 2019.

Israel’s run as the Broward County Sheriff had been controversial even before the Parkland shooting, with Israel being accused of hiring people as political “payback.”

A log of employees hired by the sheriff shows 10 workers were hired since 2013 into “outreach” roles, their salaries totalling $634,479. The unit is embedded into a $2.4 million community services division. When the budget year closes out in October, the outreach team expects to have made contact with 320,000 people, budget documents say.

The outreach workers, who mainly attend community events, are in addition to political activists and others Israel hired into community affairs roles, writing and designing printed pieces about the agency, and sharing it on social media. The employee log shows six hired into community affairs roles, their salaries totaling $388,729.

Israel’s opponents say he’s built a publicly funded political machine, paying back supporters with jobs and using them to keep him in office. They say the money could be better spent, particularly after the sheriff complained about not having enough funding to secure the county courthouse, where a murder suspect recently escaped.

Israel was also found guilty by a jury of violating a whistle-blower statute when he demoted a homicide detective who alleged excessive use of force by officers of the Fort Lauderdale Police Department in a joint operation with Broward County by releasing a K-9 dog to attack a suspect that was handcuffed and in custody. The officer in question was demoted from his position as a homicide detective to a beat cop. The cop sued the Israel in his capacity as the Sheriff and a court has upheld the verdict and denied requests by the Sheriff’s Office for a new trial.

The reaction to the whistleblower’s accusations may have something to do with Israel’s time spent in the Fort Lauderdale Police Department:

Besides hiring from the political world, Israel filled some of the top jobs with former colleagues from Fort Lauderdale Police Department. He also made a childhood friend from Long Island, Anthony Stravino, the BSO fire chief. (Stravino has since departed for another job.)

Clearly there were issues in the Israel led police department which seemed to culminate and come to light after the Parkland shooting:

It was also revealed after this CNN town hall that his deputy never went into the building to confront the shooter, [shooter’s name redacted.] Still, as it became clear that Israel’s department dropped that ball, he remained adamant that nothing was his fault. There were also allegations that Israel had built a political machine in the county with taxpayer money, but the mounting criticism to the response to the school shooting prompted a confidence vote from the rank-and-file. And it didn’t get better. A deputy, who has since been fired, that was in charge of school security after the shooting was caught sleeping on the job. (Editor’s Note: Members of the Police Union overwhelmingly gave a vote of “no confidence” in Israel.)

After taking office in January 2019, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis suspended Israel as he said he would on the campaign trail.

DeSantis’ office issued a statement saying, “Sheriff Israel has repeatedly failed and has demonstrated a pattern of poor leadership. He failed to protect Floridians and visitors during the tragic Fort Lauderdale International Airport shooting in 2017. He failed in his duties to keep our families and children safe during the devastating shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14, 2018. These incidents demonstrate Sheriff’s Israel’s repeated incompetence and neglect of duty.”

Under Florida law, the Governor can suspend elected officials for criminal activity, misfeasance, incompetence or neglect of duty. A trial is then held in the Florida Senate to decide whether to remove the person from office permanently.

Israel vowed to go to court over the suspension and last week, Broward Circuit Court Judge David Haime dismissed Israel’s lawsuit.

Enter the Florida city of Opa-locka, a small city of roughly 16,000 people in northwest Miami-Dade County.

Opa-locka has the distinction of being the third most dangerous city in the United States according to National Council for Home Safety and Security’s 2018 top 100 list of most dangerous cities in the U.S. The list is compiled using data from the FBI crime statistics database.

(Locally, the City of Cocoa was number 10 on the list. In 2019, Opa-locka is now ranked as the tenth most dangerous city in the US with Cocoa (thankfully) dropping to 65th.)

The government corruption in Opa-locka is so bad that residents want the city to be disbanded.

At this point, it’s unclear why Opa-locka, the city of 16,000 people in Northwest Miami-Dade County, has a right to exist — or what good the city government does for anyone. The place is transparently corrupt, money for basic public services has been squandered, and the police are forced to regularly arrest local politicians.

Rather than suffer through life in Opa-locka any longer, a group of the town’s veteran political operatives and activists now wants to put the city out of its misery for good. Earlier this week, that group submitted paperwork to start the process of asking the county to dissolve the whole city.

[….]

In March 2016, FBI agents stormed Opa-locka City Hall and carted out reams of documents and piles of computers, capping what had been a two-year investigation into corruption and kickback schemes rampant at city hall. As it turns out, the city had wasted millions of dollars on needless parties, fancy meals, and SUV trips, draining city coffers and robbing the majority-black city residents of a functioning government. (The FBI probe was still open as of this past June, and more indictments are expected.)

On June 1, 2016, Gov. Rick Scott declared a “financial emergency” in Opa-locka, and appointed an entire board to sort through the city’s legal and financial troubles. Also this past June, city officials told the Miami Herald they had made virtually no progress in 12 months.

