FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – The Broward Sheriff’s Office Deputies Association will hold a no-confidence vote on Sheriff Gregory Tony starting Tuesday, Local 10 News has confirmed.
Members of the union will have between Tuesday and next Monday to vote.
The situation continues to get messier on the day the attorney for BSO Deputies Association President Jeff Bell held a news conference to discuss a forthcoming lawsuit following Bell’s suspension from the Broward Sheriff’s Office.
Bell was suspended with pay last week over what the BSO said in a statement was related to an internal affairs investigation regarding “violations of BSO policies and procedures,” but his attorney, Eric Schwartzreich, said the suspension was for Bell calling out the sheriff publicly regarding complaints from deputies about a lack of personal protective equipment amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“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,” Schwartzreich said.
BSO’s statement last week said that Bell would “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 investigation,” the statement read.
Schwartzreich, however, blasted Sheriff Gregory Tony for suspending the union president, who he said was simply “trying to make sure our deputies have personal protection equipment.”
“It’s about nothing more, nothing less. This is wrong,” Schwartzreich said. “Jeff Bell needs to be re-instated and we’re taking action.”
But on “This Week in South Florida” on Sunday, the sheriff seemed to suggest there was more to it.
“Well, I think the presumption that you’re making is the nature of this internal affairs is exclusively driven by one comment that he made or some type of article that he has written, and there is so much more substance to the nature of this investigation,” Tony said.
Schwartzreich said the action taken against his client for looking out for first responders was “against the law, reprehensible and actionable.”
The International Union of Police Associations also called out the sheriff in an open letter Sunday.
“This brazen display of power abuse is unbecoming of any law enforcement leader,” the letter stated. “Deputy Bell has been trying to meet with you privately over mutual concerns for more than a year, without success. Your actions clearly illustrate your complete disregard for any input from the representatives of the men you are supposed to lead. You have not, at any time, offered to sit down with the elected leader of these men and women to seek their input or their concerns.”
Tony lashed out at Bell at a news conference last Tuesday, saying his department has personal protective equipment for all employees.
“From the time-frame of Feb. 1 to April 6, we have dispersed over 25,263 N95 masks to our first responders,” he said.
According to the sheriff, 44,773 surgical masks were also dispersed, as well as more than 4,100 bottles of hand sanitizer.
The sheriff said his department has spent more than $1.3 million to get the equipment needed to face this crisis.
Bell’s attorneys say they are willing to sit down with Tony, without moving forward with legal action, to discuss the situation and the possible reinstation of Bell. But the union is officially moving forward with the no-confidence vote.
Below is the union’s full letter to members regarding the no-confidence vote:
To All Members,
The Broward Sheriff’s Office Deputies Association needs to advise its members of a very important issue, and needs the guidance of its membership regarding this issue. We ask that you take the time to read the following.
As you are aware, President Jeff Bell has been temporarily suspended by Sheriff Greg Tony. We will not discuss any details but the Union is fully committed to defending what we believe to be an attempt to limit free and protected speech.
For several weeks, the Broward Sheriff’s Office Deputies Association Executive Board received numerous complaints and concerns from the membership and District Representatives over the lack of protective equipment being provided by the Agency to help keep us safe as we face potential exposures to the Coronavirus every time we respond to calls for service in Broward County. On March 16th 2020, the Union reached out to the Sheriff and shared with him your concerns, only to receive a response that if the Union expressed these concerns publicly, that “any inaccurate statements relating to the topic of BSO’s failure to provide adequate supplies for its employee’s WILL result in disciplinary action.” The very next day after our letter to the Sheriff, on March 17th 2020 the first set of 3M masks were sent to the Districts for the intended distribution to each Deputy of one (1) mask.
The Union continued to receive calls and text messages from our members over the shortage of masks. They were severe enough that the Union purchased one thousand four hundred (1,400) 3M-N95 masks, and emailed the Sheriff our offer to donate them to the Sheriff’s Office so that each Deputy could be distributed an additional mask to the one (1) the Agency issued. To date, the Union has gotten NO RESPONSE FROM THE SHERIFF, which regrettably has been a consistent experience with him, as it is now more than 400 days since the Sheriff has had any face to face communication with the Union over ANY of his law enforcement deputies’ and sergeants’ concerns. We are at a loss to understand why the Sheriff will not even respond to an offer for free equipment in order to keep his Deputies safe and possibly “alive” under this pandemic threat. Thanks to Major Dunbar, the Union was able to donate these items to the Sheriff’s Office on Wednesday April 8th but the Sheriff himself has never answered our email.
In the time since we attempted to communicate with the Sheriff, the Union has received emails originated from the Agency by which employees have been asked what size hand sanitizer bottle units they prefer and, unbelievably, whether employees would prefer ordering hand sanitizer bottles with the Sheriff’s Office Logo on the bottle; which BSO-branded hand sanitizers could take as long as an additional seven (7) to get into employees’ hands in order for the custom BSO log to be affixed. If the information we are receiving is accurate, it is unconscionable that the delivery of desperately needed hand sanitizers would be delayed intentionally for political promotional reasons more important to a politician, than mitigating the risks of exposures to first responders as quickly and effectively as possible.
While State and Federal Authorities have identified the critical need for people to practice “social distancing,” and Broward County enacted a “shelter in place” order, deploying law enforcement Deputies for food giveaways recklessly increases their exposures to COVID-19 in the service of advancing a political agenda. From what our members and we are observing, it has become clear that food giveaway photo ops, social videos, virtual town halls and flyers with the Sheriff’s photo are a higher priority with this Sheriff than keeping Deputies as safe and healthy as possible.
