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Ex-Bunnell Commissioner Jimmy Flynt Faces State Ethics Violations on 3 Counts

| August 3, 2011

Jimmy Flynt. (© FlaglerLive)

“If I had done anything wrong,” former Bunnell City Commissioner Jimmy Flynt told the News-Journal last month, when he said he’d be running for office again, “the State Attorney’s Office – especially being an elected official – the State Attorney’s Office would have acted on it.”

The State Attorney never acted on its own investigative findings that Flynt had received favors that benefited his wrecker service or that he’d mingled official with personal business. The Florida Commission on Ethics just did.

The commission on Friday found probable cause on three charges that Flynt, who was unseated in March after eight years on the commission, had misused his public position for personal gain. The commission found no probable cause on three additional charges. The charges were filed by Bunnell City Commissioner Elbert Tucker in August last year, and made public today.

For Bunnell, the case against Flynt is the latest fallout from a series of unflattering revelations about a city where rules apply differently to different people, or to the city itself. The most surprising revelation of the Flynt case, undisclosed until now, is his relationship with the city administration, to which he readily admits (he says he was unaware that he was doing anything wrong): the city employed his wrecker and automotive service to the exclusion of other repair shops–a violation of state law.

“There were things that I thought were unethical that he was doing. What should I do, look the other way?” Tucker said Wednesday afternoon. “Somebody needed to expose it. The only way to do that was contact the ethics commission. My last statement to them was, here’s the information, do with it what you may.”

The commission found probable cause that Flynt had violated three sections of state law controlling standards of conduct for public officers: The prohibition against elected officials doing business with their own agency, as Saxon’s Wrecker, Flynt’s business in Bunnell, did with city government, when Saxon’s did repair work for city vehicles; the misuse of a public position “to secure a special privilege, benefit or exemption for himself” (as state law reads), as Flynt may have by disposing of used tires at the city dumpster “and/or by obtaining access to that dumpster by misuse of an automatic gate opener,” in the workding of the commission order; and the violation of law barring conflicting employment or contractual relationship, as Flynt may have had in his relationship with Bunnell.

If the commission ratifies the findings, Flynt faces civil penalties only—no criminal penalties, no jail time. But the penalties can be steep: up to $10,000 on each charge. It’ll be up to the commission to set those penalties, following the next move, which is up to Flynt: he may elect either to have a full evidentiary hearing before an administrative law judge. That entails much of the same framework as a trial, where depositions are taken, witnesses are called and lawyers usually represent defendants. He may choose to work out a settlement with the commission’s prosecutor. Or he may let the commission move over to the penalty phase directly.

Flynt said Wednesday afternoon he will concede at least one of the findings.

“At this time I’ll tell you that when the arbitrator contacts me within five to 12 days, I’m going to agree with doing repair work for the city as a commissioner, because number one, I didn’t know any better, and I did do it, that’s a fact.”

He added, “If I’m guilty of something I have no problem saying I did it, but the attorney, the city manager, the city staff, nor the rest of the board had a problem with doing the three quotes and me repairing the vehicles.”

But Flynt said he would dispute the finding about the tires or the clicker. “That was explained through the police reports, so I am going to say no, I do not agree with the disposal of tires and the clicker,” he said, referring to the findings that he improperly disposed of tires at the city’s expense, and was given an electronic gate opener to the city’s public works grounds, where the dumpster was located, to use whenever he chose. Flynt said he never went to the yard after hours and took tires there only “a couple of times. The rest of the time the city came and got them.”

In Tucker’s complaint, the narrative read: “Mr. Flynt dumped tires from his automotive repair shop into the city of Bunnell’s tire collection dumpster. The number of tires was numerous and the number of times is inordinate. Mr. Flynt never offered to pay for this privilege. Therefore, the taxpaying citizens of the city of Bunnell paid for Mr. Flynt’s tire disposal for his commercial business.”

