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Manfre Picks Rick Staly as Undersheriff, Passing Over O’Brien, Who’ll Be Chief Deputy

| December 3, 2012

Rick Staly, left, was undersheriff for four of his 23-some years with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, one of the nation’s largest police agencies. David O’Brien, right, had risen to chief deputy during Jim Manfre’s first tenure as Flagler County Sheriff between 2001 and 2004. (© FlaglerLive)

Flagler County Sheriff-Elect Jim Manfre named Rick Staly, a veteran cop with 38 years’ experience, his undersheriff and No. 2 man, passing over David O’Brien, whom Sheriff Fleming appointed Undersheriff in February. O’Brien will be Manfre’s chief deputy, in charge of the department’s patrol division and reporting to Staly, who’s never worked at the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office but has deep roots in the county as a businessman and current president of the Rotary Club of Flagler County.

Staly and O’Brien were among four finalists for the job, and until Thursday evening, Manfre said he had not made up his mind about Staly and O’Brien, who were the final two. O’Brien had risen through the ranks from deputy to captain to chief deputy during Manfre’s first tenure as sheriff between 2001 and 2004. Staly’s appointment reflects Manfre’s desire to inject an outsider’s perspective on the agency, Manfre said, with two priorities in mind: to reorganize the entire agency, which Manfre has severely criticized for being top heavy with supervisors at the expense of road deputies; and to push community policing.

“I was looking for someone who’d give the agency a fresh look to reorganize the command staff and also reinstitute community policing,” Manfre said this morning, speaking from Tallahassee, where he is attending a weeklong conference for incoming sheriffs. Some 15 newly elected sheriffs are attending. “I worked with Rick at Rotary, I’ve always been impressed with his leadership qualities.” Manfre added: “He had a firm commitment to ethics and community policing, which are two of the things that I ran on, but equally important, he’s been a businessman for the past eight years, and he brings that experience to the sheriff’s office.” Manfre said a more business-oriented management style will characterize his second tenure at the sheriff’s office.

Staly, who will be 57 on Dec. 31, was until this year the owner of Palm Coast-based American Eagle Sentry Security, a $3.3 million-a-year business with operations in St. Augustine and Tampa, and 128 employees, half of them in Palm Coast. The company was acquired by Raleigh, N.C.-based United American Security. Staly is no longer involved.

An employee who worked for almost two years under Staly (but did not directly report to him) was indirectly instrumental in edging Manfre toward victory against Fleming. James Williams (who’d briefly been employed at the sheriff’s office in 2008), worked for Ginn Security at the time when Staly became Ginn’s vice president for security, hired there to start the company’s security division. While a security guard for Ginn Security, Williams says he was approached by Fleming and asked about a gift membership to the club. It was Williams who who filed an ethics complaint with the Florida Commission on Ethics in April, charging that Fleming had accepted valuable gifts from the Hammock Beach Resort, where Williams was often on duty. Williams supported Manfre in his bid. (An earlier version of this story stated that Williams had worked for Eagle Security, which had in fact not been formed until after Williams no longer worked security at Ginn, Staly said, though Williams had worked in Staly’s organization.)

The commission in October found Fleming in violation of state law forbidding elected officials from accepting gifts beyond a certain value without disclosing it on their annual financial disclosure form. The gifts—a free membership that gave Fleming access to the club, and meals, which Fleming subsequently reimbursed—had been provided since 2005, but never reported. The case severely weakened Fleming’s re-election chances, as he was already under fire over other matters of judgment.

In an irony of the day, one of the people who spoke to the incoming sheriffs today in Tallahassee is a lawyer for the ethics commission. One of the examples she used to illustrate a cautionary tale was the Fleming case at the club.

O’Brien’s value to Manfre—a politically alert and savvy Democrat—may have also dimmed somewhat when O’Brien’s wife, Milissa Holland, the former county commissioner, fell short in a bid for a state Florida House seat. O’Brien, for his part, termed himself relieved that the matter was behind him.


“I’m actually fine. I’m somewhat relieved. It’s been a hard thing, so I’m actually fine with that. I support Rick and the sheriff coming in,” O’Brien, a 29-year veteran of the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office, said this morning. “That’s what happens in any election when a new sheriff comes in. I’m not disappointed in any way, shape or form.”

Staly began his police career in 1974 as a municipal police officer, joining the Orange County Sheriff’s Office as a deputy. He rose to undersheriff there, leading the day-to-day operations of a police agency considered to be the 13th largest in the nation, with 2,000 employees. He was undersheriff for four of his 23 and a half years there, retiring in 2001 before taking up his new line of work in private security.

Staly bears the literal scars of his long career: on July 31, 1978, at 10:20 a.m., on Ivey Lane off of Old Winter Garden Road in West Orlando, he was shot three times as he reached for his gun, protecting a fellow-deputy. He was wounded twice in the right arm. A third bullet struck him in the chest. He was wearing a bullet-proof vest. It still cracked a rib  and left a lifetime bruise. So he’s not a graduate of desks, but of raw police work.

