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New Sheriff In Town: Jim Manfre Wastes No Time Firing, Demoting and Reorganizing

| January 8, 2013

Preparations outside the sheriff's office for Tuesday's swearing in of Jim Manfre went on Monday afternoon, as Manfre's team was announcing major changes to agency ranks. (© FlaglerLive)

Preparations outside the sheriff’s office for Tuesday’s swearing in of Jim Manfre went on Monday afternoon, as Manfre’s team was announcing major changes to agency ranks. (© FlaglerLive)

Jim Manfre is being sworn in as Flagler County Sheriff for the second time in 12 years at noon today at the end of an unusually ambitious and aggressive two-month transition.  By the beginning of this first day, well before the actual ceremony at the sheriff’s office at noon—and in moves that are likely to stir a mixture of resentment and approval—Manfre had already reorganized the county’s largest police agency, demoted many, fired some, and gutted a command structure Manfre considers top-heavy and inefficient in a department he said was “dysfunctional,” prone to “wasteful spending” and “starved for leadership.”

“I may be making seven people unhappy, but I’ll be making 250 employees happy,” Manfre said, “and also fulfilling my promise that I made in the campaign to apply a business approach to this organization.” From the first day, the reorganization will eliminate seven supervisory positions and save $150,000, Manfre said, calling it “a small down-payment” on projected raises for line deputies down the road.

But the changes go much further than mere reorganization, with a difference in style that may chafe as well as change a department maneuvered by the less hands-on administrative style of Sheriff Don Fleming over the past eight years.

The chief deputy’s position, held until now by David O’Brien and previously by Rick Look, has been eliminated, as have the positions of captain and major. They’ve been replaced by a layer of “commanders” (including O’Brien, who’ll be senior commander at the head of the patrol division), a grade Manfre describes as somewhere between a lieutenant and a captain. Pay is being reduced accordingly in many instances, though not in O’Brien’s case. They’ll report to Rick Staly, a newcomer to the agency in the newly created position of undersheriff.

Two majors–Steve Clair, the law enforcement services director, and John Plummer, heading the support services division, two men who have about half a century’s service in the sheriff’s office between them—have been summarily fired. As Manfre put it: “Their services will no longer be required in my term.”

Manfre is keeping Becky Quintieri as his jail director and Linda Bolante as the finance director, but other key positions are turning over: his attorney will again be Sid Nowell, a partner at the Flagler Beach firm where Manfre had been of counsel (Nowell had been the sheriff’s attorney in his first term between 2001 and 2004). He’s bringing in Robert Crouse, a retired associate director of the Southern Police Institute, as director of human resources, and Jack Bisland, the former resident agent in charge of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s Daytona Beach office, as head of the Investigative Services Division (formerly the Criminal Investigations Division).

Manfre spoke at a news conference held just under 24 hours before his swearing in, at the county’s Emergency Operations Center, under conditions that were as unusual as they were indicative of strictly managed if somewhat contradictory operation: Manfre had invited media to meet with him and hear his reorganization plan ahead of the swearing in on the condition that the plan not be revealed until after midnight Tuesday, because the numerous individuals being shifted, demoted or fired—and whose names were included in the media packet—had not yet been informed.

Jim Manfre during Monday's news conference. (© FlaglerLive)

Jim Manfre during Monday’s news conference. (© FlaglerLive)

The contradiction was in Manfre’s stated aim to be current with new and immediate media, including social media, and to let information flow. He’s hired a PR firm and Marketing 2 Go’s Cindy Dalecki, the local social media maven, to implement what he sees as an information-age regime. Monday’s conditional news conference, he said, would be the exception. And the condition proved untenable: just after 8 p.m., the News-Journal published its story of the overhaul plan. (Manfre also named Lt. Robert Weber, long with the sheriff’s office, the new head of media relations, though he has no experience in the field.)

By Monday evening an email had been sent through the sheriff’s office outlining the changes, and the individuals affected, including Clair and Plummer, were notified, but not by Manfre. Manfre said Staly, O’Brien and Bob Crouse, the new director of human resources, delivered the news.

Manfre was aware that dismissing individuals of long-standing in the department and reassigning others might affect morale or even lead to litigation. He was asked at the news conference whether the manner and rapidity with which he was implementing the changes might undermine cohesion going in. “Right now, I’m not as concerned about morale, although I am concerned,” Manfre said, “but about creating an efficient, streamlined organization that provides effective law enforcement services to the community.”

Staly defended the approach: “What the transition team indicated to us was that, from the interviews that they did, the agency was looking for leadership. And in many cases, the line level did not have the respect of the staff, and that’s virtually a direct quote. I suspect the majority of the agency reaction will be exciting in a new future for the sheriff’s office, especially when they see we’re serious in taking the agency to the next level, which is the vision of the sheriff.” Staly said Manfre could, politically, “make no changes and just come in as sheriff. He’s making some very hard decisions. But it’s the right decisions for the agency and for the community and for the taxpayers.”

