Flagler Sheriff’s Sgt. Roster, Accused By His Own Men, Is Demoted Over Falsifying Records
FlaglerLive | June 18, 2012
For at least three months or more dating back to last fall, word was going around the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office that Jamie Roster, at the time a supervisor with the K-9 unit and the Crime Suppression Team, was filling time sheets for work he was not, in fact, performing. Deputies under his supervision in both units were making allegations that he was working instead at his landscaping business. Roster started Flagler Beach-based Yard Escapes last July, and became a member of the Flagler County Chamber of Commerce. Several deputies took detailed notes of his whereabouts week after week.
Cpl. Nathan Flach, the department’s liaison to the State Attorney’s office—he has little day to day interaction with deputies—was assigned the investigation by Sgt. Sepe, through Major John Plummer and Chief Deputy David O’Brien. By then, Sepe would later tell an investigator—when Sepe himself was investigated for his role in the Roster affair—“the allegations were known by almost everyone in the agency.”
On Jan. 10, an internal investigation of the allegations about Roster was launched. It concluded seven weeks later. After examining a series of records, the investigation found a deficit between Roster’s time sheets and hours actually worked of 177 hours in regular pay, 76 hours in overtime, and 12 hours in holiday pay, for a total of $8,406.26, for the six months between June 29, 2011 and Jan. 10, 2012.
“Sergent Roster’s time sheets were examined,” the investigation concluded, “and it appears impossible to prove how many hours Sergeant Roster worked on any given pay period as his time sheets do not match the ‘Unit Log Listing’ and are inaccurate as to documenting days and hours worked.”
On June 4, Roster, who never lost a day’s pay, was demoted from Sergeant to deputy, returning to road patrol. He’d been on Administrative leave with full pay since March 22. He’s appealing the decision.
Roster, an 11-year veteran of the sheriff’s office and a 2010 Officer of the Year, made $52,500 a year (before overtime) when he was a sergeant. His pay has not been cut as a deputy: he’s still making $52,500.
What gave weight to the allegations were the sources of the complaints against Roster: his own ranks, among whom morale was sinking. Before the investigation was opened, Sepe told an investigator, “people were openly talking about pictures of Sgt. Roster not being at work when his time sheet or the CAD screen showed him on duty.” CAD is computer-assisted dispatch. There was fear, too, that the allegations would be shoved under a carpet either to protect Roster, whose friendship with Maj. Steve Clair dates back many years –Clair was on Roster’s list of references when he was seeking the sheriff’s office job in 2001—or to protect Sheriff Don Fleming from another scandal. Fleming is in an election year and has already been under withering attacks by opponents and their supporters over his tenure and recent missteps.
Roster vehemently disputed the findings. He told Flach that he often worked off the clock, by simply not going through the regular procedures of recording his time on and off the clock, although that, too, is prohibited by sheriff’s office policy. Juggling his duties at both the K-9 school he supervised and Crime Suppression Units was difficult, he said: “It was very hard to track all my hours, it actually became humanly impossible.”
On Jan. 11, Flach had met Roster in the parking lot of SunTrust Bank at Flagler Plaza and explained to him the charges being brought against him.
“This is all political because I pissed on major O’Brien’s cape,” Roster told Flasch, according to the investigation. Roster then went on to tell Flach that he’d told Fleming that if O’Brien was made chief deputy, Roster would not support the sheriff in the next election.
Flach’s investigation was concluded on Feb. 27. O’Brien was named under-sheriff two days later. But it wasn’t until March 22 that O’Brien sent a memo to Roster telling him that he’d been placed on administrative leave, with full pay.
“I feel like that if I’m guilty of anything,” Roster told the investigator, “I’m guilty of not properly tracking my time and not documenting every minute and just doing too much on my own.”
The 31-page internal affairs investigation outlines interviews with seven deputies—Fred Smith, Dominic Guida, Arthur Erlandson, Joseph Costello, Jonathan Welker, Carmine Celico, Jonathan Dopp, Joseph Dailey—plus Maj. Clair and Lt. Steve Birdsong. The deputies all worked under Roster’s supervision. Almost to a man, they related instance after instance where Roster would be on the clock, but nowhere to be found. Deputies in the K-9 unit would hear that he was working with the Crime Suppression Team. Deputies in the CST would hear that he was working with the K-9 unit. Several deputies kept detailed notes, which they turned over to investigators, of Roster’s specific work hours, dates and times.
Flach in turn—with some help from Sepe while tabulating the hours—went through pay period after pay period, uncovering wised discrepancies week after week of hours logged versus hours worked. Here’s one example: “For the pay period of June 29, 2011, through July 12, 2011, Sergent Roster listed on his time sheet 56 REG, 4 OT, 12 HW, 24 CU, 80 hours regular, 4 hours overtime and 12 hours present holiday. Sergent Roster’s hours on the “Unit Log Listing” were 34 hours and 2 minutes, a shortage of 22 hours, $520.08, 10 hours overtime, $354.60 and Present Holiday Other, 12 hours $709.20.”
