Manfre Picks Rick Staly as Undersheriff, Passing Over O’Brien, Who’ll Be Chief Deputy
FlaglerLive | December 3, 2012
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.