In further reorganizations, the K-9 unit is being disbanded, with K-9 handlers operating within particular squads from now on. The change was significant beyond the reorganization matter: Sgt. Jamie Roster had headed the K-9 unit. Roster was accused by his own men earlier this year of putting in for time he did not work. The case led to an internal investigation and Roster’s brief demotion, without a loss of pay. The investigation found that he’d clocked upwards of $8,000 that could not be documented in time worked. But Fleming reinstated Roster in a settlement with Roster’s union, with just a one-day suspension.


Manfre is demoting Roster again to deputy, with a cut in pay, and reviving the issue of the investigation: “I intend on my first day of taking office to refer the matter to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for a criminal investigation,” Manfre said, “and anything else that comes out of that investigation, or out of that internal investigation that needs to be pursued, we’re asking the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to pursue. That may result in additional actions taken against deputy Roster, depending on what FDLE finds.”

As examples of wasted money, Manfre cited a $130,000 armored vehicle that was delivered to the sheriff’s office this first week of the year. Manfre said he tried to convince Fleming change his mind on the vehicle, which he says is unnecessary, but Fleming refused. Manfre cited a $100,000 fingerprinting system that’s sat unused for three years because the sheriff never hired a fingerprinting analyst. And he cited the $100,000 a year in leases that are being paid for lack of space at the sheriff’s headquarters—a problem not quite attributable to Fleming, but to an economic downturn and a slow-moving county commission that only last week finalized plans (but still not financing) to enable the sheriff’s office to move to the annex of the old courthouse in Bunnell.

In a prepared statement, Manfre said that “there is no inventory control or supply processes or internal accountability system for taxpayer purchased property. As such, I am ordering an agency-wide audit and inventory to begin immediately.” Manfre said the jail issue would also be a top priority of his administration. He will sit in on all future county meetings relating to the proposal to build a new jail or an addition to the jail, and have the existing jail audited as well.

For all the changes afoot, and what may be a few bruising battles ahead as the new administration settles in, Manfre projected a sense of certainty about his administration. “I received a call from a city commissioner this morning, from the city of Bunnell, and what he told me was there’s a sense of excitement among the deputies,” Manfre said. “They are starved for leadership. That was the word that we got out of the transition.”

The reference to a Bunnell commissioner was odd, since none of the commissioners on that government panel have a particularly close relationship with the sheriff’s office’s rank and file, let alone the sheriff’s office itself—an agency the commission summarily rebuffed less than two years ago when it briefly considered a proposal to let the sheriff take over policing in Bunnell.

A swearing-in of some of the department’s rank-and-file was scheduled for around midnight, 12 hours before Manfre’s swearing in Tuesday, under a big tent that was being set up in front of the sheriff’s office Monday afternoon.

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51 Responses for “New Sheriff In Town: Jim Manfre Wastes No Time Firing, Demoting and Reorganizing”

  1. Intheknow says:

    Great start! Way to go Jim…I knew you were ther right choice. The Roster fiasco was a total embarrassment,thankyou for not sweeping it further under the rug.

       24 likes

    • PC Aviator says:

      The “ROster Fiasco” was part of the election nonsense that Obrien had his dirty hands in. Not sure how familiar you are with it BUT….it already went to FDLE who came back and said they were not going to do anything with it. It also went to the state attorney who said there was not a criminal violations.

      If there is anything there like everyone keeps saying then bring on the investigations on the other deputies that the attorneys were ready to provide names on. That is another 20-30 internal investigations that include placing 20-30 deputies on administrative leave just like Roster. 20-30 deputies terminated or demoted just like Roster. That would close down two shifts of deputies.

      Oh, but they won’t do that because some of the deputies that are on the list include Manfre supporters. If you take Roster’s name out of it and put in a name of a Manfre supporter there would never be mention of it again.

      Maybe the PBA should just bring it all out and then everyone can get dragged through the mud and have their reputation smeared like Roster’s.

         7 likes

  2. PJ says:

    It’s pretty clear that Sheriff Manfre is a Manager.

    He re-organized, cut expenses and he has not been at work yet more than an hour!

    This is a good sign of things to come, good luck Sheriff Manfre to you and your staff……PJ

       24 likes

  3. Linda says:

    Sounds great! I wish Sheriff Manfre and the personnel and officers of the County Sheriff’s Office much success, and appreciate all the hard work obviously already done on behalf of the taxpayers.

       19 likes

  4. confidential says:

    Good start Sheriff Manfre!! The community needs you.
    Jim, remember to keep a close communication with community organizations by visiting their events and gatherings when your schedule will allow it, so we can tell you of our real issues and in exchange you will strengthen your good relation with all our county and city residents.

