By Dan Christensen, FloridaBulldog.org
Gov. Ron DeSantis’ office didn’t ask the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to conduct a background check on Gregory Tony until the day before DeSantis announced that Tony was his choice to be Broward’s next sheriff, according to state records obtained by Florida Bulldog.
The result: a cursory inquiry by the FDLE’s Office of Executive Investigations that failed to find out that Tony had killed a man when he was a teenager living in a poor, urban neighborhood in Philadelphia, or that he’d once been rejected for a police job after admitting he had used LSD.
In fact, the FDLE’s one-page report to the governor fails to meet even the state’s most basic standards for screening job candidates.
The governor’s decision to install Tony as Broward sheriff appears to have been so rushed that his office did not even have Tony fill out an “Appointments Questionnaire” that’s routinely provided those seeking gubernatorial appointments.
Among the seven-page form’s questions: “Have you ever been arrested, charged or indicted for violation of any federal, state, county or municipal law, regulation or ordinance?” Tony answered no to that question on a number of other forms, sometimes under oath, until admitting to it in response to questions from Florida Bulldog on May 2.
Instead, Tony submitted two items: a six-page resume touting his educational and professional achievements and a one page biography. “Grew up in the crime-ridden street of Philadelphia’s inner city. As a young teenager Greg had dreams and aspirations of being a police officer. When drugs and violent crime were consuming the majority of his peers, Greg took to sports to find an escape,” his bio began.
While it took FDLE a day to do its background check on Tony, it took the governor’s office a full month before it released that lone page late Friday in response to a public records request by Florida Bulldog. A half-hour later, FDLE coughed up the same report, plus five more pages about the matter.
Request for background inquiry
DeSantis was sworn in as governor on Jan. 3, 2019. The records show that on Jan. 10 a member of his transition team, Makenzi Mahler, submitted a request for a background inquiry.
During his campaign, DeSantis promised to remove and replace Broward Sheriff Scott Israel. He suspended Israel on Jan. 11 for “neglect of duty and incompetence” for mishandling the police responses to the February 2018 slaughter at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and the January 2017 mass shooting at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.
Tony was sworn in on Jan. 11, 2019, that same day, as Broward’s first black sheriff. He was recommended by Andrew Pollack, the father of slain Parkland student Meadow Pollack, who’d met and become friendly with Tony while working out at a Coral Springs gym.
The FDLE’s response, which handwritten notes indicate was delivered to the governor’s office also on Jan. 11 just hours before Tony’s swearing in, was written by analyst Getavius Zachary, and approved by crime intelligence analyst supervisor Kelly Kimsey.
The report informed the governor that Tony had no criminal record with either the Florida Crime Information Center or the National Crime Information Center databases, and had never been arrested by or been a subject of an investigation by the FDLE. The Florida’s Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles reported Tony had one prior traffic infraction.
A search of court records turned up information that in January 2000, while a college student in Tallahassee, Tony was charged in Leon County with a misdemeanor for “fraud-insufficient funds” for writing a bad check for under $150. The case was dropped two years later. Broward Court records showed that Hollywood’s Memorial Hospital filed a $107,000 medical lien against Tony in 2009, but had released the claim in January 2011.
Employment history not checked
Tony does not appear to have been asked questions about his employment history, or where he sought work.
The Sun-Sentinel reported May 19 that the Tallahassee Police Department had rejected Tony in 2004 after Tony admitted he had once used the hallucinogen LSD. Tony wasn’t arrested, but the department denied him, saying it had “zero tolerance for felony drug use.” The FDLE report, however, does not mention this incident.
There is no indication that FDLE investigators attempted to check out Tony’s employment history, notably the Coral Springs Police Department where Tony became a police officer in 2005 and rose to the rank of sergeant before resigning amid tensions with superiors in October 2016.
Likewise, the report does not address the approximately two-year period before Tony became sheriff and when he was out of law enforcement and working at North American Rescue, a South Carolina “casualty care” company, and at his own firm, Blue Spear Solutions, in Broward County.
In his resume, Tony discussed his work for Blue Spear but made no mention of North American Rescue.
Florida law provides for two types of employment background checks, Level 1 and Level 2.
Level 1 includes “but need not be limited to” employment history, statewide criminal checks and a search of the Dru Sjodin National Sex Offender Public Website, “and may include local criminal records checks through local law enforcement agencies.” Level 2, the standard used for investigating police chiefs, includes using fingerprinting for federal and state criminal history checks.
Tony, who was to become boss of one of the nation’s largest local law- enforcement agencies, would appear to have warranted a Level 2 check. The FDLE report and accompanying documents, however, make no mention of Tony’s fingerprints.
Among the documents released by the FDLE was a “Consent to Background Screening” signed by Tony on Jan. 10, 2019, the day before he was sworn in. Tony signed the form personally before a notary in St. Johns County.