Two deputies who failed to adequately respond to the massacre at Marjory Stoneman High School three years ago in Parkland, Florida, should get their jobs back, according to a judge.
The ruling has nothing to do with their conduct that day, however, and instead relates to a clerical error and the timing of their dismissals.
Brian Miller and Joshua Stambaugh were fired in the aftermath of the Valentine’s Day shooting in 2018, which left 17 people dead.
Sergeant Miller, the first supervisor to arrive on scene, stood outside of the school and hid behind a car for 10 minutes while the massacre was taking place, while Stambaugh, who was off-duty at the time, observed the massacre from a nearby highway.
He initially drove to the school upon the call of shots fired before hiding behind his truck for five minutes, then retreating to the highway.
Broward Circuit Judge Keathan Frink ruled Thursday to uphold the deputies’ previous reinstatements, saying they are entitled to get their jobs back, as well as back pay and other pay for accrued sick time, vacation time, holidays, overtime and off-duty pay they stood to make.
A judge ruled Thursday that Deputy Brian Miller (left) and Deputy Joshua Stambaugh (right) should be reinstated and receive back pay following their dismissals in June 2019
Both deputies were criticized for their responses to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas massacre
They can also receive other payments such as car stipends, pension contributions and medical expenses.
The two deputies stand to make around $580,000 combined at their previous pay levels if they are officially reinstated in June.
In 2018, Stambaugh earned $152,857 in base pay and overtime pay, while Miller earned $137,249.
The decision comes after arbitrators ruled that it took too long for the Sheriff’s Office to dismiss the deputies after the massacre.
Florida law dictates that police officers must be investigated and disciplined within 180 days of an incident.
Pictured: Judge Keathan Frink, who upheld the deputies’ reinstatements on Thursday
Investigators also must say that officer reports are read in their entirety and that forms are accurate, an oath missing from the Sheriff’s Office forms for years.
Miller was fired in June 2019, 182 days after an investigation into his actions concluded, as his documents were considered two days after a deadline, relating to a dispute over the oath on the forms.
Stambaugh was fired 11 days after Miller, according to the New York Daily News.
The shooting on Valentine’s Day 2018 in Parkland, Florida left 17 people dead
Nikolas Cruz, who was 19 at the time of the massacre, is facing 17 charges of murder
An arbitrator ruled last year that Miller’s due process was violated during his dismissal, with an arbitrator making the same ruling for Stambaugh in September, leading to both of them being reinstated.
The Broward Sherriff’s Office appealed both of those rulings, leading to the case before the judge on Thursday.
Jeff Bell, the president of the Sheriff’s Office Deputies Association, called the judge’s decision ‘a huge victory.’
‘They were wrongfully terminated,’ Bell said to the South Florida Sun Sentinel. ‘It’s like a statute of limitations. Deadlines are there for a reason: to keep checks and balances.’
‘Deadlines are set for specific reasons and the Sheriff’s Office must adhere to those same guidelines as we demand from the citizens of Broward County,’ Bell added.
Lori Alhadeff, whose daughter, Alyssa was killed, expressed disappointment with the ruling.
‘Alyssa and 16 others are no longer here because of the failures and inactions by many, including Miller and Stambaugh,’ Alhadeff said. ‘It is painful for me to once again see there is no accountability.’
Andy Pollack, whose daughter Meadow was killed, added, ‘We don’t get to bring back the children who were murdered on a technicality.’
The Broward Sheriff’s Office also pushed against the ruling, saying the deputies still don’t deserve their jobs back.
‘There were no victors on February 14, 2018, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School when Miller and Stambaugh failed to do their jobs, and it is [the Broward Sheriff’s Office’s] belief that the deputies do not deserve their jobs back,’ the general counsel for the Sheriff’s Office said.
‘The union’s claimed ‘victory’ fails to acknowledge that the union fought desperately to prevent the arbitrator from hearing the facts that justified the termination of these deputies, and that this ‘victory’ was the result of a procedural technicality, which the Sheriff’s Office maintains was wrongly decided,’ the Sheriff’s Office added.
It’s not yet clear if they will appeal the judge’s ruling.
