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Down to Three, Flagler Sheriff’s Candidates Differ on Style and Command in Last Forum Before Election

| October 17, 2016

It was standing room only at the old coquina building in Bunnell for Monday's sheriff's forum. (c FlaglerLive)

It was standing room only at the old coquina building in Bunnell for Monday’s sheriff’s forum. (c FlaglerLive)

Some 150 people jammed the old Bunnell City Hall building Monday evening for the only forum featuring the last three candidates standing in the race for Flagler County Sheriff, down from nine: Democrat Larry Jones, Republican Rick Staly and Independent Thomas Dougherty.

Staly faced down five Republicans to win that primary, Jones defeated the incumbent, Jim Manfre (for whom both Jones and Staly worked for two years) and Dougherty coasted along as the only Independent, participating in previous forums but without as yet presenting a clear reason as to why he is in the race.

The forum, sponsored by the News-Journal and the Flagler County Chamber of Commerce, was moderated by Pat Rice, the News-Journal’s editor, who asked questions ranging from staffing, morale and budgeting issues at the sheriff’s office to race, conflict-management and consolidation of policing in the county.

There weren’t nearly as many points of contention between the candidates as there were during the primary, when Manfre’s presence provided the equivalent of bait for a school of piranhas. The three candidates displayed the occasional differences, but the sense of often bitter competition that dominated the Republican and Democratic primaries was almost absent in this forum, even from Jones and Dougherty, who sought not even once to score points against Staly, the obvious front-runner. Staly, for his part, spoke most of the time not as a candidate but as a sheriff-elect already developing his administrative plan of attack, underscoring the approach by pointing to his recent meetings to that end with county officials.

The forum’s most animated segment was the result of a question that elicited the sharpest differences between the three men, but on a matter they would have absolutely no control over: whether assault-type rifles should be in the hands of civilians, or whether they should be regulated or banned.

Staly drew applause even from a group from deputies when he said emphatically that there should be no such ban, quickly adding that he’s been endorsed by the National Rifle Association. Dougherty spoke his displeasure at being called at home to hear a canned NRA endorsement of Staly, then adding that he’d have no problem with bans on assault-type weapons. “The only people who should have them are law enforcement officers,” Dougherty said. Jones aligned himself with Dougherty: “We don’t need those types of guns out there, destroying people’s guns.”

But the question was more revealing of philosophies-and the tenor of the electorate–than anything the candidates can do in their capacity as sheriff.

There was one other point on which Jones and Staly drew blunt differences between their two approaches: when the candidates were asked what they would do to ensure that Flagler is a model in matters involving race and law enforcement–a roundabout way of asking about the roiling conflicts between black communities and police as a result of the shooting of unarmed black men and boys–Jones, who is black, said heavy-handed deputies should be weeded out and body cameras properly and always used. Staly acknowledged problems, but relegated them to the 60s and 70s while placing his faith in psychological testing of prospective employees and proper internal investigations when issues arise. But, he said, problems on the street would not arise as often if individuals immediately complied with police commands. That drew immediate applause.

They were on more readily practical grounds when they addressed personnel, morale and budgeting issues, though with varying degrees of clarity. With those as with most other questions, the differences were in style and detail.

The candidates: from left, Thomas Dougherty, Larry Jones and Rick Staly. (© FlaglerLive)

The candidates: from left, Thomas Dougherty, Larry Jones and Rick Staly. (© FlaglerLive)

Jones spoke of his long service at the department, his connection to Flagler and his interest in keeping children out of crime: one of his three priorities is to expand the Police Athletic League. If there was a recurring theme to his approach, it’s his interest in building a sense of community between residents and the sheriff’s office. “It’s not us against them. We are a community,” he said. His immediate plans are to develop a transition team from which he would seek recommendations, and through which he would speak with all deputies and employees to get a better idea of his priorities.

