DeSantis suspension of Worrell questionable

The following editorial was published in The Daily Sun on August 15, 2023.

OUR POSITION: Once again, Gov. Ron DeSantis has overstepped his authority in suspending a second state prosecutor, giving vague, broad reasons for his actions.

Gov. Ron DeSantis is dodging a lot of bullets nowadays as he works to put his presidential campaign on solid footing.

While we hesitate to join his critics, we can’t help but admonish the governor for another misstep when he suspended range-Osceola State Attorney Monique Worrell from office. It’s the second time he’s done this, coming after his suspension months ago of Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren.

DeSantis apparently had Worrell targeted for months after he criticized her office following a deadly shooting spree in Pine Hills.

DeSantis claimed Worrell has been “clearly and constitutionally derelict” in her duty. He cited policies, including reluctance to give maximum sentences and too many plea deals, as justification for his actions.

Andrew A. Bain, a judge in Orange County, has been appointed by the governor.

Bain, a DeSantis devotee, said he would “make this office accountable to the community we serve and ensure criminals who poison society, cause mayhem and murder are held accountable under the law.”

We take exception to DeSantis’s action.

First, there is a range of punishment for most all crimes and if a prosecutor does not always mete out the toughest penalty, that is their decision. Many Florida state attorney’s offices are shorthanded and to take a case all the way through trial can keep a staff tied up for way too long while other alleged offenders are waiting in jail months for their day in court.

Second, if Worrell is doing a bad job, it should be left to the voters who put her in office to punish her. That’s how the system is supposed to work. To kick someone out of office without clear proof of incompetence is cheating the people of their right to make a statement.

Democrats, naturally, jumped on the anti-DeSantis bandwagon, calling the governor’s actions unconstitutional.

Congressman Maxwell Alejandro Frost (FL-10) said: “we saw this coming from a mile away – with his presidential campaign up in flames, wanna-be dictator Governor Ron DeSantis is taking a page out of his tired playbook by unconstitutionally suspending a duly elected State Attorney to breathe life back into his tired conservative persona.

Keith Gross, a former assistant state attorney and Melbourne lawyer says poor pay makes it hard to fill positions and too many prosecutors have to make plea deals because they are overloaded.

Gross, a Republican who is running against Rick Scott in the U.S. Senate primary race in 2024, said in a press release that “it is disingenuous to chronically underfund prosecutors’ offices and then try to score political points by blaming them for a problem they did not create.

“Rick Scott cut funding (and retirement benefits) for prosecutors when he was governor and Ron DeSantis has worked to increase the prior $45k per year up to $60k but that is far too little to make up the gap.”

We don’t like it when DeSantis makes a big splash in the news to try to score points — more obvious now that national polls have him sliding further behind former President Donald Trump in the 2024 Republican presidential primary race.

There were opportunities to make a case against Worrell in the past that were never taken. Again, voters should have had the final say on if she was doing her job.