DeSantis has suspended five elected officials in a month

Republican Governor Ron DeSantis drew attention again Friday Four school board members suspended in Broward County An action that brought the number of local elected officials suspended by the governor this month to five.

Under Florida law, the governor can suspend elected and appointed officials for wrongdoing that includes the commission of a felony, dereliction of duty, malpractice, incompetence, and habitual drunkenness. The governor has a constitutional right to appoint someone to fill that post.

But in recent history, DeSantis’ predecessors — Republicans Jeb Bush and Rick Scott and now-Democrat Charlie Crist, who is running to oust DeSantis — have generally reserved that power to suspend elected officials, when he was charged with the crime. State Senate records analyzed by the Tampa Bay Times.

Since DeSantis came into office in 2019, he has suspended at least 15 elected officials, eight of whom were evicted by the governor for neglect of duty, incompetence, or abuse of authority. Five out of eight happened this year.

A review of the suspension of the previous governor that went to the Florida Senate for final action, which did not include a public notary:

I Bush suspended at least 17 elected officials during his eight-year term, including Broward election observer Miriam Ouifant. Bush originally ousted Oliphant after a disastrous vote count in the 2002 primary. Oliphant was later charged with 55 violations by the Florida Election Commission, but ultimately was not prosecuted or fined. His successor was Brenda Snipes, who was appointed by Bush and later selected to hire. He was later suspended by Scott, and then reinstated by DeSantis so that he could resign and retire.

I Crist fired at least 13 officers during his one term in office, all of whom were charged with crimes.

I Scott suspended at least 15 people from office, 14 of whom committed crimes (Snipes was an exception), and dozens of notaries for alleged misconduct.

DeSantis’ actions have raised concerns among Democrats and some lawyers, who worry that the governor is exercising his executive power more aggressively and more often of late.

“The governor is pushing for a coat-unquote my way or highway approach to governance,” said election and compliance attorney Ben Kuehne. Kuehne represented former Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, whom DeSantis suspended in 2019 and pleaded guilty to Reaction to the 2018 shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School.

One of the members of the Broward County School Board who was suspended by the governor – also because of a reaction to the Parkland school shooting – called the governor’s decision “un-American and undemocratic.”

“He doesn’t care about democracy and has overturned the will of the electorate,” Laurie Rich Levinson said in a statement. “Since you may disagree on local policy decisions, there is no reason to remove someone from elected office.”

Senate gets final opinion

While the governor can remove a public official, the matter is ultimately decided by the Florida Senate. The governor has to appoint a special master to present his case. The issue could also come to court, as shown recently by Andrew Warren, the former top prosecutor for Hillsborough County, who is suing DeSantis to remove him from office.

DeSantis fired him Earlier this month because he pledged not to prosecute people who performed abortions or their doctors. Warren then filed a lawsuit in US District Court, saying the governor had violated his First Amendment right to freedom of expression.

Although Warren vowed to enforce laws prohibiting gender-affirming care for minors or restricting abortion, the state currently has no laws on gender-affirming care that Warren sued. could refuse to drive.

DeSantis has stood firm on his right to suspend elected officials, who he says neglect their duty.

“It is my duty to suspend people from office when there is clear evidence of incompetence, dereliction of duty, misbehavior or malpractice,” DeSantis said in a statement Friday, when he called for the suspension of four school board members in Broward County. announced.

DeSantis also appointed four people to the school board to fill the vacancies left by his suspension. The governor had previously announced a replacement for the fifth member on the board after Rosalind Osgood was elected to the state Senate. That means DeSantis’ appointees are now a majority in the nine-member school board, which oversees a school district in a Democratic stronghold.

“Governor DeSantis not only suspended four elected school board members in Broward and replaced them with political allies. This is also after school board elections,” said state representative Anna Escamani, D-Orlando.

When asked about the appointment process, DeSantis press secretary Brian Griffin said the appointment followed the release of one to replace suspended school board members. grand jury report In which the Governor was recommended to suspend him.

Griffin said “many community members and potential applicants” arrived at the governor’s office after learning of the grand jury report and applied. He said he also invited applications “at the same time through our contacts in the community.” When asked for more specifics, he did not elaborate.

“We were fortunate to have an immediate response from the community – a community we suspect has long been viewing this day as another important step forward from the tragedy in 2018,” he said.

Tampa Bay Times staff writer Kirby Wilson contributed to this report.

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