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Seeking “Closure,” Ex-Bunnell Commissioner Flynt Will Pay $2,500 Fine on Ethics Violations

| May 31, 2012

Jimmy Flynt says he's brought his business around and is now looking forward to another run for Bunnell City Commission. (© FlaglerLive)

A nearly two-year-old ethics case against former Bunnell City Commissioner Jimmy Flynt was settled last week, with Flynt admitting to violating Florida law and abusing his position as an elected official on three counts, and agreeing to pay a $2,500 fine. The Florida Commission on Ethics is expected to ratify the settlement at a June 15 meeting.

The fine is considerably lower than the maximum $10,000 Flynt was facing. Flynt said he settled only because he did not have the money to keep fighting, though he believes that he would have prevailed on two of the three counts, and faced a fine of only $500. “Basically,” Flynt said this morning, “the only thing that I was guilty of was doing work for the city, about 12 to 14 repair jobs, before I found out that I wasn’t supposed to be doing work for the city.”

“What I want to do now is I want to bring closure to this situation, move on and make a living,” Flynt said. He is “definitely” considering another run for city commission in next year’s elections, he said.

Flynt was a city commissioner for eight years until his defeat in the March 2011 election, when allegations of misconduct in office and the findings of a State Attorney’s investigation severely damaged his standing. The ethics complaint was filed on Sept. 14, 2010 by Bunnell Commissioner Elbert Tucker, based in large part on the State Attorney’s investigative report.

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Flynt admitted that he violated 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. He admitted to the misuse of a public position “to secure a special privilege, benefit or exemption for himself” (as state law reads), when Flynt disposing of used tires from his business at the city dumpster, which allowed him to circumvent certain regulations and fees regarding used tire disposal. He also admitted to violating a law barring conflicting employment or contractual relationships with the city.

The ethics commission’s own investigation revealed that between 2005 and 2008, the city paid Flynt’s Saxon’s Wrecker business $15,187 for towing and vehicle maintenance, without having bid the services. None of the payments were for emergencies, City Manager Armando Martinez told the ethics commission investigator. But Martinez said that when he became manager in 2008, he ordered that all maintenance be carried out by city employees, ending the relationship with Saxon’s in October 2008. Martinez told the ethics commission that before then, neither city staff nor commissioners “ever realized that it was a violation of the Code of Ethics for an elected official to do business with his own agency,” the ethics commission’s investigation found.

“City Attorney Sid Nowell,” the investigation report continues, “advised that he has served the city since September 2002, and he acknowledged that he never brought to the attention of [Flynt] or anyone else that elected officials are prohibited from doing business with their own agency unless the business meets an exemption.” Bunnell Mayor Catherine Robinson was also interviewed by the investigator, telling him that to her knowledge Flynt had always been selected to provide services following a “three-estimate selection process” in which he was the lowest bidder. Flynt all along “did not know that it was inappropriate for him to receive the payments from the city,” he told the ethics investigator.

Elaborating in an interview this morning, Flynt said he did the work on city vehicles that no one else wanted to do, even after the three estimates “because they were old and ragged,” he said. “When I found out that I wasn’t supposed to, I stopped.”

Flynt said he would have fought the tire-dumping issue, too. “The reason I am not fighting it,” he said, “because I’m quite sure if I had enough money to pay for the depositions and the attorney fees and everything, which I don’t, I’m quite sure the tire issue would have gone away with the documentation I had on it. But I did not have the money to do that.”

The city has no records of how many tires Flynt dumped at the city dump, only that, according to the State Attorney’s investigation, the dumping took place every two to three months in 2006 and 2007, with one occasion totaling 36 tires. In the settlement with the ethics commission, Flynt disputed that he violated the law when he took possession of a remote clicker, allowing him to open the gate to the dumping ground. The ethics commission agreed to drop that part of the charge.

In a curious development along the way, Flynt earlier this year hired Dennis Bayer to defend him against the charges. Bayer last October became one of Bunnell’s city attorneys when the city hired his firm, to which Sid Nowell had moved, to represent it.