A news release from Manfre notes that Staly is the recipient of a Medal of Valor and Purple Heart as a result of that shooting, that he is a graduate of the FBI National Academy and the Southern Police Institute’s Administrative Officer’s Course, and that he holds a BS in Criminal Justice from Rollins College and an Master of Science in Justice Administration from the University of Louisville, where he graduated Summa Cum Laude. Staly has lived in Palm Coast six years. He is married and has two grown daughters, one of whom is about to give birth to his first grandchild. The other is working on her MBA. Both are in the Orlando area.

Staly is sharply aware of his status as an outside to the agency. “I’m coming in from the outside,” he said today. “While I have a lot of experience from a very large agency, Flagler County is a very unique county, so is the sheriff’s office.” He said he first intends to learn the agency’s processes and become familiar with the employees.

“They’re going to look at my credentials, they’re going to see that I’m a proven law enforcement leader. I was shot in the line of duty saving a deputy sheriff, so I think I immediately bring to the table not only experience but credibility with the employees.” But the focus won’t be exclusively on the agency itself: “At the same times we’re going to put bad guys and gals in jail. There’s not going to be a free ride for the criminals.”

Manfre will be sworn in on Jan. 8.

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21 Responses for “Manfre Picks Rick Staly as Undersheriff, Passing Over O’Brien, Who’ll Be Chief Deputy”

  1. Barbara says:

    Have to love small town politics! LOL!

  2. Michael Stavris says:

    Excellent choice sheriff

  3. Thea Mathen says:

    I agree, couldn’t have picked a better person!

  4. confidential says:

    Good choice Jim.

  5. Jack Howell says:

    Great selection and I’m glad to see that David was also retained.

  6. Ben Dover says:

    Larry, Curly and Moe

  7. Biker says:

    I am not a big fan of Sheriff Manfre, but I must say it appears he has made an excellent choice for undersheriff.

  8. Ralph Belcher says:

    And a good choice for whistleblower, too.

  9. Confidential says:

    So the owner of the security company puts one of his guards up to filing an ethics complaints which then lands him a job as a reward? Wonder what the guard got out of it? Makes for an interesting Who Done It. Would be nice if the media got hold of the resort records and could see just who had free memberships and make them accountable as well.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Y’all obviously don’t know Staly very well, at least from a law enforcement standpoint. You’re about to have a whole bunch of unhappy deputies. Just ask anyone who served with him at Orange County. Truly, a legend in his own mind.

  11. PJ says:

    Great choice just to mix things up and change motivation. O’brian is still an excellent cop to have on your staff Sherriff Manfre. Don’t make too many changes you need the guys that know the street patrols and can accept transition.

  12. Who Dat says:

    FCSD is a very bloated agency. Get rid of the gas guzzlers. More officers on the road. Accountability! Do something about the speeders in our community and on the road. The citizens of Palm Coast will be waiting and watching Manfre and election promises.

  13. Like DAUH......... says:

    To Confidential;
    So the owner of the security company puts one of his guards up to filing an ethics complaints which then lands him a job as a reward? Wonder what the guard got out of it?

    Too bad people didn’t see through this earlier, naturally the guy will have a “cushion job”
    I feel sorry for the deputies …………………

  14. Anonymous says:

    What are the salaries going to be of these two men?

    • PC Aviator says:

      Chief O’Brien’s salary is $98,000 (base–you can add $40,000 for benefits of insurance, retirement, etc…). Rick Look made $108,000 (base + $45,000 for benefits). Undersheriff Staly will probably be comparable to Look’s. The Sheriff’s salary is over $120,000.

  15. confidential says:

    Warning: “Confidential” is a total different character and has nothing to do with this “confidential”.
    Just wanted to clarify, as I like Sheriff’s Manfre choice and his credentials. If not often for whistle blowers these improprieties will never surface.

  16. glide10 says:

    Hopefully things are going to be positive and move forward for all involved. We can all speculate on many things, I would say lets just sit back and be very watchful to see how everything pans out. No one can tell or predict the future.

  17. ddh says:

    Hey. Ray Stevens, how do you like this?? You turned on the people like me when we voted for you and then defected to the other side.. Maybe there’s there’s a dog catcher job open for you..

  18. Russ says:

    Sheriff Manfre could not have selected a better person for Undersheriff. The selection of Undersheriff Staly, should give Sheriff Manfre instant credibility. I don’t know of anyone that is more qualified than Undersheriff Staly. His credentials, work ethic and professionalism are second to none. The Flagler Sheriffs Office, is a good agency and it is about to get even better. We wish the new Sheriff and his entire staff all of the best.

    • PC Aviator says:

      In choosing Staly, it does appear as if Manfre is approaching this term differently than his first term in 2001 where he appointed a slick-sleeve detective who had absolutely no command or even supervisory experience. Staly does have a “cops perspective” as well as command experience from a reputable agency.

  19. Anonymous says:

    I am not sure this is the best choice for under-sheriff! I used to work for Staly and I was not happy with his insulting comments without first knowing the true facts! He(Staly) is not one to investigate for the true facts of important matters and just gathers sencond and third hand! Put your seat belts on Deputies, you’re in for the ride of your life now. Good luck to the good portion of our police force!

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