Courtesy of The Sun Sentinel
Skyler Swisher and Aric Chokey
Published January 30, 2019
DeSantis demonstrated a greater willingness to intervene
in local issues in his first 10 days in office, suspending three elected
officials even though they had not been charged with a crime.
Only three of Scott’s
51 suspensions during his eight years as governor involved
officials who had not been charged with a crime, according
to a review of executive orders. Former Broward elections
head Brenda Snipes was the only elected official Scott
suspended who had not been charged. He also suspended two
members of the appointed Broward Health public hospital
board who had not been criminally charged.
DeSantis has vowed to plot his own course when it comes to
exercising his authority.
“I will lead with purpose and conviction on behalf of the
people of Florida,” the new Republican governor said in his
inaugural address. “If a local official is neglectful of
required duties, I will remove that official.”
He quickly followed up that promise with rapid-fire
suspensions. He ousted Broward Sheriff Scott Israel and Palm
Beach County elections chief Susan Bucher. Both faced
accusations of incompetence, but neither has been charged
criminally. On the same day as the Israel suspension,
DeSantis also suspended an elected school superintendent as
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announces he is suspending
Broward Sheriff Scott Israel.
blasted DeSantis for his approach, accusing him of a “gross overreach.”
Florida law allows the governor to suspend officials for malfeasance,
misfeasance, neglect of duty, drunkenness, incompetence, permanent inability
to perform official duties and commission of a felony. The Florida Senate is
charged with holding a hearing to decide whether a suspended official should
be reinstated or removed.
The Sun Sentinel’s analysis did not include notaries, whom the governor is
responsible for suspending.
Unlike his predecessor, DeSantis has scheduled news conferences to announce
his actions. He traveled to the Broward County Sheriff's Office headquarters
to announce he was removing Israel, and he revealed he was suspending Bucher
on the steps of Palm Beach County’s historic courthouse.
DeSantis also suspended Okaloosa County’s elected school superintendent Mary
Beth Jackson, who had been faulted in a grand jury report on child abuse in
the district. The report, though, did not recommend she be charged
Scott, also a Republican, generally suspended officials charged with
serious, corruption-related crimes, such as bribery, money laundering and
racketeering. Others faced charges of grand theft of a motor vehicle, drug
possession or sexual battery on a child.
The three exceptions involved Broward County officials. With just weeks left
in his term as governor, Scott suspended Snipes and accused her of repeated
election failures, despite her already announced plan to resign.
Snipes challenged the suspension in court. A federal judge ruled that Snipes
could not be reinstated, but he rebuked Scott, saying he “vilified” her and
didn’t provide enough specific reasons backing up the suspension. DeSantis
lifted her suspension and accepted her resignation.
In addition to Snipes, Scott suspended two members of the North Broward
Hospital District Board — David Di Pietro and Darryl Wright — in March 2016.
A Broward County judge ordered Di Pietro reinstated, saying she found no
basis for the accusations of malfeasance that the governor leveled against
him at the urging of the inspector general. The judge wrote that the
inspector general could not show a single, specific act of wrongdoing. Just
three days after prevailing in court, Di Pietro resigned, saying political
interference by the governor had made it impossible for him to serve the
Senate hearings for suspended officials are rare. The last one was in 2005,
when the Senate voted 36-3 to remove another Broward elections supervisor,
DeSantis’ supporters have embraced his approach.
One of his allies — Republican U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz — tweeted a video
touting DeSantis as “America’s boldest governor cleaning up the Florida
The video showed news footage of DeSantis’ news conference announcing
Israel’s suspension. Then the video flashes to President Donald Trump
delivering his signature line — “You’re fired.”
It fades out with a song typically sung by fans to losing sports teams —
“na, na, na, hey, hey, hey, goodbye.”