But his absence of managerial experience, or even much grasp of managerial issues at the sheriff’s office, was apparent. He did not try to sound more knowledgeable than he is on those issues, steering his answers to the more familiar but general grounds: the importance of training, the value in de-escalation of tense situations, his support of body cameras, as long as deputies turn them on as soon as they’re called to a scene–not arbitrarily, well into a call.

Staly’s command of the issues facing the sheriff’s office was in more evidence than for Jones, who retired two years ago after 30 years at the agency, as a sergeant, or Dougherty, who appeared disconnected from the agency except in the most general terms (when he wasn’t referring to deputies as “police officers.”) Staly was the undersheriff for the first two years of Manfre’s administration, an experience he used to discuss the agency’s need for additional deputies, an updated policing contract with Palm Coast, which hasn’t been updated in either years, and an almost hubristic promise that as soon as he is the next sheriff, morale issues at the department would take care of themselves, because he already has the ranks’ support, he said (he won the deputies’ union endorsement).

Th contrast between Staly’s command of the issues facing the sheriff’s office–or policing in general–and that of Dougherty and Jones was inescapable, however: Staly could enumerate demographic projections, deputy-to-population ratios,staffing levels and make-up of policing zones in the county in a way that his opponents simply could not, and did not try to. Rice’s questions mercifully did not exploit those differences, focusing instead on a series of more positional matters.

None of the candidates support either consolidating Bunnell’s and Flagler Beach’s police departments with the sheriff’s office nor seeing palm Coast develop its own police department. Staly alone spoke of the need for more deputies, reservists and other personnel. But he was never entirely clear, beyond speaking of federal grants, as to how he would pay for additional personnel. On two occasions he said the county and Palm Coast could help “shuffle money around” rather than raise taxes to beef up the ranks. “None of us wants to pay additional taxes,” Staly said.

Jones, on the other hand, saw no need for additional policing in Palm Coast (“they’re getting adequate service,” he said. “They have everything,” a statement that was at the opposite end of an earlier statement about his approach as sheriff: “I’m going to change the direction of everything here in Flagler County.”) Jones proposed to go to Tallahassee and ask the governor directly for additional money if necessary, a counter-point to Staly’s proposal to seek federal dollars. State money, however, is not part of local policing budgets.

Dougherty scoffed at the notion that the ranks could be beefed up without increasing taxes–he said he was willing to pay an extra $40 or $50 a year to that end, as a taxpayer. Throughout he was more polished tonight, less flighty or fidgety than he’d been during the primary forums, particularly when he spoke about de-escalating tense policing situations and adding criminal justice to local high schools’ curriculums. But he did not stray much beyond his previous and almost single-minded mantra: education.

As for personnel changes, Staly reiterated his often-repeated promise that, in contrast with Manfre, he would not fire anyone, but make the ranks part of his transition team. Jones and Dougherty did not disagree. “I’m going to make sure the employees are happy.”

The old coquina building at Bunnell’s former City Hall had filled to capacity well before the 6:30 p.m. forum, leaving a platoon of “Deputies for Staly” standing in back of the room, alongside about two dozen or more people who could not find seats. But the audience was split as at a wedding: Staly’s supporters on one side, Jones’s on the other. They each got about as much support, judging from the decibel level of the applause, at the beginning of the forum. When Staly completed his closing statement, however, the applause he drew was more deafening.

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17 Responses for “Down to Three, Flagler Sheriff’s Candidates Differ on Style and Command in Last Forum Before Election”

  1. Flagler Strong says:

    The amount of money that Rick Staly has raised and spent during his latest attempt to finally become a Sheriff is truly shocking. He has stated that he is a millionare and that he does not need a job. He is doing this to help Flagler County.

    Today lets review one aspect of WHERE the money is coming from. There will be more reports following this. posted a interview with Rick Staly in which he was asked this question,” 3. What is the most dangerous thing or temptation about a sheriff’s power, and how do you intend to control it?”

