As former Broward Sheriff Scott Israel steeled himself for his court battle to try to return to one of the most powerful offices in South Florida, he went to a place he's always relied on for political support: a black church.
This time it was Ark Restoration Church in Sunrise, where Pastor Allen B. Jackson invited Israel and his wife Susan up on the pulpit during the Sunday sermon on March 17. Jackson posted a photograph on Facebook later that day, showing Broward's former first couple with him during the sermon, with the ousted sheriff looking rather grim in the background.
"We are praying for his return to office," Jackson wrote. "My friend, my brother and my Sheriff!"
Broward Circuit Judge David Haimes could decide as soon as today whether a lawsuit Israel filed against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to be reinstated as sheriff can go forward. Desantis removed Israel from office in January for incompetence and neglect of duty related to BSO's disastrous response to the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. If the lawsuit fails, Israel is still entitled to a hearing in the Florida Senate. Regardless of the outcome, Israel has said he plans to run again for sheriff in 2020.
And now Pastor Jackson seems to be one of the few community leaders left who are supporting Israel. But what he didn't bother to tell his congregation or his Facebook friends is that he has a very strong financial reason — $36,000 a year in taxpayers' money to be exact — to praise the former sheriff and hope for his "brother" to return to office.
That's the amount of money paid to him annually in a questionable BSO contract Israel inked with a company formed by Jackson in late 2016 for consulting work — a contract that wasn't renewed in January, the same month DeSantis replaced Israel with current Sheriff Gregory Tony.
Jackson formed a company called Triune Consulting in November 2016 and the contract was signed a month later. What exactly the pastor did for the money isn't clear and Jackson refused to address questions about it. The contract dictated that Jackson provide "advice and counsel to the sheriff... on matters related to community involvement, crime prevention, and crisis intervention."
Interestingly, Jackson had been a vocal critic of Israel and BSO's handling of matters in the black community, including the controversial shooting of black resident Jeremy McBean, prior to obtaining the contract. Jackson, who is black, had also complained, prior to obtaining the contract, that Israel was using BSO money to pay other black pastors in the county to buy political support.
Former BSO Col. Alvin Pollock, who was working in Israel's command staff at the time the contract was signed, called the financial arrangement between BSO and Jackson "disgusting," likening it to "hush money."
"It's wrong and it's unethical," said Pollock, who is also black. "...That contract should have never happened."
Pollock, who is running for sheriff in 2020, alleges that Israel engaged in a pattern of paying black pastors in return for goodwill in the community. Records show Israel had at least three other black pastors on the BSO payroll — including chaplain Nathaniel Knowles and associate chaplains John Mohorn and Israel Francois — with salaries totaling about $250,000. All were given BSO vehicles to drive as well.
"[Israel] had one strategy, and that was to keep them quiet so they didn't criticize him," said Pollock. "That's all he was interested in, was the vote. He wasn't interested in employees, wasn't interested in crime, just the vote."
Pollock noted that Israel already had a vast community affairs team at BSO — which was full of politically based hires and also dismantled by the new sheriff — making Jackson's deal even more curious. Jackson refused to answer questions about the nature of the now-defunct contract.
"I don't understand why you feel the need to do a story about a contract that no longer exists," Jackson wrote in a text. "Are you going to do a story on every company that has or has had a contract with BSO?... I do not wish to speak with you about this."
Israel, who is opposed by family members of all 17 people killed in the Parkland shooting, hasn't yet responded to a phone message this morning seeking comment.
Correction: This story has been corrected to reflect that the Broward Circuit Judge's name is David Haimes.