Similar entries with varying shortages are listed for every pay period through Jan. 10, 2012. “During the six month period,” the investigation states, “none of Sergeant Roster’s time sheets matched the ‘Unit Log Listing.’”
Roster registered his lawn care company as an LLC on July 7, 2011, a time that coincides with the discrepancies examined, and the rumors going around the sheriff’s office about his time off site.
“Deputy Jonathan Dopp,” the investigation reveals, “stated during his sworn statement that he recalled a time when he picked up Sergeant Frank Celico and took him to fleet to pick up his vehicle. Deputy Dopp was in his work vehicle and had his computer on and observed Sergeant Roster was listed as available. Deputy Dopp observed Sergeant Roster mowing a lawn on Fern Lane while on duty.”
The investigation continued: “Numerous deputies stated Sergeant Roster would make them aware he would not be available to their respective unit due to an obligation to a different unit, SWAT, CST and or K-9. [When] deputies would attempt to confirm the respective obligation with the group in question it was learned the information was unfounded.”
Most deputies spoke of two incidents in particular. One involved a search warrant that Roster had told one unit he was involved in serving, along with the CST unit. But when the CST unit was queried about it, its deputies knew nothing of that search warrant. The other incident on most deputies’ lips was the one that got Carmine Celico some press in mid-December, as Celico turned a routine traffic stop into a major drug bust on I-95. Celico told Roster of the seizure. Roster told him he was on his way. Roster showed up in civilian clothes, in his personal vehicle, though time logs had shown Roster on duty.
On many occasions, deputies reported to the investigator, Roster would tell deputies under his supervision that they could go home early. They would usually refuse. “I’m not going to do something that I feel is wrong to justify maybe what you are going to do,” Costello told Roster on one occasion.
There were times, too, as when one deputy saw Roster at Target, in civilian clothes—and questioned him about it—when Roster was, in fact, off duty. But the prevalence of suspicion by his men about Roster’s use of his time is a striking theme throughout the investigation. Meanwhile, both Maj. Clair and Lt. Birdsong told the investigator that they signed Roster’s time sheets assuming that the times recorded were accurate.
Roster’s employee record, for its part, is rich in commendations and positive evaluations. “It has been brought to my attention you were recognized by a fellow member of this agency for your professionalism and dedication to duty,” Sheriff Fleming wrote him in April 2010. “Your outstanding job performance and dedication to the public we serve is very much appreciated.” The commendation was filed by Birdsong. Roster also appears on several group commendations, generated by appreciation from a citizen for a team effort, for example, or by the sheriff recognizing a large team’s response to a special event.
His most recently publicly available job performance review (for 2009) lists his job knowledge and work habits as outstanding , how work results, initiative and communications as commendable, but his interpersonal relations and his ability to maintain good relations with his co-workers as merely satisfactory. His overall rating was commendable.
The story doesn’t end here, but metastasizes into further allegations, revelations of disturbing internal strains in critical units of the sheriff’s office—critical to public trust and safety, above all—and odd consequences.
On April 24, Arielle Tyree, the Coastal Florida Police Benevolent Association attorney who represented Roster, faxed a complaint to Fleming alleging that Sepe, while supervising the internal affairs investigation, may have violated Roster’s rights by openly discussing the investigation with numerous Criminal Investigation Division (CID) detectives.
A month earlier, Cpl. Kimberly Davis had sent an email to Fleming that read: “I feel that there are things that have been going on in CID for some time that may need to be addressed. I told you some of them when I met with you on March 1st, 2012. The one thing I spoke about was an Internal Affairs investigation on Sgt. Roster. It is obvious that someone spoke to Sgt. Sepe about our conversation because the week of March 12th, 2012 he was once again talking about the IA in the bay area of CID in front of several detectives. He said he needed to watch what he said because there was a rat in the building. A rat is an interesting word coming from a supervisor. This sort of behavior as well as the undermining of supervisors has made this unit very unprofessional and a free for all for others to act unprofessional. I suppose the rat is me. I have done IA investigations and have had training in such. I believe it is very unprofessional and a violation of policy to be speaking about an open investigation. I’m sure that everyone would agree that if it were them they would not want it discussed by everyone in the agency.”
An internal affairs investigation was launched regarding Sepe, and Davis’s allegations. Davis told the investigator that Sepe was “consumed with wanting to be in charge of the Crime Suppression Team and that he was unhappy about not being promoted to the rank of Lieutenant.”
But after the investigator interviewed numerous detectives, the most that they would say about hearing of Roster’s internal affairs investigation was that everyone else was chatting about it, but without knowing details. In one instance, Sepe and Flach were seen discussing the matter in an office, with time sheets spread before them, but the substance of what was discussed was not heard. “There is no evidence that would suggest or confirm that Sgt. Sepe released or talked about specific information or evidence about the Sgt. Roster IA investigation.”
About the time of Roster’s demotion, Sepe was promoted to Lieutenant. He is now supervisor of the Criminal Investigation Division.