    Rick Staly responded by stating, “…some Sheriff’s forget that the Office of Sheriff belongs to the people and not them personally for their personal gain. This can often result in them becoming arrogant and developing a sense of entitlement…I will develop policies that apply to the members of the organization and not to benefit me alone… our role is to serve and secure the community.”

    As of 10/5/2016 Rick Staly has raised the MAJORITY of his campaign cash from people and companies who are outside Flagler County and many are not even in the state of Florida. 195 donations totaling over $85,000.00 from people who do NOT live in Flagler County. This outside money dwarfs the $24,000.00 that local businesses and few Flagler residents had given.

    Initially I considered that maybe Rick Staly simply has a lot of distant friends and family who would like to see him be successful. Lets look closer. Is Rick Staly trying to personally benefit?

    In a twelve month period from September 2015 through September 2016 the Rick Staly campaign received $45,050.00 in numerous different cash donations from business that are not in Flagler County! No other candidate for Flagler Sheriff has ever done this.

    What is more surprising is some of the companies themselves. If the following companies were not solicited by Rick Staly why would they donate to Rick Staly’s campaign in Flagler County and no other sheriff campaign.

    Securus Technologies is a business located in Dallas, Texas. They specialize in providing inmate calling for Jails. Securus donated $2000.00 to Rick Staly. They did not donate to any other candidate. The google reviews for this company are full of bad reviews including this review, “Payoffs to local sheriff ensure shoddy service and no improvement”
    Accommodations by Parkside LLC, Smoky Furniture Connection, Parkside Connection, and Wiles Boselli, LLC are all companies from Tennessee. The same place where Rick Staly’s company is located. They donated $4,000.00 to Rick Staly!
    The Safety & Intelligence Inst is located in Largo, Florida. Provides training to Law Enforcement Officers. Donated $500.00 to Rick Staly in Flagler.
    Trinity Services Group located in Oldster, Florida, provides food service for Jails. Donated $1,000.00 to Rick Staly.
    Telmate is another that is located in Los Angeles, California and guess what they specialize in… inmate communications for Jails. They donated $1,000.00 to Rick Staly.

    The list of unusual outside donations to Rick Staly goes on and on. To many to list here. Numerous businesses for far reaching places who appear to be donating to Rick Staly for opportunities in a classic example of “PAY TO PLAY”. Many of them donated way before Rick Staly won the primary and they donated to no other candidates. In fact no other Candidate for Sheriff has ever received donations from companies like this. How can local Flagler businesses compete if our local government is up for sale?

  2. Old Lady says:

    Seems that no one bothers , or wants to address the peoples concern of excessive speed on Bird of Paradise and Foster Lane We will just see what happens

  3. Lets face the Facts Here says:

    “Staly acknowledged problems, but relegated them to the 60s and 70s while placing his faith in psychological testing of prospective employees and proper internal investigations when issues arise. But, he said, problems on the street would not arise as often if individuals immediately complied with police commands. That drew immediate applause.”

    That’s the problem the Police want to Police themselves and those days are over, social media, camera phones and body cameras are everywhere. The bad cops aren’t worried about it though as long as they think white america will back them for so-called protecting them from black people, same crap different year. This statement is nothing but a dog whistle “if individuals immediately complied with police commands.” More hidden stereotyping. How about if you carry a gun and a badge you should have more training then a hairdresser.

  4. woodchuck says:

    Is it so hard to beleive that he with the most money wins?Flagler strong spells it all out.

  5. John F. Pollinger says:

    Good Luck with your choice. If the union members had truly looked at what Staly has said in print versus what he said in his taped forums and interviews, it would have shown the two faces of Staly. “Manfre was aware that dismissing individuals of long-standing in the department and reassigning others might affect morale or even lead to litigation. He was asked at the news conference whether the manner and rapidity with which he was implementing the changes might undermine cohesion going in. “Right now, I’m not as concerned about morale”. (Flager Live) “Staly defended the approach (Flagler Live) Yet in his interview with the PBA he stated he knew nothing and according to him “the next thing I knew there was wholesale carnage.”

