In an epic clash, Broward County Sheriff Gregory Tony suspended the president of the deputy’s union after he penned a letter to Sun Sentinel where he criticized the Sheriff’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis.
In a scathing rebuke of the Sheriff, President of the Broward Sheriff’s Office Deputies Association Jeff Bell took him to task for not providing deputies with sufficient protective equipment.
“This so-called BSO savior, the man who rode into office with the support of distraught Parkland parents and this union, has failed to provide leadership at this time when it is needed most,” Bell wrote. “While BSO employees are being exposed and testing positive for COVID-19, Tony has been politically fiddling with facts like Nero as Rome burned; holding press conferences to state everything is fine.”
Local 10 reported Tony lashed out at Jeff Bell at a press conference accusing him of politicizing the death of Deputy Shannon Bennett, a gay man, who recently died from COVID-19.
“I have a rogue employee who decides to politicize and capitalize on a moment when we lost one of our own," Tony said. "It’s not only dishonorable, it’s unnecessary.”
In the letter to the Sentinel Bell writes of Bennett: “In this latest crisis, rather than accept our overture and demonstrate some compassion and leadership, Tony lost his composure last Saturday [which was captured on video] in front of BSO deputies who gathered at the North Broward Hospital to escort fallen Deputy Shannon Bennet to the funeral home. Bennett died a week after being diagnosed with COVID-19 at age 39.”
Bennett was a 12-year veteran of the BSO and was to wed his partner in December.
Local 10 reports that the union is now holding a no-confidence vote on Tony. Members have until Friday to cast their vote.
Bell has now threatened to sue Tony over his suspension.
“What the sheriff did was to stifle free speech, violate federal whistleblowing laws, state whistleblowing laws, unfair labor practices and stop a union president from being able to communicate, because he is getting complaints from other first responders, other members of our community that are keeping us safe," Bell’s attorney Eric Schwartzreich told Local 10.
It appears for the time being Tony has nothing else to say about Bell.
“Deputy Bell is currently the subject of an internal affairs investigation related to violations of BSO policies and procedures,” Sheriff Gregory Tony said in a prepared media statement. “He will be afforded all protections and due process rights afforded under the law and consistent with BSO policies. Otherwise, the agency will not comment on pending internal affairs investigations.”