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Sheriff Tony v ex-Sheriff Israel’s top brass in Broward court fight over unused sick time

unused sick time
unused sick time
Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony, left, and Davie Police Chief Stephen Kinsey are on opposite sides in a lawsuit in Broward Circuit Court.

By Dan Christensen, FloridaBulldog.org

In a little-noticed state court battle, Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony is defending himself against several of his predecessor’s top brass. Tony has the advantage of using taxpayers’ dollars to defend his decision-making. So far, he’s losing.

Opposing Tony are Stephen Kinsey, former undersheriff to Sheriff Scott Israel and today chief of police in Davie, former Colonels John “Jack” Dale and James Polan and, in a separate civil case, ex-Major Chadwick Wagner.

The former BSO command staffers say Tony welched on promises made by Israel that BSO would pay them their earned, accrued and unused sick time leave when they resigned or retired days before Gov. Ron DeSantis removed Israel and replaced him with Tony on Jan. 11, 2019. Tony contends he has no obligation to honor any promises made by Israel “or any other man on this earth.”

“It comes down to (the discretion) of the sheriff. Not the previous sheriff, not the sheriff who made promises to people six years ago or on their way out the door,” Tony said in a Dec. 17 video-taped deposition.

Tony is scheduled to take the oath of office to continue as sheriff on Tuesday, Jan. 5.

Tony loses Round 1

In Wagner’s case, Broward Circuit Judge Keathan Frink disagreed with Tony’s assessment of his authority. Frink ruled in late July that Tony lacked the discretion to decline Wagner’s sick leave payout. The judge ordered BSO to pay Wagner, a former Hollywood police chief who joined BSO in 2013, $35,505 payout for unused sick time acquired over the course of his employment.

Chadwick Wagner

BSO, represented by the sheriff’s longtime labor attorney Carmen Rodriguez, quickly appealed to West Palm Beach’s Fourth District Court of Appeal. In her initial brief filed in November, Rodriguez argued that Frink erred, and that Tony does have the discretion to decline to pay Wagner’s unused sick time.

Further, Rodriguez noted that Tony approved a payment to Wagner “in excess of $53,000 for 774 hours of accrued annual leave,” an amount that “far exceeded the available payout of a maximum of up to 320 hours of annual leave” as provided for in the Sheriff’s Policy Manual. Because of that large discretionary payout, to which Wagner did not object, Tony decided Wagner “should not receive an additional payout” for unused sick time.

The appellate court has yet to rule.

The case of Kinsey, Dale and Polan, who like Wagner are represented by Fort Lauderdale attorney Tonja Haddad Coleman, makes parallel arguments to those of Wagner. Today, however, it is at a temporary crossroads because at his Dec. 17 deposition Sheriff Tony would not answer when asked if he’d ever been a defendant in a criminal case.

So four days before Christmas, Coleman asked Judge Michele Towbin Singer to order Tony to answer such questions. The judge will hear arguments on Coleman’s motion to compel at a Zoom hearing on Jan. 20.

Unanswered question

When asked the question, attorney Rodriguez immediately objected and Tony said, “What’s the – yeah. I’m trying to figure out the relevance behind the questions.”

Rodriguez, asserting that “this line of question is in bad faith,”  went on to note that she is not a “criminal attorney. And I will not allow the sheriff to testify as to any matters without the proper representation of counsel as it relates to any criminal issue because I’m not the correct attorney to represent him in these proceedings.”

Coleman explained at the deposition that such questions are relevant because “the sole basis of your defense in this case – being BSO’s defense, not your personally obviously – is Sheriff Tony’s discretion” when he denied the payments.

“Sheriff Tony has therefore, put his personal thoughts and decision-making (his ‘discretion’) directly at issue in this mater, delegating him as the sole decision-maker,” Coleman told the judge in her motion to compel.

Questions about Tony’s criminal history initially arose last May after Florida Bulldog first reported that when Tony was 14 years old and living in a crime-ridden Philadelphia neighborhood he shot and killed a young man. Tony has said he killed in self-defense, an account disputed by the dead man’s girlfriend. Tony was acquitted a year later, 1994, in Philadelphia’s juvenile court. All records in the case are sealed.

During last year’s election campaign, copies of two Philadelphia docket sheets emerged that purport to show that as a juvenile in 1992 and 1994 Tony was twice placed on adult probation. The docket sheets, however, do not state the charges against Tony or their disposition.

Losers sue

A trio of lawsuits filed against Tony by a half-dozen losing candidates, Democrats, Republicans and an independent, used those docket sheets and other information to contend that Tony is a convicted felon who is ineligible to hold office in Florida under the state Constitution.