    If elected, the highest protected rank you will have in the agency is sergeant. He already stated he was responsible for the table of organization and the rank structure he proposed in the PBA forum was, deputy, master deputy, sergeant and commander. Good luck with advancing your careers without being an “at will employee” subject to the whim of the sheriff.

    On his resignation from FCSO “I’ve been thinking about it for some time,” Staly said in an interview this morning. “Then when I was off for my surgery, you’re kind of out of the woods if you will, looking in and looking at what you want to do. During that time my father passed,” he said, and he got notices from his former agency about colleagues there who also died. His mother, who will be 94 Saturday, has been in and out of the hospital has been in and out of the hospital. “So I just felt the time was right,” Staly said. He has investment cabins in Tennessee that are “doing extremely well,” and proceeds from selling his security company several years ago enable him to look at a more leisurely time for now. He has been promising his wife an RV trip across the country, for instance. The RV has been sitting for three years. It’ll now be used.” (Flagler Live)

    Yet in his interview with the PBA, he stated his reason for leaving was in response to the way Manfre treated a deputy after the deputy’s father died.

    He says what comes to mind depending on whom he is addressing. The sad thing is that everything has been documented over time but no one is connecting the dots or reviewing what he says and what he does.

    His donations? A convoluted trail of working around the donation limitations of $1,000.00 using people owning multiple out of county businesses and hiding their donations behind companies. And I am talking THOUSANDS coming in from all over.

    Dan J. Newlin Windermere, FL $1,000.00
    Dan Newlin Law Partners, Orlando $1,000.00
    Dan J. Newlin Windermere, FL $1,000.00
    Dan Newlin Law Partners, Orlando $1,000.00

    (Four Thousand in two election cycles)

    Trinity Services Group Oldsmar, FL ….owned by Jefferson Voss $1,000.00
    Jefferson Voss Oakland, FL.$1,000.00

    CBI Rivera Beach, FL owned by Byron Russell $1,000.00
    Byron Russell, Rivera Beach $1,000.00

    The Oasis at Wekiva Altamonte Springs $1,000.00
    Tower Point LP Altamonte Springs $1,000.00
    Willow Key Apartments, Altamonte Springs $1,000.00
    Lake Weston Apartments, Altamonte Spings $1,000.00
    Interstate Construction Supply Atamonte Springs $1,000.00
    Picerne Construction Corp. Altamonte Springs $1,000.00
    Picerne Management Group, Altamonte Springs $1,000.00

    All owned or controlled by Robert Picerne $7,000.00

    RC Stork Investments, Vero Beach, $1000.00
    RC Stork Air, Vero Beach $1,000.00
    RC Stork Properties, Vero Beach $1,000.00

    All Owned by Robert Stork

    Woodland PT. LP Operating Alamonte Springs $1,000
    Lake Point Senior Apts LP Altamonte Springs $1,000.00
    Holly Ridge LP Altamonte Springs $1,000

    (These three companies share the same address but good luck finding out who owns them. Buried under other company names as owners)

    MHK of Volusia County Daytona Beach $1,000.00
    Venture Development Realty Daytona Beach $1,000.00

    Both Controlled by Mori Hosseini from ICI Volusia County

    Even a company from Texas who kicked in a two thousand dollars to his campaign. What do they sell? Video conferencing for inmates…..hmmmm….why are they interested in little old Flagler County and who contacted whom?

  6. Involved83 says:

    Then who in your opinion Mr. Pollinger should we be voting for?

