Sen. Tom Lee of Thonotosassa is a Republican. Sen. Darryl Rouson of St. Petersburg is a Democrat. Lee voted this week with most of the Senate Democrats against removing from office former Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel. Rouson voted with Republicans to remove the sheriff. While they reached different conclusions, both senators made independent decisions without regard to partisan politics -- which should happen more often in Tallahassee.
Gov. Ron DeSantis suspended Israel in January, accusing him of neglect of duty and incompetence stemming from the 2018 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, which killed 17 students and staff. The Republican-led Senate voted to remove the sheriff as the governor wanted in a 25-15 vote largely along party lines.
Lee and Rouson were among the handful of exceptions. “Mr. Israel is an unpopular figure," conceeded Lee, who also was concerned about setting a bad precedent for other sheriffs. “But none of that changes the due process he’s entitled to.” Rouson voted to remove Israel over a range of concerns about the sheriff’s policies, training and equipment. “Our job,” Rouson said, “is to arrive at our own conclusion based on all the evidence which exists...”
The two Tampa Bay senators spoke early in the debate and made coherent arguments for their positions. They followed the courage of their convictions, even if they reached different conclusions. Imagine what could happen if such independent thinking occurred more often in the Florida Legislature.
Editorials are the institutional voice of the Tampa Bay Times. The members of the Editorial Board are Times Chairman and CEO Paul Tash, Editor of Editorials Tim Nickens, and editorial writers Elizabeth Djinis, John Hill and Jim Verhulst. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinion news