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Lawsuit claims Sheriff Gregory Tony ineligible to hold office

Posted at 9:43 AM, Nov 09, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-09 09:59:35-05

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — A lawsuit filed in Broward County court contends that recently elected Sheriff Gregory Tony is ineligible to hold the office and should be disqualified.

The lawsuit, filed Oct. 30 on behalf of four rivals in the sheriff's race, names Tony, Broward County Supervisor of Elections Peter Antonacci and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement as defendants.

Attorneys for plaintiffs H. Wayne Clark, Al Pollock, Santiago C. Vazquez Jr. and Charles E. Whatley argue that Tony is likely a convicted felon and thereby ineligible to serve as sheriff.

Tony revealed earlier this year that he "shot an armed man in self-defense" when he was a 14-year-old living in Philadelphia in 1993. Tony said he was cleared and didn't disclose the incident during his law enforcement career because he wasn't required to do so by law.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs also allege that the FDLE failed to properly vet Tony and that Antonacci failed to request proof from Tony that he isn't a convicted felon.

Broward County Supervisor of Elections Peter Antonacci talks with the news media as vote-by-mail ballots are loaded into a truck for transport to a U.S. Postal Service office at the Broward Supervisor of Elections Office, Thursday, Sept. 24, 2020, in Lauderhill, Fla.

The lawsuit sought to disqualify Tony from the November election, but it didn't work. Tony defeated Republican opponent Clark and independent challenger Whatley in last week's general election. Pollock and Vasquez lost to Tony in the August primary.

Attorneys said the plaintiffs "have a doubt about the existence or non-existence of their rights or privileges and they are entitled to have the doubt removed." They further argued that every resident of Broward County is entitled to know whether Tony's qualification was "proper given applicable law."

The complaint was later amended to include the county canvassing board.

A motion filed on Antonacci's behalf the day after the general election countered that the request "is late and, if granted, would cause nothing but electoral confusion."

"The election has been held, the votes have been tallied and the results have been released," Assistant County Attorney Adam Katzman wrote.

Tony was appointed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis in January 2019 to replace the ousted Scott Israel, who unsuccessfully ran to get his job back in the primary.

Acting Sheriff Gregory Tony, right, speaks after being introduced by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, left, at the Broward County Sheriff's Office headquarters, Friday, Jan. 11, 2019, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. DeSantis suspended Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel over his handling of the February 2018 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Antonacci was appointed Broward County supervisor of elections by former Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who is now a U.S. senator. Antonacci replaced Brenda Snipes, who was suspended from office in December 2018.

Judge Michael Robinson has yet to rule on the matter.