  7. John F. Pollinger says:

    I have been asked repeatedly, my choice between the three remaining candidates for Flagler County Sheriff.
    I’ve met with candidates for sheriff over the past year both having shared their own and very unique backgrounds and visions.
    One candidate has a selfless goal of improving the lives of others right here in Flagler County.
    One candidate is campaigning on a simple truth he can bring people together while ensuring stability and pride to an agency currently adrift as a rudderless ship in a stormy sea.
    One candidate is a humble decent man, rooted in the community, faithful to the citizens of Flagler County and who will ensure respect for the men and women of the sheriff’s office and citizens alike.
    With the three remaining candidates going into the November Elections, the voters have called for change.
    I am looking for a sheriff who will serve the needs of the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office and who will put citizens above self.
    I believe that man is Larry Jones and I am supporting him in the November Election.

  8. Involved83 says:

    Larry Jones, albeit a nice good hearted man, has never shown the ability to LEAD! He can barely answer a question at a debate. He lacks the intelligence and leadership required for such a position. How in good consciousness can you saying Larry Jones is the best candidate for the job when he clearly has no idea what he’s doing? I feel like he ran with the hopes of upsetting Manfre but did not plan for the unlikely situation in which he would actually win the primary. Now he’s just clearly in over his head, outmatched at every turn by Mr. Staly.
    If Larry Jones is the right man for the job then why sir were you in Sheriff Fleming’a corner no less than a month ago? Sure sounds like you have something to gain here… maybe a position at the head of the table under the prospective Jones administration… lord knows he will need someone to run the agency for him… is that going to be you?

  9. IMO says:

    If Dougherty and Jones don’t know Assault Rifles are already banned from private ownership since the mid 1930’s they have no qualifications to be running for Sheriff.

    Neither seems to know the difference between an “Assault Rifle” and a “Rifle.”

    Here is a hint for Dougherty and Jones. Assault rifles can be fired in fully automatic mode. Rifles fire one shot at a time.

  10. Just wait for it says:

    This is the problem with closed election. I believe Lamb would have won if it was an open election. Most democrats including myself was hoping to vote for Lamp in Nov. We only voted for Jones to get Manfre out. So I will be voting for Dougherty.

  11. The Oracle says:

    Rick Staly, is running for Sheriff for one simple reason. He loves Flagler County. He has been a professional law officer, his entire life. A 30 second review of credentials; education , background, training, reputation, desire, energy, determination, focus and vision, shows that he will be ready on day one to lead. The Deputies of Flagler County made a very wise decision in their endorsement of STALY FOR SHERIFF! Don’t get sidetracked by this whining talk about who gave what to his campaign, it is merely a distraction tactic from the real issues facing the citizens of Flagler.

  12. anon2 says:

    @ The Oracle

    The FCSO deputies should stop their whining and stop showing up at public forums in FCSO garb. You have a tight to be there, of course. But it would be morally right to show up seated as individuals dressed in street clothes.

    One year the deputies wanted Manfre against the incumbent. The next election cycle they opposed Manfre and supported his opponent. Now they want Staly. My advice to all voters who want effective policing, is to NOT support who ever the deputies choose to be their boss. Larry Jones is a good choice.

    (Apologies to all the silent deputies who do not support Staly)

  13. Imagine says:

    I have heard the officers are very much against STALY; that he will cause morale to drop significantly.

  14. Knightwatch says:

    Larry Jones is a good, honest, decent man with deep community roots and the experience to know what this community needs in a county sheriff.

    Vote for Larry Jones. Vote for honesty and commitment. Vote Blue.

  15. Involved83 says:

    The deputies weren’t whining they were supporting the candidate their union voted to support. A vast majority might I add.

  16. CLS says:

    Hmmm ALL those assault rifles (Uzzis, etc.)I’ve seen for sale to the PUBLIC in gun stores proves that private citizens CAN and DO buy them. Your 1930’s diz is showing…

  17. CLS says:

    Staly was the one to fire all those deputies while under Manfre. He was also the one to set up Manfre by offering him one of his Tennessee cabins and then ‘reporting’ him and causing all the uproar over ‘ethics violations’. I think it is Staly with the ethics violations problem – time and again.

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