In the meantime, multiple city officials have been convicted of criminal charges: Last November, then-City Manager David Chiverton was sentenced to three years in prison after he was caught in a sting taking a $2,500 cash bribe. Chiverton also reportedly weaponized the city’s Code Enforcement division and used the enforcement agency to extort business for cash kickbacks, flooding businesses with code violations and taking illegal payments to remove the citations.

In January, ex-City Commissioner Luis Santiago pleaded guilty to accepting $40,000 in bribes and extorting local business owners. Two months later, another commissioner facing bribery charges, Terence Pinder, killed himself by slamming his SUV into a tree.

What is a corrupt city that no one seems want or be able to fix do?

Look to hire another inept person with political cronyism in their blood, of course!

Former Sheriff Scott Israel has insisted that his removal from office was a naked power grab, and that he will be reinstated as Broward’s top lawman one way or another.

He’s also hedging his bets: In a power play of his own one county south, Israel has emerged as one commissioner’s favorite candidate for police chief in Opa-locka.

It’s a would-be marriage that links Broward’s most controversial politician with Miami-Dade’s most chaotic and dysfunctional city. And it has politicians and observers on both sides of the county line reaching for the popcorn.

Opa-locka Commissioner Alvin Burke appears poised to push for the hiring of Israel, who worked for decades at the Fort Lauderdale Police Department before a short stint as police chief in North Bay Village. He was elected sheriff in 2012, overseeing the Broward Sheriff’s Office’s 5,600 sworn and civilian personnel.

Standing in Burke’s way is Interim City Manager Newall J. Daughtrey — and possibly the city’s charter.

In a March 27 email, Daughtrey accused Burke of trying to strong-arm him into hiring Israel. “Please understand that I cannot follow your directive to terminate the chief of police and hire Scott Israel at this time for reasons discussed,” Daughtrey wrote to Burke, without elaborating on what his reasons were. Daughtrey’s attorney, Michael Pizzi, then wrote to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ chief investigator, Melinda Miguel, who doubles as the head of a state government oversight board, seeking help in protecting Daughtrey’s job.

All financial transactions in Opa-locka, including employee contracts, must be approved by the oversight board, established by former Gov. Rick Scott in 2015 when he declared a state of emergency in Opa-locka. The action followed a whistle-blower complaint that the city was in financial ruin. Now, the board is overseen by DeSantis, who was sharply critical of Israel during his campaign, and wasted little time in removing him from office after his election.

[….]

When Daughtrey refused to hire Israel, Burke began efforts to fire Daughtrey.

The agenda for Opa-locka’s next commission meeting, on April 10, includes this as Item 5 under “Administration”: “A resolution of the City Commission…terminating the interim city manager, Newall J. Daughtrey…” The next agenda item seeks to appoint another man, Darvin Williams, to be city manager.

“It is a shame that after all the city has gone through, there would still be attempts to force city officials to break the law, Pizzi said of Burke’s efforts to force Israel’s hiring. “Mr. Daughtrey is being fired once again because he refuses, and will never violate the city charter and take illegal orders…Hopefully, the state will have the courage to stop the city from continuing down the same path that led to a fiscal crisis, and a crisis in public confidence.”

Daughtrey was fired by a previous commission in October of 2018. He was rehired by the current commission after filing a whistle-blower suit against the city alleging that he had been terminated for exposing the former mayor’s outstanding water bill of $100,000 — as well as other acts of potential corruption.

Opa-locka already has a police chief, James Dobson, and by city charter, commissioners do not have direct authority over personnel decisions, a power that only the city manager holds.

[….]

Miguel, the governor’s chief inspector general who heads the oversight board, spoke with Daughtrey on Monday, and was reassured that he was not going to can Dobson. “Governor DeSantis will not support any public official who exceeds their legal authority in keeping with their city charter,” Miguel said. “He supports the city manager in following the law.”

Hey, what an idea! Let’s hire the guy who was corrupt and inept from one city to our city! And to give him the job, let’s break the law to do it!

Yeah! That’s the ticket!

What is the moral to this story?

Often in real life – the private sector – cream rises to the top. In governments, the opposite seems to occur.

In the private sector, companies usually try to eliminate corruption and ineptitude. In governments, corruption and ineptitude is a reason to keep people around – and to give them raises and promotions.

Whether it be deals with developers against the wishes of citizens, hidden backroom meetings, flaunting of the law, appointing former corrupt elected officials to policy boards, violating people’s rights, and a host of other things that have been going on, it is clear that governments – and by extension the corruption within them – protect themselves.

That protection comes at the expense of tax dollars and the trust of the community – neither of which seems to bother elected officials or in many cases, government workers who are too afraid or are unsure of protection under the law to stand up for what is right, moral and legal.

Quite simply, governments protect themselves.



One Response to “Protecting Their Own.”

  1. Locally Involved says:

    If you include companies who receive even some government funding under the private sector classification, then the “cream” is much less likely to rise to the surface.

    Experience is a wise teacher.

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