The first of those suits was voluntarily withdrawn by the plaintiffs on Dec. 17. Two other cases, filed by former Sheriff Israel – who lost to Tony in the August Democratic primary – and Republican H. Wayne Clark, remain pending.

In addition to Tony, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement was named as a defendant and the plaintiffs sought to obtain FDLE records that might cast more light on Tony’s criminal history. In a surprise development on Nov. 24, FDLE Inspector Keith Riddick filed a sworn affidavit in which he publicly acknowledged for the first time that his department was investigating Tony for making a false declaration under oath in January 2020 and was also attempting to determine if the sheriff has lied to cover up that he’s a convicted felon.

“FDLE currently has an open and active investigation into the allegations that Gregory Tony may have falsified required affidavits associated with his sworn law enforcement officer status and/or falsified official law enforcement employment applications,” Riddick wrote. “The status of FDLE’s investigation into Gregory Tony remains ongoing as to Plaintiff’s allegations as well as other undisclosed matters that will remain confidential.”

Riddick went on the state that subpoenas issued by the Broward State Attorney’s Office were served on various Pennsylvania law enforcement agencies as long ago as May 11, but that no responses had been received as of the date he filed his affidavit in November.

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Latest comments

  • Is the fact that Temporary Tony hasn’t yet been sworn in weighing on the timing of FDLE’s decision
    in their investigation? If removed prior to being sworn in, would that allow the 2nd place candidate in the Democratic primary to be sworn in? If the investigation reaches a conclusion after he is sworn in, does that just offer the governor the chance to pick again???

  • I find it interesting that Jack Dale is fighting for unused sick leave. I retired as a Captain in September 2016. At the time, I was told by one of the other litigants mentioned that I would be paid all of my unused sick leave. That has been customary for Captains and above at retirement. In addition, it was traditional to pay the medical insurance premiums for retiring captains and above until Medicare eligibility.

    This should all be public record BTW.

    At retirement, Jack Dale advised me that I would receive only the unused sick leave payout afforded bargaining unit employees and no offer of medical coverage. I believe his quote was something like, “These payouts are getting out of control and we have to draw a line in the sand. It starts with you.”

    Funny how things change Jack when the shoe is on the other foot.

    I’ve also heard that Sheriff Tony has given full sick leave payouts and medical to those retiring since he took office….also public record.

  • Why Sheriff Greg Tony should Justify no payouts

    Moral and ethical integrity is the cornerstone to proven and successful leadership.
    Recently, three former high-ranking members of the Broward County Sheriff’s Office decided to take legal action against current Sheriff Greg Tony for unpaid sick leave payouts upon their resignations. Steve Kinsey, John Dale, and James Polan, all served as top commanders under the failed leadership of Sheriff Scott Israel. Should this issue be litigated in the courts, or should the current sheriff have the authority to decide whether these three commanders, who failed their community, have the right to what can be construed as a bonus for a job well done?

    Under Sheriff Scott Israel, Broward County experienced one of the worst mass shootings this country has ever seen. 17 people, 14 school children were killed at MSD High School on February 14, 2018. Almost immediately after the shooting, the most egregious failures by the Broward County Sheriff’s Office emerged. From BSO’S negligence in their response, its fruitless policies, and most of all the pervasive incompetence by Scott Israel, and his top three commanders (Kinsey, Polan, Dale). It has been almost three years since that horrific and tragic day, neither Scott Israel nor any of his commanders have taken any responsibility for this tragedy. What makes this so appalling is, when Scott Israel or his disgraced commanders are questioned about their failures, they have the effrontery to complain they were politically persecuted. And now Kinsey, Dale, and Polan, who failed their community, believe they’re entitled to a departing bonus. Can you imagine, if the CEO of an airline, after a major catastrophic event, where people died because of human error, demanded that he or she deserves a bonus at the end of the year? Because they boast that 85% of their planes take-off and land safely? There would be national and international condemnation, and the FAA would probably ground that company’s aircraft. In the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, under the leadership of Scott Israel, and his top three commanders, the efficacy of their performance took a back seat to a politically oriented institution created by Scott Israel. As a result, innocent people died. Now, these three disgraced commanders are trying to satisfy their own perfidious ambitions with monetary gain. Not only should Sheriff Greg Tony, who has the discretion, not give them their payout, but the media should excoriate these three for their aberrant demands. It seems as though the only one holding anyone accountable for this horrific tragedy is Governor De Santis. When he used the law to remove Scott Israel from office, and Kinsey, Dale, and Polan resigned in protest.

