Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony is facing a vote of no-confidence from union members days after the union’s president was suspended for criticizing the sheriff’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Jeff Bell, the president of the 1,400-member Broward Sheriff’s Office Deputies Association, was suspended with pay last Friday.
Union representatives said members would begin casting their votes on Tuesday.
Bell’s suspension was the result of an internal affairs investigation brought on by a column in the Sun Sentinel that blasted Tony, which Bell had written. It came four days after the death of Deputy Shannon Bennett, 39, and after three dozen Broward deputies and other employees had tested positive for COVID-19.
Bell accused the sheriff for allegedly not having enough personal protective gear for deputies, first responders and those working in the Broward County Jail system.
The investigation listed lying and conduct unbecoming as two of the five allegations against Bell.
“For any rogue employee to come off and present these comments, that we have failed this community and failed these men and women we are leading, is despicable," Tony said in a briefing last Tuesday.
The sheriff said that more than 25,000 high-quality masks and more than 40,000 surgical masks had already been given out when Bell made his statements saying deputies were telling him they didn’t have what they need.
Bell’s attorneys have criticized the suspension, calling it “illegal and immoral.”
"He’s not a rogue employee," Eric Schwartzreich, one of Bell’s attorneys, said. "He’s a union president whose job is to advocate for his members — first responders. He’s not rogue, he’s doing his job. The action that was rogue was suspending a union president. That’s the only thing that’s rogue here."
Schwartzreich added the suspension was a way to muzzle Bell during a year where Tony is seeking reelection.
Union members have until next Monday to cast their votes.