On March 28th 2020, the Union received photos and messages that some PPE kits from the Sheriff’s Office had finally reached the District level; which is almost 2 weeks after the Sheriff threatened the Union about going public over the lack of proper protective equipment for all BSO law enforcement first responders. Members in some Districts have reported to us that the PPE kits delivered were in such a limited supply (“24”), that BSO Command directed them to be issued only to Sergeants. The PPE kit distribution “protocol” we’ve been advised of is that if a Deputy has concern for his or her unprotected risk of exposure, the Deputy must call his or her supervisor in order to be delivered a PPE kit (assuming there are a sufficient number of kits available). We believe this “response” to the COVID-19 threat is inadequate and appalling, and we suspect it is unacceptable to you, even though you cannot express your frustration without risking discipline.
The Union understands that the lack of timely advance preparations by BSO while the Coronavirus was ravaging other countries and had come ashore in other states, has resulted in shortages of needed supplies here. The safety of BSO employees, however, should still be priority one. Your safety and the safety of your family should be a higher priority for this Sheriff that whatever political traction a politician calculates he can get from this crisis. While the Sheriff has chosen to muzzle and threaten us, rather than work with us, the Union cannot sit back and watch the safety of the membership be jeopardized for what appears to us to be political reasons. For these reasons and more, a Union vote of no-confidence pertaining to Greg Tony will be forthcoming.
In addition to the matters identified above, the Union has also documented the following:
Greg Tony lied on his original job application to the Coral Springs Police Department, stating on that application that he had never been arrested and had not received moving citations in the recent past.
Coral Springs Police Sergeant Greg Tony displayed questionable judgment when he recklessly fired his gun through a home’s sliding glass door to gain entry for what was determined to be a misdemeanor.
Greg Tony completely fabricated his having held the rank of “commander” at Coral Springs. A Coral Springs response to a Public Records request revealed that untruthfulness.
Greg Tony appears to have fabricated his status as an Adjunct Criminal Justice Professor at Strayer and Phoenix universities, as a request for records to those institutions shows he IS NOT an Adjunct Criminal Justice Professor.
Greg Tony completely fabricated claims to have been the creator of policies at the Coral Springs Police Department that lead to 14 additional lives being saved at MSD. A response from Coral Springs to a Public Records request advised that Greg Tony had no involvement with any policies that were implemented during the MSD tragedy.
Greg Tony had only 10 years and 10 months law enforcement experience when he was appointed Sheriff; not the 15 years he stated he had on the Jim Defede show. (And 2 full years were in a probationary status; one year as a brand new officer, and one year as a brand new sergeant).
Sheriff Greg Tony has been summarily firing law enforcement Deputies without due process and in violation of Florida Law. Sheriff Greg Tony is intent on firing employees who have been “EXONERATED” of administrative charges; which is subject of a pending Unfair Labor Practice being decided by the Public Employees Relations Commission.
Sheriff Greg Toney’s claims of promoting over 400 people since taking office is false. More than half of the claimed “promotees” are cadet graduates of a Police, Fire or Corrections Academy. THOSE ARE NOT “PROMOTIONS.”
Sheriff Greg Tony’s “ground breaking” ceremony for a new Training Facility is another smoke and mirrors deployment. As of today, no permits to build the building have been pulled, and the company that actually will construct the building has not even been selected yet. (We are still at least 2 years away from having the facility proposed by Sheriff Tony’s predecessor, but we’ve already had a “ground breaking” ceremony to advance a political agenda).
Sheriff Greg Tony has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars for flyers (and postage) to Broward Voters. Sheriff Greg Tony has forced Deputies to choose between asserting their Constitutional rights or keeping their job during criminal cases.
Sheriff Greg Tony disrespected a fallen Deputy and himself by berating funeral attendees to say “Good Morning” to HIM more loudly than the mourners did when he first greeted them. Sheriff Greg Tony disregards our Collective Bargaining Agreement to suit his political objectives.
Sheriff Greg Toney grabbed his crotch while dancing in uniform in a public gathering that would have resulted in charges of “conduct unbecoming” had any Deputy conducted himself of herself that way in public.
Sheriff Greg Tony has made it clear he is willing to violate state law if anyone speaks out against him.
Your Union leadership has listened to your concerns and has agreed to your demands for a vote of NO-CONFIDENCE. Sheriff Greg Tony has earned a vote of NO-CONFIDENCE from the membership for placing politics over safety and integrity, and we encourage each and every one of you to consider what your own experience has been under Greg Tony’s “leadership.” Please make sure to speak with your co-workers and let them know to check their home email address that was provided to the Union for your ballot. If the survey is not in your in box, please check your junk / spam folder. Individual security settings on your computer may send the survey into those folders. If you have not provided your email to the Union, you may do so by sending it to Fvoudy@iupa.org and we will add it to the list. The No-Confidence ballot will be sent out on 4/14/20 and will remain open through Monday 4/20/2020 at 2pm. The results will be announced later that day.
Investigation into Davie police chief underway
Meanwhile, in Davie another investigation is underway — this one looking into the alleged comments of police chief Dale Engle.
Several Davie Police Department employees had raised concerns about protections from COVID-19, and in response, they claim Engle berated them in a back parking lot. They allege the chief presented a backstory “which proclaimed that Deputy [Shannon] Bennett contracted and died from the virus because he was a ‘homosexual who attended homosexual [sexual] events.”
Bennett was the BSO deputy who died earlier this month from complications of COVID-19.
The town says that Engle has been placed on administrative leave until the investigation by an outside group is complete.
Bennett’s fiancé issued a statement that reads: “The Chief’s alleged comments are completely false, homophobic, and slanderous. I look forward to the fair and impartial investigation initiated by the Town Manager, and I hope that appropriate action will be taken at its conclusion.”