    Dwight D. Eisenhower once said, “a people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both.” However, what’s worse is the effect on the organization where the recovery can be insurmountable. In the case of the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, Scott Israel and his three top commanders left behind them a moral and ethical scandal where the once preeminent organization pays the price like a typical iceberg-the true cost lies hidden below the waterline. Three years since the MSD shooting and the reverberations continue to bedevil BSO’s reputation. Therefore, Kinsey, Dale, and Polan should not be entitled to a payout at the Broward County taxpayer’s expense.

    Russell J. Di Perna
    Former Executive Officer BSO
    Retired NYPD

  • Broward County residents suffer every day Tony is Sheriff. Desantis needs to admit his mistake and remove Tony. Tony changed his name after his arrests and evaded the rushed level 1 background check ordered by Desantis. Every employee fired under Tony should file a lawsuit together against Tony, BSO and Desantis.

  • For those of you that don’t know Russ Diperna was fired from BSO under Sheriff Lamberti for falsifying a burglary report
    and degrading the female victim of the burglary case. Prior to BSO, Russ was an NYPD officer who left for unknown reasons. Russ also lied about being an NYPD hero during the 911 tragedy when he was actually in Florida at the time. The Broward State Attorneys investigation revealed Russ was protecting the career criminal suspect in the burglary case because the victim was a stripper. Russ also stood by while his boss Sheriff Israel pandered to wealthy political Democrats and hired dozens of them at “do nothing” BSO jobs (just like his) for huge salaries at tax payer expense! Thankfully Scott Israel had to fire him for poor leadership and serious mis- management! Ever since then Russ has been complaining about Israel only AFTER he was fired. After bashing Lamberti and Israel after they left, Russ asked Sheriff Tony for a job and really got angry when Sheriff Tony told him to pack his things and turn in his BSO star, free gas card , and keys to the huge office Israel gave him to watch TV , and hide from the crime ridden streets . All hat , no cattle !

  • On April 18 2013, Sun Sentinel reporter Britanny Walman , reported the disgraceful actions of the twice terminated BSO deputy Russ Diperna, which resulted in a Witness Tampering investigation against him by ASA Catherine Maus. Diperna slandered the victim, protected the career criminal Anthony Spinella from the felony of burglary and even told Spinellas family that he would testify against the victim! Eventually Diperna was determined by a 12 member panel that Russ was unfit to serve as a deputy and he was terminated by Sheriff Lamberti. Russ then resurfaces as a hyperbolic con artist publicly slandering Sheriff Lamberti to make favor with the candidate Scott Israel . After the election , Scott gave Diperna a cushy no show job at BSO . Diperna praised Israels handling of the agency but then attacked him after he had to fire Russ , when Diperna failed to meet basic standards for a member of the Sheriffs staff and began backstabbing the Sheriff to Alvin Pollock who Diperna assumed would be the next Sheriff! Sadly, Russ comically considers himself an expert in all fields of police administration and attacks Israel now , but kept SILENT when it suited his needs. Instead of moving on with his life , Russ spends weeks writing on police blogs praising himself anonymously. Now watch for the angry response to this post by Russ under a fake name. Pathetic.

  • To the person who wrote the last two posts. Is there anything you would like to say in regards to Kinsey, Dale, and Polan, the former BSO commanders who are suing for unpaid sick leave. Or, anything in defense of Scott Israel? Because the previous post, from Fred Wood, and Di Perna, definitely made the case for no sick leave payouts.

  • No….because…Nobody cares Russ I mean Joe retired. I think your need to babble on in that rambling post is indicative of a narcissistic personality . Lmao , as if your former fake title means anything . We don’t need to hear from a stolen valor warrior and empty suit about sick leave payouts . Go back to telling civilians what a hero you are .

  • How is Tony still in office after it’s been proven he lied on his recent FDLE application AND former police applications? When will we find out the other “confidential” investigations FDLE stated they are working on him? His Florida Law Enforcement Certification should of been revoked long ago.

  • Yes good question! Unless Tony is indicted for deliberately falsifying a Sworn AFFIDAVIT several times for police jobs, including Broward County Sheriff , he will be setting legal precedent that it is NOT illegal anymore to commit an illegal offense. Let’s call it the Tony Rule . Tony used double speak and twisted himself into a pretzel trying to explain why he was NOT required to report being arrested for murder, because someone told him technically it NEVER happened. So Greg Toney, with his superior intellect, decided he was not really breaking any law , despite the fact that he was . Thankfully we eventually found out about what really happened in 1993 Philadelphia from reporter’s about about his scam. Now he is a hoax sheriff making decisions about sick leave payouts to officers who actually never killed a friend in anger and answered honestly on their job applications ?

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