Elbert Tucker (© FlaglerLive)

“It kind of looks funny,” Tucker, the commissioner who brought the action against Flynt, said. “The firm that represents the city of Bunnell is representing somebody who has an ethics complaint against him because of the city of Bunnell, because of what he did while he was a commissioner for the city of Bunnell.”

Bayer did not see a conflict. “This whole thing started after he was no longer a commissioner as far as the administrative process. It has no impact on the city,” Bayer said. “I have no information as a result of representation of the city that has any impact on what happens to Mr. Flynt as part of this ethics investigation.”

Bayer was interviewed on May 17, just days before the settlement. “That’s a dispute between them as to what one feels is a violation of state law. It’s not a violation of the city charter,” Bayer said. “I’ll certainly will review it with the city to make sure that it’s not a problem, but I just don’t see where there is a conflict there.”

Tucker, for his part, said he was done with the matter. “This was not a revenge action. It was just something that I thought had to be done,” Tucker said. “I have no ill feelings or ill will or thoughts of revenge or anything of like manner. I don’t want to see ill will come against him.”

For Flynt, the various issues he faced coincided with a souring economy and a struggle to keep Saxon’s afloat, especially when the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office—responding to allegations against Flynt—suspended him for seven months from the three-wrecker local rotation that Flynt says cost him around $30,000. That revenue was split between the two other wreckers in town: John’s Towing, owned by John Rogers, who ran for the Bunnell City Commission and won (essentially taking Flynt’s seat), and Roger’s Towing. The Florida Highway Patrol never suspended him, and the sheriff eventually returned him to the rotation.

“I am bringing my business back around, I’m doing OK,” Flynt said. “This whole deal, this whole non-sense deal, from the car lot incident, the investigation on illegal towing to Mr. Tucker’s ethics complaint, basically got a few people what they wanted, that was a seat on the board, and they wanted to put me out of business. They did get seven months’ of my business.” Of Tucker, he added: “He had to do what he thought was right and I survived through it.”

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15 Responses for “Seeking “Closure,” Ex-Bunnell Commissioner Flynt Will Pay $2,500 Fine on Ethics Violations”

  1. ex city employee says:

    They should have dug back further than 2008 because flynt was working on city vehicles years prior to this and getting paid for it.I voiced my opinion about this and was told to keep my mouth shut. As far as a three estimates on the vehicles this never took place because we were told to take the vehicle directly to flynt to be repaired. I have been in city hall myself when flynt came in to get a check for his work.

    • Linda H. says:

      You need to have a conversation with the State Attorney’s office in Tallahassee. Just a suggestion… It sounds like others should have been a part of that investigation.

    • Anonymous says:

      @ex city employee – reread the article, the investigation did go back before 2008, it went as far back as 2005 and showed there was not any bids for the service. It also states he was stopped from doing maintenance by the city manager in 2008.

  2. Linda H. says:

    Why would you not seek a legal opinion about something like this before doing it? The loss of Mr. Flynt’s reputation is going to cost him a lot more than $2,500.

  3. DJ says:

    The ethics commission may be able to hit the jackpot if they investigated others in Flagler County. Just my opinion.

  4. Birdie says:

    I really enjoyed how Mr. Martinez took credit for yet another thing he didn’t do! “he ordered all maintenance be done by city employees after he bacame city manager in Oct 08″ All repair work was brought back into the city garage by the new fleet manager hired in Feb 08, while Martinez was still the Police Chief. Nothing following that date was ever sublet out for repair again! It is questionable, however, as to why the police cars were being repaired at Saxon’s prior to Feb”08″. It is a shame that the management styles and personnel changes in the city made that manager leave! I saw his work and hugh savings to the city in action and it was impressive! Guess now they can go back to Saxon”s.

  5. PJ says:

    Sadly enough the city lost a good meaning commissioner who likely did more free work than got paid. On the otherside Commissioner Tucker did his job too by opening up the inquest.

