The president of a Broward Sheriff's Office union who clashed with the agency's top cop has been fired after a lengthy internal affairs investigation, Sheriff Gregory Tony said Thursday.
Deputy Jeff Bell, who served as president of the 1,400-member Broward Sheriff’s Office Deputies Association, was fired after the investigation into allegations of violating BSO policies, including truthfulness, corrupt practices, employee statements, conduct unbecoming an employee and discretion, Tony said in a statement.
"Following the internal investigation, investigators presented the case to the Professional Standards Committee (PSC), which reviewed the evidence, sustained all the allegations against Deputy Bell, and recommended his termination in a unanimous vote," Tony said in the statement. "I support the findings in this case and concur that Bell’s actions rise to the level of termination."
Bell had been suspended with pay on April 10, 2020, just days after the internal affairs investigation began.
Bell and Tony had clashed over the sheriff's response to COVID-19, and the animosity grew when Bell penned a column blasting Tony in the South Florida Sun Sentinel.
The column 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 of not providing his deputies with sufficient protective equipment.
Tony responded at a news conference that Bell was politicizing Bennett’s death and called Bell’s actions "dishonorable."
At the time, Bell's attorney, Eric Schwartzreich, called his suspension "illegal and immoral" and said Bell had a duty as union president to voice his opinions.
Schwartzreich also said the suspension was a way to muzzle Bell during a year where Tony was seeking reelection, which he won.
In his statement Thursday, Tony said Bell was working to stop his reelection.
"During the course of the investigation, investigators took sworn statements from approximately two hundred individuals with pertinent information, including Bell. The evidence shows Bell used corrupt practices to try to prevent me from being elected sheriff by providing misinformation and lies to the media to create fear and distrust among BSO employees and within the community during a global pandemic," Tony said. "This type of behavior is egregious at any time but even more harmful and shameful during an unprecedented health crisis. Bell’s irresponsible comments took time and effort away from the critical public safety demands of BSO."
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