Edward Eason, a third deputy fired, is still having his case considered by arbitrators. If Eason is reinstated, the three deputies could be entitled to over $1 million in various pay and benefits.
Eason stayed on the periphery of the school during the shooting, claiming that he didn’t know where gunshots were coming from despite pointing towards the school, according to bodycam video.
Consequences of that day’s shootings went beyond the families affected and towards the eight deputies involved in the response who didn’t run into the school.
Arthur Perry, Michael Kratz, and Brian Goolsby previously transferred out of the Parkland district after the shooting.
Richard Seward retired eight months after the school shooting and died of cancer shortly thereafter.
School resource officer Scot Peterson, who was accused by a state commission of being ‘derelict in his duty,’ is facing second-degree negligence charges, as well as three charges of culpable negligence and one count of perjury.
He has pleaded not guilty to all of the charges.
Nikolas Cruz, the shooter who was 19 at the time of the massacre, has not stood trial yet for the shooting.
Parkland school superintendent who faces indictment on perjury charge gets $740K severance
The superintendent of the Florida school district who was indicted on a perjury charge by a grand jury investigating the 2018 school massacre in Parkland will leave his job under a $740,000 severance package approved by a divided board Tuesday.
Broward County Superintendent Robert Runcie’s tenure will end no later than Aug. 10, but it could be sooner if an interim replacement is chosen by the board. If that happens, he will remain as a consultant until August.
The agreement was approved by a 5-4 board vote, with opponents arguing it was too generous. The opponents included Lori Alhadeff and Debra Hixon, who were elected to the board after each had family members slain in the Feb. 14, 2018, attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland that killed 17 people.
The agreement came a month after Runcie was indicted on a felony perjury charge accusing him of lying to a statewide grand jury investigating events surrounding the shooting. Runcie, who became superintendent in 2011, has pleaded not guilty.
Runcie supporter Laurie Rich Levinson said she voted for the agreement because ‘it allows us to move on as a district and focus on students.’
In this Nov. 15, 2018 file photo, Broward County School Superintendent Robert Runcie testifies during the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission in Sunrise, Fla. The indicted superintendent will leave his job under a $740,000 severance package approved by a divided board Tuesday, May 11
Hixon said supporters seemed to be ‘skirting around’ the fact Runcie is leaving voluntarily rather than accept a suspension until his criminal case is resolved.
‘That is why we are here,’ said Hixon, whose husband, athletic director Chris Hixon, died trying to stop the shooter. She wanted Runcie removed by mid-June.
The agreement includes Runcie receiving $145,000 in severance, $112,000 in salary, $230,000 for unused vacation and sick days, $187,000 in payments to his pension plan and $25,000 to pay his lawyer for negotiating his departure.
The board also agreed to pay for Runcie’s criminal defense, which the district estimates will cost between $100,000 and $350,000. That cost, which is not included in the severance package total, will be negotiated by the district. Runcie will reimburse the district if he pleads or is found guilty or pleads no contest. He faces up to five years in prison if convicted.
Prosecutors contend Runcie lied before the grand jury six weeks ago when they asked him what he knew about the criminal case against his former technology chief, Tony Hunter. The grand jury indicted Hunter earlier this year on charges he rigged a contract for a vendor in exchange for a bribe. Hunter has pleaded not guilty.
Prosecutors say Runcie lied when he repeatedly testified that he had not contacted anyone about the Hunter case and his only knowledge of the contract was from a presentation given years earlier.
In fact, prosecutors said, Runcie had contacted one or more people about the contract just days earlier as he prepared to testify. His attorney has denied the allegation.
Runcie became a public face for Broward’s response to the shooting, both in mourning and then in criticism for their handling of the aftermath.
Runcie´s supporters have praised him for increasing the district´s graduation rate, improving schools districtwide and reaching out to minority communities. Opponents criticized him for programs they felt had been lenient toward the shooting suspect, an emotionally disturbed former Stoneman Douglas student.
Runcie, by a 6-3 board vote, survived a 2019 attempt to have him fired. The attempt was led by Alhadeff, whose 14-year-old daughter, Alyssa, was killed in the shooting.