    “a double edge sword sometimes cuts through the all involved”…………………….

  6. slk says:

    Ever read a story and have a light bulb moment? I recal travelling north along bay street on my way home from work and coming upon a bearer of a truck with an overflowing bed of tires. The truck was so full of tires, the tires were bouncing out of the truck into the ditch along the railroad. I watched a bald headed man scury out of his truck down into the ditch the way only a rat would and collect the tires. Is that commissioner jimmy flynt driving that bearer of a truck picking up those tires that fell out, I thought to myself. Sure enough it was jimmy. It all makes sense.

  7. Honest Abe says:

    Shenanigans, How is it that these acts continue to take place in this city without any real repercussions for their actions. Birdie, you have it right with martinez, who we all know is the puppet master, trying to come out of this like he is the innocent one…please. I commend Mr. Tucker for standing up and doing the right thing. Now hopefully the voter’s will get out and put some new leadership in place where it is needed. Let’s give the city some thumbs up though in their hiring of Police Chief Hoffman. Seems like a true leader who has no “strings” attached.

  8. ex city employee says:

    Dear Anonymous. I was talking about when flynt first became a commissioner which was when bonner was city manager. This is when this practice first started taking place.This were years prior to 2005. Flynt and bonner were a tag team from the get go…..

  9. Native says:

    Are we living in Disneyland Bunnell? Elaborating in an interview this morning, Flynt said he did the work on city vehicles that no one else wanted to do,no other shop in Flagler wanted to fix these cars and make $$$$$ or tow them and make $$$$$, even after the three estimates,he said that I am gonna run for re election and take my seat back, I just hope I get more than 39 votes this time, and I will run tins town again!!!!!! The Bunnell Police Department will be my very own collection agency again so pay your bill Pay Less! I will get in bed with these new cops and steal your cars especially if you can’t afford an attorney, when I have BPD pull you over. I will keep Martinez under control! I will cleanup all the used tires that are around Town for free. I will hire another full time code enforcement officer to shake you down if I don’t like you. So vote for me Jimmy I will run this town again Flynt! So I don’t have to pay to get rid of my used tires. Oh btw thank you RJ for nor filing any criminal charges on me I don’t know if Sid could talk Mr Bayer into doing that for free for me to.

  10. jespo says:

    Ah, the incestuos nature of Flagler County politics…who is elected and owns a business that benefits…who has a daddy on what board and how can they benefit…who marrys who and creates a conflict of interest…who gets gifts, kickbacks and bribes…it’s like a little sad soap opera badly acted where the actors think too much of themselves.

    What else could I expect from a town that proudly boasts its ‘potato festival’.

  11. pj says:

    Native

    It is just my opinion but there is a slow improvement here in Bunnell. Since the good ole’ boy network has been de-railed improvements are getting done. You need to listen to the actions of the board.

    Plans are in effect to fix the pooly maintained utilities infrastructre that was managed by every board since the day they built it.

    Cost cutting measures are too in effect with a mimal adjustment in your miliage rate.

    Just for laughs did you know that your old city is now computerized and up until just a few years ago they used to use ledgers and paper receipts to account for the city revenue.

    Take a breath my friend!

    oh by the way the folks in Public Works removes tires all the time from ditches and streets if people would stop the dumping tires on the side of the road this would save you the tax payer money………but I guess it still is the City’s fault that the tires are dumped, their fault right?

  12. pj says:

    Jespo?

    Your not proud of your city’s Potato Festival? How sad……….ok so let’s do nothing in our city, but sales were up ate the shops in town that weekend. Stop in and ask them.

  13. Native says:

    Pj said
    Sadly enough the city lost a good meaning commissioner who likely did more free work than got paid. 

    Pj Really? You cant be serious! Cause that is very funny. The only folks that are mad or sad are Flynt, Martinez and you. The only thing I can’t figure out is why you would be so eager to defend a man of his character?

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