I’d hoped that the last time I’d have to talk about Scott Israel was last year.
I’d hoped that not because I harbor any sort of especial antipathy toward the former Broward County, Florida, sheriff on my own behalf (I do, but this is beside the point), but because I don’t think the students of Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, need to hear anyone talk about him anymore.
Israel was the sheriff during the Parkland shooting, and an investigation showed he presided over a poorly trained, overwhelmed and ineffective force that could have saved lives that day and didn’t.
He talked up his performance in a bizarre appearance on CNN and gave testimony before the commission investigating the shooting that was damning — and that’s not even counting the parts where he was evasive or flat-out wrong.
When Ron DeSantis was sworn in as Florida’s governor in January 2019, one of the first things he did was fire Israel and replace him with Gregory Tony. According to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Tony had a background in active shooter training and, somewhat more important, wasn’t Scott Israel.
Alas, Israel’s name and visage aren’t just going to be revisited when cable news airs retrospectives to remember those lives lost in Parkland. Rather, Israel is running for his old job, trying to displace Tony.
And, it turns out, he’s getting some financial help from an, um, unusual place.
As reported by The Floridian and confirmed by the Florida Division of Elections website, Israel’s PAC, the Committee for a Stronger Broward, was the recipient of a $50,000 donation from the wife of the owner of a chain of strip clubs — a chain that has a curious history with the law.
Julie Rodriguez is the wife of Joe Rodriguez. He’s the owner of Cheetah Gentlemen’s Clubs, a chain of establishments with locations in Hallandale Beach, Pompano Beach and West Palm Beach. At their Hallandale Beach location, they have a “Fine Cigar Selection,” “$100 Svedka Bottles during happy hour” and are clearly your location to watch live sports, since they have a young woman with a football helmet, pads and very little else on their front page.
In the Monday report, The Floridian noted that Cheetah “is a full-nude and friction/lap dancing adult nightclub chain.” Having better places to watch my football, I’ll take their word for it.
There are several problems with this that don’t just have to do with the appearance of a $50,000 donation from the wife of a strip club mogul — which, let’s face it, was very likely either prompted or paid for by him.
“The Pompano Beach location is within Broward Sheriff’s Office’s jurisdiction and happens to also be situated in one of the most crime-ridden neighborhoods of the county,” The Floridian reported.
“A simple internet search reveals the club has been associated with criminal activity and multiple arrests from the location. NBC reported back in 2009, Cheetah’s temporary closure due to several violations of the club’s licensure including multiple arrests after dancers attempted to sell drugs and sex to undercover officers with management’s knowledge. In confiscated surveillance videos, multiple sex acts were captured on film showing dancers acting as prostitutes in the club. “
There were also less-concerning incidents involving Broward Sheriff’s Office deputies.
In 2012, Deputy Erik Knutsen ended up losing his job when it turned out he had abandoned his post to spend time at a Cheetah location. WFOR-TV reported he would spend five to 10 hours there. Also in 2012, a suspended Broward deputy who was on house arrest cut off his ankle bracelet to visit the club.
While both of these were before Israel’s tenure, this might be $50,000 he doesn’t need, particularly given the appearance of the thing.
The sad thing is, Scott Israel has a decent chance of regaining his post.
As the Miami Herald noted, Tony isn’t universally popular with the police union and faces criticism over the rough arrest of a teenager in a McDonald’s parking lot last year.
Five other Democrats are in the primary, scheduled for Aug. 18. Israel, once a rising star within the ranks of the Democratic Party, could be the comeback kid.
The question is how much the strip club money hurts him. South Florida, unfortunately, has a thriving strip club industry with many of the local impresarios having achieved quasi-celebrity status. This might not bury him.
It’s a good hook, however, to remind us of who Scott Israel is.
He oversaw a Broward County with no unified 911 dispatch system, leading to chaos during the response to the Parkland shooting.
He changed the active shooter policy in the Broward Sheriff’s Office to say a deputy “may,” not “shall,” pursue a shooter.
When asked by the commission investigating the shooting what kind of active shooter training his deputies received, he said, “We put them through active killer training every three years. That’s totally sufficient. … We train well.” The report said some deputies couldn’t recall having gone through training in a decade or two.
And yet, this was the man talking himself up on every cable news network as if he ought to be celebrated — as if his leadership had prevented this from being worse.
Seventeen people were killed that day. If you think he’s changed, consider that Julie Rodriguez’s money remains in his coffers, even given the problematic nature of the Cheetah Gentlemen’s Club franchise.
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