NEAR FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (WSVN) – The Broward Sheriff’s Office has suspended the president of the Broward Sheriff’s Deputy Association with pay, according to an internal affairs memo, days after he wrote a letter in a newspaper criticizing the Broward Sheriff’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
In a memo sent out on Friday, the law enforcement agency notified Jeff Bell of his suspension.
“This is a shameful suspension,” Eric Schwartzreich, Bell’s attorney, said. “It is union-busting. It is his right to speak up on behalf of these deputies, and to suspend him for that is illegal, shameful and reprehensible.”
According to the memo, the department suspended Bell due to allegations of:
On Monday, Bell wrote a letter that was published in the SunSentinel that criticized Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony’s response to COVID-19 within the department.
“For any rogue employee to come off and present these comments that we have failed this community and failed the men and women that we are leading is despicable,” Tony said on Tuesday.
“Well, he’s only referring to me in his press conference, so you would have to insinuate that would have to be me, as well,” Bell said Tuesday regarding Tony’s comments. “I have emails as recent as [Monday] night and [Tuesday] morning from sergeants telling me, ‘Jeff, I still only have three PPE kits per sergeant’s vehicle, and if a deputy needs a PPE kit, they must call the sergeant, and we have to respond to the location of the call.’”
Soon after, the sheriff promised to spare no expense in the fight against the virus.
“We will not come up short and penny pinch during a time of crisis,” Tony said.
As of Friday, 59 employees within BSO have tested positive for COVID-19, while 226 are not working and being monitored for the virus.
So far, 284 BSO employees have recovered and returned to work.
Deputies also received additional PPE, including thousands of gloves, masks and other items, Friday morning.
“There has been some comments made about whether or not we’re prepared from the union president, but when you look collectively at what we’ve been able to disperse, I talked the other day that we had already pushed out 25,000 high-quality N95 masks in conjunction with roughly 45,000 surgical masks,” Tony said.
Several hours after the Friday morning distribution, the letter suspending Bell came out.
Schwartzreich said he is looking at any applicable state and federal laws because a suit could be forthcoming.
The memo also stated Bell cannot discuss the internal affairs investigation except with his attorney and the investigator assigned to the case.
A BSO spokesperson said Tony will not be commenting on the internal affairs investigation.