T-Shirt Attack: Can BSO Fire a Guy Who Backs the Wrong Candidate? It Seems Yes
Scott Israel's November win in the Broward County Sheriff's race will probably mean a big shakeup at the area's largest law enforcement agency. But it's a labor dispute time-stamped from the sheriff-elect's failed 2008 campaign for Al Lamberti's job that might change daily business at departments across Florida.
Jeffrey Stanley spent six years as a jailer for BSO until 2007, when he resigned for another gig. But that job didn't pan out, so he re-applied for his former position. In September 2008, it seemed everything was locked in.
But it was a rocky time at BSO. Not only were Israel and Lamberti facing off for the top job, but the department was also embroiled in contract negotiations with the Federation of Public Employees.
That fall, Stanley picketed in support of the union and also showed up at a candidate debate sporting a "Cops for Israel" T-shirt. Big mistake.
Soon he received a phone call from a BSO lieutenant saying his rehire was dead. The Lamberti camp had spotted a photo of him in the offending shirt.
Stanley subsequently complained to the Public Employee Relations Commission, which found in his favor. BSO appealed, alleging he hadn't been fired for union activity — the problem was political.
Surprisingly, the appeals court swallowed that excuse in November 2010, siding with BSO. "Back in the '90s, the 11th Circuit held that under an Alabama statute, it was legal for sheriffs to get rid of deputies who didn't support them politically," explains William Amlong, Stanley's attorney. "It doesn't make any sense."
Amlong recently filed a new suit in federal court arguing Lamberti violated his client's First Amendment rights. A pro-Stanley ruling could change how Florida's sheriffs hire and fire.
Ironically, Israel, who takes office January 8, declined to comment. BSO also refused to speak on the case.
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