The officer assigned to handle former Broward Sheriff Scott Israel’s suspension hearing before the Senate has now set several key dates in the process.
On Tuesday, Special Master Dudley Goodlette met with attorneys representing Israel and Gov. Ron DeSantis, who suspended Israel last month.
Israel decided to appeal that suspension to the Senate, prompting Senate President Bill Galvano to appoint Goodlette.
Under Florida law, the Senate has final say over whether a suspended official will be reinstated or removed for office for good. The decision on Israel must be made by the end of the 2019 Session on May 3.
On Tuesday, Goodlette said a final hearing on the matter would be tentatively scheduled for April 8, pending the availability of Ben Kuehne, Israel’s attorney.
Kuehne said he may have a family trip scheduled but would work to accommodate the proceedings. Goodlette indicated that if a delay is needed, the final hearing would take place no later than April 10.
A pre-hearing conference was also scheduled for Wednesday, March 20 at 10 a.m.
Israel was suspended due to his departments actions surrounding last year’s shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School and the 2017 shooting at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.
The Governor largely critiqued the actions of deputies under Israel’s leadership in the leadup to those two attacks, alleging deputies were not properly trained. But Kuehne argued that some allegations of the executive order suspending Israel were unclear.
“Some (allegations) seem to be based on certain report or documents but no such documentation is identified,” Kuehne argued.
“And others seem to be in the nature of broad conclusions. I will be seeking a bill of particulars as to numerous portions of the executive order of suspension to that Sheriff Israel is given sufficient information to know, with precision, what forms the basis for his suspension.”
A bill of particulars is essentially a request to offer more precise facts as support for a set of allegations.
Nick Primrose, DeSantis’ deputy general counsel who was representing the Governor at Tuesday’s conference, pushed back against Kuehne’s assertions.
“Executive Order 1914 is very clear and very robust as to the reasons why Mr. Israel was suspended from office.”
Primrose pointed to both facts surrounding both the Parkland shooting and airport shooting as support for the Governor’s action.
“Both of those incidents had investigations done after the fact that raised many issues and failed leadership and deficiencies on behalf of Mr. Israel. So on behalf of the Governor, we would object to any particulars. We think that the executive order speaks for itself as to what statutory obligations and failures led to the suspension.”
That prompted a cutting response from Kuehne.
“We disagree with the Governor’s assertion that the suspension order is robust. We think that it is wordy, but not informative.”
“I do find that the executive order is informative, frankly, and fairly robust,” Goodlette concluded. Still, he did order a bill of particulars be submitted by Monday, Feb. 25. Israel’s attorneys must then file a response by Sunday, March 17.
The attorneys also tussled over the type of evidence allowed in the process. Kuehne argued that the hearing should be limited to legal bases for Israel’s suspension.
“I do ask whether the special master intends to receive information that would be more in the nature of emotional evidence as opposed to evidence that is focused on the terms of the executive order,” Kuehne said.
“I ask that because I have not had those discussions with the Governor’s counsel. But I’m hopeful that this proceeding will focus on the allegations and the facts as opposed to the community interest in this matter.”
Primrose conceded that some such testimony may be offered, but would be limited in scope.
“There may be some witnesses or evidence that does have an emotional aspect to it, but goes directly to his duty as an elected sheriff to be the conservator of peace,” Primrose said.
This time, Goodlette sided with the Governor’s counsel.
“As long as it’s confined to those duties as conservator of the peace, I would agree with you, counsel, on that subject,” Goodlette responded.