In April 2010, the State Attorney’s Office got a complaint that Flynt had been dumping tires from his business into the city’s Tire Disposal Dumpster, at the city’s expense. A State Attorney’s investigation concluded later that year that the dumping began shortly after Richard Diamond became city manager in 2006, stopped shortly after Sid Crosby became manager in April 2008, and resumed when Armando Martinez became interim, then permanent city manager. By then Flynt had the automatic clicker enabling him to open and close the gate to the city’s public works yard at will, and after hours–a privilege Flynt said he never used.

Financial implications to taxpayers went with the tire-dumping. The city paid $179 to Waste Pro, the city’s garbage hauler at the time, every time the tire dumpster was emptied. In essence, Flynt was sidestepping the cost of dumping tires on his own by imposing his tire-dumping costs on the city and its taxpayers. Also, businesses that dump more than 25 tires a month are required by state law to maintain records to be permitted and maintain records of the disposal. “The Florida Department of Environmental Protection has no record of Saxon’s Wrecker and Automotive having ever been a registered tire collection agent,” the State Attorney’s investigation reported. Businesses disposing tires are allowed to charge a per tire disposal fee of about $2 per tire. Flynt, for his part, told investigators that he only took tires illegally dumped on his property to the dump, and did so as a favor to the city.

Tucker described as an “absolute conflict” Flynt’s business with the city, repairing vehicles through his shop to the exclusion of four other repair shops in town. Tucker said there may have been no issue had Flynt been part of a rotation of repair businesses, doing work for the city in turn. But that wasn’t the case. “He should have said after the first one, this is a conflict,” Tucker said.

About a year ago, Tucker recalled, Martinez, the city manager, approaching him to ask him to be “the insurance guy” for the city. Tucker is an insurance broker and runs his own insurance agency in Bunnell. “I said no, I can’t do that. He asked why. I said it’s a conflict,” Tucker said. “I’m sitting on the board and I’m benefiting. That’s unethical. Jimmy Flynt should have said the same thing to whoever asked him to work on their cars.”

The commission found no probable cause regarding three additional charges in Tucker’s complaint. These included the charge that Flynt had used city staff to conduct personal business; that he had inappropriately called a police officer directly, rather than 911, to address a personal situation in another business in town (that officer was herself later charged, along with her husband, also an officer at the Bunnell Police Department at the time, with misconduct); and that Flynt had violated the law by possessing or using a city police radio for private business.

That radio, and others that had been distributed to city commissioners, including the mayor, was the subject of a stern letter from Flagler County Sheriff Don Fleming to Martinez, urging him not to distribute such radios to civilians, “including city commissioners.”

There were other charges in Tucker’s complaint. Those were either not addressed or folded into the charges that the commission did address.

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12 Responses for “Ex-Bunnell Commissioner Jimmy Flynt Faces State Ethics Violations on 3 Counts”

  1. Haw Creek Girl says:

    It’s so quiet in here…..u could hear a wrecker call a mile away…or a tire drop!

  2. CarryAnn says:

    C’mon, we all know that Tucker ain’t too clean either. He has been spending all of the public’s money on a plan to quadruple the number of houses he can build on hundreds of acres of wetlands he owns in Bunnell. All he cares about is his pocketbook and his buddies out west. The State Planning Department said no to this plan five years ago but they have been hiring lawyers and expensive consultants to push it through anyway at an enormous expense to the general taxpayer of Bunnell. He will walk a way a wealthy man and the public will be left holding the bag yet again. Typical politicians.

  3. palmcoaster says:

    Then what about former TDC Board Member Seibel owner of Thunder Gulch and Black Cloud Saloon receiving about $68,000 TDC Grant funded by the 4% tourist tax bed paid into this county and cities hotels, to fund a weekend bikers event held in “his campground?” Is our governmental TDC Board held to the same standards of this Florida law? Because sure TDC Board denies funding for other touristic wether artistic or sports festivals all the time. One recently grant denied was the Half Marathon to be held in Palm Coast in January 2012 a physical fitness event for just 10,000 or a partial of it. Maybe the same agency should be called to investigate around other very obvious conflicts of interest around this county?

