What to do with the sheriff of Broward, his lies and the burning investigation of the FDLE? Don’t count out DeSantis, report says

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2022-05-06

Three months after pondering what to do about Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony, whom public corruption officials discovered had repeatedly lied to in official documents over the years, Governor Ron DeSantis continues to thinking as an anxious sheriff’s office wonders what’s going on.

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A two-year investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement determined last year that many of Tony’s alleged lies could not be criminally prosecuted because they fell outside the state’s statute of limitations. But another allegation, that Tony committed perjury when he lied while seeking a new driver’s license just three weeks after being sworn in on January 11, 2019, was seen as ‘potentially viable’ after the FDLE recommended Tony be charged with perjury.

Yet the criminal case went nowhere when Anthony Kunasek, a state attorney in Fort Myers, dropped the case in late January, saying it could not be proven whether Tony’s misrepresentation – answering “no” when asked if his driving privileges had ever been suspended in another state – was intentional. In fact, Pennsylvania had suspended Tony’s driver’s license five times. Kunasek “suggested” that FDLE submit the case to Florida’s often ineffective Ethics Commission for review.

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(Kunasek, 55, was found dead in his Lee County home on Saturday, shortly after the start of a murder trial he was pursuing. Authorities told local media that Kunasek’s death does not was not a homicide.)

All the while, Broward Sheriff Tony has chosen to remain silent – ​​as is his right. According to the FDLE report, released in January, state agents requested an interview, but on June 28, 2021 “Tony’s attorney, Michael Moskowitz, reported that Tony had refused to provide OEI [Office of Executive Investigations] Inspectors an interview.”

However, the focus on pursuing a criminal case against Sheriff Tony moved ahead of other official investigative leads to uncover the truth and provide the governor with more information.

“There are a number of avenues that could be taken to find out if the false answer was intentionally made by Tony,” the Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorney said. Gary Kollin.

For example, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) can revoke a driver’s license obtained through “fraud or misrepresentation”. Since the FDLE has determined that Tony’s answer when asked if his driving privileges had ever been suspended in another state was false, the department may advise Tony that unless he corrects his answer, his permit would be revoked.

As Kollin explained, Tony would then have the choice of admitting the falsity of his application or having his license revoked. “In the event of a removal, the Governor may consider the removal administratively to determine if Tony is capable of performing his duties as Sheriff Broward without a driver’s license to decide whether to suspend Tony and terminate his position as Sheriff as he has made with [former sheriff] Scott Israel,” Kollin said.

A DHSMV spokesperson did not respond when asked if the department had informed Tony that his license would be revoked unless he corrected his misrepresentation or said if he had taken any measures in response to the findings of the FDLE.

Additionally, State Attorney Amira Fox of the 20th Judicial Circuit, who assigned Kunasek to the case, could issue a subpoena to confer so-called “use immunity” on Tony, l forcing him to answer questions about his misrepresentations. His responses could not be used to prosecute him, but again could be administratively reviewed by the governor.

Law enforcement authorities have another investigative tool – a “Garrity” statement.

In cases of misconduct, Garrity’s statements allow public employers like BSO to question MPs and compel them to answer under oath. MPs are protected against having to incriminate themselves because they cannot be criminally prosecuted for what they say. Their statements, however, may be used to make administrative decisions as to whether disciplinary action is warranted.

DeSantis nominated Tony in 2019 after impeaching Israel for his alleged leadership failures in response to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre in February 2018. He nominated Tony, however, after rushing a background check that failed to finding out about Tony’s previous lies or the fact that at age 14 he was arrested for murder.

Florida bulldog first reported Tony’s arrest for murder in May 2020. This story prompted extensive scrutiny by the Bulldog and other media about Tony’s past as well as BSO’s expensive purchases of bleeding control kits from Tony’s former employer.

Shortly after the announcement of the FDLE report into Tony’s many lies and prosecutors’ decision not to prosecute, Governor DeSantis told reporters at a press conference in Miami, “We’re going to review everything. .. in the next few days”, Sentinel of the Sun reported.

DeSantis’ office did not respond to an emailed request for comment. But the governor’s apparent indecision about what, if any, appropriate action could lead him to order the FDLE to take Tony Garrity’s statement. So far, he has not done so, according to police sources.

At the Broward Sheriff’s Office, the Internal Affairs Division is essential to achieving the policy goal of ensuring public confidence in the integrity of the office.

“A foundation of trust with the community is essential to the effectiveness of any public safety organization. In order to maintain this relationship, public employees must maintain high ethical and moral standards. The employee complaint and discipline process serves to ensure transparency and honesty when reviewing employee actions,” the sheriff’s policy manual states.

IA investigates all allegations of employee misconduct, frequently convincing Garrity’s statements of deputies. Except in the case of Sheriff Tony.

Part of the reason is the inherent conflict of interest that would occur if IA investigated the sheriff. Not only does the sheriff employ the AI ​​detectives who would look into his actions, but he also ultimately decides the outcome of AI investigations.

More fundamentally, Tony is not considered an employee of BSO, according to Robert Jarvis, a law professor at Nova Southeastern University. This is the case even though Tony earns an annual salary of $199,629 from the sheriff’s office, receives health care and other benefits, and drives a BSO car.

“He’s a constitutional officer, and the intent of the people who crafted the Florida Constitution was for sheriffs to be overseen by the governor, with the final decision being made by the Florida Senate,” Jarvis said. “A constitutional officer cannot lose his job unless the governor suspends him and the Senate removes him.”

The Constitution sets no time limit on the governor’s consideration of Tony’s case or his recommendation to the Senate. Once a case comes to the Senate, however, a trial must take place within six months.

“We saw it with [Sen.] Rick Scott who made the decision when he was governor that he was going to leave the issue of Scott Israel to his successor because he was running for the Senate and didn’t want it to cause him a problem,’ Jarvis said.

Bottom line: BSO does not have a policy that addresses potential disciplinary action against a wandering sheriff.


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