We're interviewing candidates in the race for Broward County Sheriff. So far, that means Scott Israel, this guy, and incumbent Sheriff Al Lamberti (who has not accepted an interview request).
He suggested a meeting at Lester's Diner on State Road 84. We approve.
Granteed orders unsweetened iced tea.
So, what's the biggest problem with the BSO today?
Let's talk about what I bring that is different. I have 30 years of public safety service here in Broward County [all of them with the Hollywood Police Department] and a record and history of strong leadership.
That's almost exactly what Scott Israel told us about himself. What sets you apart, specifically?
Thirty years of leadership in a major metropolitan police organization, experience in administration, operations, budgetary issues, union relations, government, and community involvement.
But Al Lamberti was with the BSO for 30 years before becoming sheriff. So what needs to change?
Being the Broward sheriff is a very critical position in Broward County. You're responsible for over 700 million taxpayer dollars and over 6,000 employees. We need a strong leader [Prediction: You're going to hear "leadership" talked about a lot in this race] with a strong voice. Someone to lead the agency into a brighter future. In addition, the community has to have faith in the sheriff to ensure that the taxpayer dollars are being managed on a daily basis in a highly responsible and ethical way.
The BSO, as you mentioned, is a sprawling, bureaucratic office. Do you see the sheriff as more of a law enforcement position, in line with your experience, or more about management?
The sheriff has a contractual obligation to several cities in Broward County and also has a public safety responsibility to work in partnership with chiefs of police. Starting as a community service officer at 18, becoming a police officer at 19, and working up through the ranks has given me a wide range of experience I can put into effect as the sheriff. I have personal drive and a solid understanding of responsibilities in the agency.
How about union relations? You've seen some disagreements involving the Hollywood force.
As a police administrator, I always want to have excellent working relations with the bargaining units. I believe in collective bargaining, and I believe in honoring it. If you tell them you're going to do it, then honor it.
There's talk of unhappiness within the BSO these days. You're a connected guy. What are you hearing?
One of the issues is: I'm not there, and neither are you. But I do hear from conversations I have around Broward County that it's time for a change [again, almost exactly what Israel said].
I've read it. I have not been personally involved.
Will you touch on those issues in your campaign?
I'm going to be running on my record. I'm not looking to tear down the BSO. As an incoming sheriff, there's a lot of issues there that create concern and obviously have to be looked into. Anytime there's an allegation of corruption, it creates an immediate concern for the head of a police organization.
Obviously somebody spent a significant amount of time putting the book together, even though it's officially anonymous. In law enforcement, when somebody does something good, we all look good. But if they do something bad, we look bad. Once something comes to light, the important part becomes how you handle and deal with it.
A risky but possibly necessary area seems to be fundraising by hobnobbing with wealthy and powerful folks. Is gladhanding just a part of becoming sheriff?
Right now, I'm the number-one fundraiser in the primary election. I've raised $120,000. I have the most grassroots contributions of anybody in the race. I've raised four times the money [of Israel] in half the time. Over 325 of my donors gave $100 or less.
Who are those people, by and large?
There's a wide range. I've been in Broward County for 35 years.
You've been described as garnering support from important "Democratic condos." Is that an important base for you?
In order to win the Democratic primary, you need Democratic voters. I have many Democratic friends, many Republican friends, many independent friends. Even though it is a partisan race, the sheriff serves everybody.
Should it be a partisan race?
Everyone seems to agree on that, actually. Lamberti has said publicly that it should be a nonpartisan office, though he won with heavy Republican support. So why doesn't anyone move to change it?
[At this point, Granteed asks to go off the record and proceeds to engage us in a frank, savvy, good-humored discussion. Unfortunately, he won't let us print any of it. When we go back on the record, his answers are once again very measured.]
What's been tough for you as a first-time candidate?
You know politics can be dirty. One issue that is most disheartening is the personal attacks people make against you, which are total lies. I'm not a mudslinger.
When four Hollywood cops, including your close acquaintance Kevin Companion, were caught in an FBI sting for trying to do business with the Mob, our own Bob Norman suggested that you had been the one who leaked news of the investigation within the department, to cut it off prematurely.
I had no involvement, no knowledge. I never leaked information. I've been at the Hollywood Police Department my entire adult life. It's an outstanding police organization that does outstanding work, but some times people do bad things.
Wow, we need to let that sink in. You became an officer at 19 and have in fact been in one department your entire adult life. Not sure if that's a positive or a negative.
I remain steadfast through good times and bad times. I know the impact on an agency and the community when something bad does happen.
You and Companion were also accused of sexually harassing a female officer in the 1990s. You specifically were accused of entering her garage without being invited. Was there endemic friction between the sexes in the department, as one might imagine?
There was no friction. We had an officer [the woman] at 5 in the morning that was AWOL, and we could not raise her on the radio. We called her place; no answer. We had a great concern for her safety and had the entire city searching for her. We went to check her residence, knocked on the door; no answer. Once we knew she was there and safe, that was the extent of my involvement.
I have never in my life sexually harassed or discriminated against anyone. I am a very strong advocate for women in policing. As far as Companion [accused of more overt harassment], I had no idea what he was doing.
What's your view of the sheriff as a public face of the office? Would you engage with the public and the media over sensitive issues?
In an organization of that size, you have a lot of things going on every day. With a lot of things, it would probably be important for the sheriff to be the one discussing them with the media.
Sheriff Lamberti holds "coffee with the sheriff" events --
You think it's just a tactic to campaign from his office?
That's for the public to decide.
So would you schedule public events with coffee and bagels, as Lamberti has done?
Well, I don't drink coffee, and I rarely eat bagels [he is, however, on his second large iced tea]. But I'll be at as many informal community events or functions as I possibly can. People should come to the sheriff's office and see that it's more open instead of meeting the sheriff at a Publix.
Speaking of allegations of self-promotion by the sheriff... If given a new contract for Police Women of Broward County, would you sign it?
No. Tourism is a major economic engine in Broward County. There are so many great things going on here every day, one of the last perceptions we want to give people around the country is that we have street-level drugs, criminal activity, and prostitution. I think it creates the wrong image for Broward County.
No, I don't think so.
[We fill him in on the basics.] Do you agree with the way that was handled, with a two-week investigation and polygraph tests after the car dealer decided to press charges?
If they called, you have an obligation to follow every investigative lead to solve the case. Would I have done it in that case? Probably. Would I do it for you? Yeah.
This interview has been condensed slightly.
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