  4. Honest Abe says:

    Tucker was the only person on that commission at this time last year willing to stick his neck out to bring wrong doings to light. Do you think Martinez tried getting Tucker to be the “insurance guy” for the city to help his buddy Flynt ? I love the quote, “If I’m guilty of something I have no problem saying I did it, but the attorney, the city manager, the city staff, nor the rest of the board had a problem with doing the three quotes and me repairing the vehicles.” Again, the attorney, city manager, city staff (not all I’m sure) nor the rest of the board (obviously minus Mr. Tucker) didn’t mind. Hmmm…I wonder why.

  5. R Lewis says:

    The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, commonly referred to as the RICO Act or simply RICO, is a United States federal law that provides for extended criminal penalties and a civil cause of action for acts performed as part of an ongoing criminal organization. The RICO Act focuses specifically on racketeering, and it allows for the leaders of a syndicate to be tried for the crimes which they ordered others to do or assisted them.

    This was organized crime the Murrays would pull the poor folks over for no reason trump up some charge so there friend Flynt would tow and wind up with the car. They should all be charged including the ring leader Martinez. He order the officers to funnel the work to Flynt. It was organized and it’s a crime. Where is our State Attorney these jokers should of all been charged. Tucker did the right and moral thing, where was the Mayor asleep at the wheel or looking the other way? Flynt was right in the fact that he did run the town. He had the pd for his personnel collection agency, his own private dump, and his own police radio smh. If you ask Flynt he’s quick to say I haven’t been charged or did anything wrong. I don’t think this is over yet just wait till it’s time for everyone involved to cut deals.

  6. Johnny Taxpayer says:

    how does such a small town have so many problems? The kidnapping at the weekend, the ongoing corruption with the Police and City Commission? Where does it end?

  7. Larry says:

    This article makes it so very clear that the man at the top of that organization has not a clue how to run the public’s business. He is distributing police radios to commissioners, asking them to receive city contracts for thier respective businesses, and even asking why when the offer is declined. No disrespect to the cops out there but years of police work doesn’t exactly prepare you to be a City Manager and the quotes from this article proves it. Arising to City Manager usually is a totally different career path but most commissioners in Bunnell don’t get it. They think that if they pay him an overinflated salary and give him a car allowance that he will then be a City Manager equal to their buddy Palm Coast. I agree with R Lewis, start peeling back a layer or two and you will find a number of individuals running for cover. This is systemic problem worthy of investigation. Start with PD and the City’s Planning and Permitting and see where the investigation goes from there. If you ever wondered why Tucker appears to run the show, it is because he is smarter than the others and they are deeply afraid of him exposing more of their dirty laundry. Bunnell needs to be brought to the cleaners!

  8. Haw Creek Girl says:

    I agree Elbert Tucker is smart. Catherine Robinson is no dummy, she’s just got Martinez blinders on. Rogers has excellent business sense and common sense. As for the rest, well, did anyone else run?

  9. just a citizen says:

    Hats off to Tucker for having the courage to bring this before the Ethic Committee, credit where credit is due. It is true though Mr. Flynt, ignorance of the law is not an excuse for breaking it. In addition…common sense will tell you that there is a conflict of interest, Mr. Tucker recognized it.
    All we can do as citizens is to keep weeding out the cancer; we started that by not re-electing Flynt. We need to continue to use the system and right the ship, we need to put pressure on our elected officials to weed out the rest of this administration that is not doing the proper job…we have someone in charge who is nothing but a carpetbagger form Miami… the change starts there.

  10. just a citizen says:

    PS… Johnny are you referring to the kidnapping/sexual assault in the Housing Authority in Bunnell?
    I don’t understand what your comment actually means, it seems like the Police/Sheriff’s office actually did their job as I read the article.

  11. New to PC says:

    Glad to see Mr. “I run this town” is finally getting what he deserves. I feel like every other day I read an article about some screwed up stuff that a city of Bunnell employee has done or is getting accused of doing. It appears that someone needs to investigate the entire city of Bunnell, from its public works department all the way up to the dishonest Mr. Martinez. Isn’t about time that another city employee gets arrested, fired or laid off under Martinez’s command? I agree with Citizen that the changes needs to start in Bunnell. The city’s commision needs to FIRE Martinez.

    Good job Mr. Tucker!

  12. Kevin says:

    The Obama administration could use a man like him!

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