Fort Lauderdale, FL – The Broward Sheriff’s Office (BSO) Deputies Association filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the sheriff on Monday for firing the labor union’s president so he wouldn’t have to deal with him anymore.
Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony fired BSO Deputy Jeffrey Bell on Jan. 27 and released a 200-page investigative report that alleged the union boss had violated numerous sheriff’s department policies, WPLG reported.
Deputy Bell’s relationship with Sheriff Tony had been adversarial for some time, but became caustic when the union president accused the new sheriff of failing to provide protective equipment for his deputies at the height of the pandemic.
The complaint which led to Deputy Bell’s dismissal claimed he had provided “false narratives to multiple media outlets that the agency failed to provide personal protective equipment to its employees,” according to WPLG.
Deputy Bell was also accused of showing a lack of discretion, conduct unbecoming, corrupt practices, and problems with truthfulness.
The 25-year BSO veteran filed a lawsuit against Sheriff Tony on Feb. 28 that alleged the sheriff violated his First Amendment rights when he fired him for speaking up on behalf of the union membership.
Interestingly, a week after Sheriff Tony publicly terminated Deputy Bell, a Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) investigation found that the sheriff had lied multiple times on his applications to police departments, including when he was appointed sheriff of Broward County.
FDLE investigators determined that Sheriff Tony lied multiple times on his application to the Coral Springs Police Department in 2005, WPLG reported.
He also lied on an affidavit to become sheriff of Broward County and, most recently, committed the felony of “false affidavit perjury” when he lied on a form to obtain a replacement driver’s license, according to the state investigative bureau.
But Sheriff Tony won’t be charged with any crimes for his lies because of the statutes of limitations in Florida have expired on most of his crimes, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reported.
“Although it appears that Tony knowingly and willfully [misled] public servants in the performance of their official duties by making false statements in writing on his official applications (regarding his traffic citation, drug use, and arrest history)… a criminal prosecution of these actions would be negated,” FDLE Agent Keith Riddick wrote in a memo.
Now-former Deputy Bell’s lawsuit highlighted the investigation into Sheriff Tony’s untruthfulness and alleged that the union boss had been fired for inspiring the investigations into the new sheriff’s job applications.
“Those lies related to an arrest for murder, a false statement on a driver’s license replacement application, ingesting LSD, and his traffic citation history,” the lawsuit read. “The Sheriff was not prosecuted for those offenses. A day or so before it was publicly disclosed that the Sheriff would not be prosecuted; the Sheriff terminated Jeffery Bell on January 27, 2022.”
“All of the reasons Bell was terminated were based upon the Sheriff’s determination, against the Sheriff’s own testimony, Bell lied about the issue of COVID and personal protective equipment. Bell also is being held responsible for inspiring the investigations into the Sheriff. The Sheriff, as a witness and the final arbiter of discipline, determined Bell, who holds the position of Union President should be terminated,” the lawsuit read.
The complaint said that Sheriff Tony fired Deputy Bell from the sheriff’s department because he knew that by doing so, he was also removing him as head of the deputies’ union.
Union rules require that the president be an active BSO deputy, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit alleged that Deputy Bell’s First Amendment rights had been violated by his termination because he was “being punished for doing his job as President of the Union, which is to advocate for the rights and safety of Union members. Because he is terminated, the Sheriff’s actions are a direct attack on the Union.”
The former deputy is suing to get his job back and to have the court stop Sheriff Tony from interfering in union representation going forward.
“The assigned State Attorney passed on prosecuting Tony. Tony attacked Bell and the union for questioning his leadership and endorsing another candidate for Sheriff. Tony must always negotiate with the union and have thicker skin,” according to a BSO Deputies Association press release.