       16 likes

  5. Geezer says:

    Don Fleming’s TOP 10
    Retirement to-do list:

    * Go to the range and generate “ballistics”
    * Build 1:10 scale plastic police cruiser models
    * Listen to “The Joy of Opera” on WFCF
    * Listen to his Henry Mancini records
    * Try Indian food!
    * Buy some more Tony Soprano style casual-dress shirts
    * Learn to exclaim: “SERENITY NOW!” when upset
    * Collect rare fountain pens
    * Learn to roll a mean burrito
    * Block Jamesine Fischer’s phone calls

    May the outgoing sheriff enjoy a great retirement!

       10 likes

  6. flaglerdave says:

    Good luck Manfre ( NOT ) ,,,, YOU SUCKED last time in office,,, How short the public’s memory is….
    , Also firing two outstanding Veteran officers just shows what a splineless jellyfish you are…

       54 likes

    • Intheknow says:

      yeah right dave……Plummer was an outstanding vet….outstanding at what? He sat on his ass pretty good, he was outstanding cashing his check…….they kept moving him around but really couldn’t find a spot to hide him anymore. the guy was already retired

         21 likes

      • Afreind says:

        Plummer was moved around so much to fix the mess an officer would make! He is well respected by his men, many of which are very upset with this dick move.

           7 likes

  7. "My Daily Rant" says:

    Manfre dont get to used to the office,you were bounced out once it can happen again.

       38 likes

  8. Anon says:

    Too bad he is not in charge of city hall.

       21 likes

  9. Re-Elect Sheriff Fleming says:

    HELP!!! Hope you’re all in for a LONG swim!! Because this guy will drag you under and in less than 24 hours devestated the entire LEO of Flagler County.
    People forget way too soon and will regret their latest decsion… It’s not just the LEO’s that’s take a beating, BUT their families as well. What heart?
    K-9 units! GONE
    Suppression Team, GONE
    Officers knocked down & out, if not yes, GONE!

    OH yeah, I feel really safe now!! NO WAY! :-(

    God have mercy on our soles.. Why don’t we just turn the crimminals out and have them be sub-deputies?? That’s save a LOT of money..

       38 likes

    • seriously? says:

      oh please! wah wah wah…. i’ve had my car and home broken into – no help from police/ i’ve had friends who had their home broken into and had DNA EVIDENCE of the person and knew the person who did it and the idiot cop tells them “what do you think this is, CSI?” – uh no its YOUR JOB! Glad Manfre got rid of the slack

         0 likes

  10. Dennis says:

    Sorry to see people fired who served the agency and the people for no apparent reason other than reorganization. I guess wether or not that’s a good start is yet to be seen. I wouldn’t want to be this Deputy Roster. He gets disciplined by his then boss, Sheriff Fleming, and the new boss, Sheriff Manfre doesn’t like the it and decides to discipline him again. Whether you think the punishment fits the crime or not it didn’t happen on your watch. Doesn’t sound fair to punish someone for the same thing twice.

    Good luck Sheriff. Hope this “reorganization” is for the good of the agency and not just good ole cronyism.

       28 likes

    • PC Aviator says:

      Hell hath no fury like an obien scorned.

      He was promoted under Manfre’s first term from deputy to deputy first class, then to captain after the Brendel fiasco, the chief deputy after the maronski/malta mess. He has definitely not proven himself as an administrator. But he did campaign for manfre while he was fleming’s chief deputy so…..

         11 likes

      • Sally Shortarms says:

        Manfre is nothing but a wanna-be, has been all of his life due to the “Napoleon complex” he carries with him. Interesting comment, Maronski/ Malta mess, if anyone has a clue the only reason that was a mess is because once again Manfre was the short man leading, Maronski and Malta are not only excellent deputies, but real men that have more morale in their pinkies than most could ever imagine, it’s a shame Manfre had to use their reputations to get voted in the first time, it doesn’t take long for Manfre’s true colors to show, if you don’t support him he fires you, little man, little man eventually this will catch up with Mr. Wanna-Be Manfre, he will never be more than a dirty politician.

           3 likes

  11. Gangs of NY says:

    This county has become a statewide joke. I am embarrassed to tell people I live here. A bunch of embittered retired NY and Jersey residents who have spent too much of their spare time watching gangster movies on continuous loop. We got the Forty Thieves – Landon, Netts, Beadle, Petito, Flemming, Manfre, Holland-O”Brien, Meeker and their brown nosing “good ole boy cronies”. As long as they can inflict revenge, fatten their pockets and get their picture in the paper, life is good. The highest paid city manager (city landscaper) anywhere, a monopolizing mayor that plays dumb, a city fire chief that spends more time shaking hands and attending ELKS luncheons than reporting to work (already acting retired, just do it already), a clueless wannabe county fire chief, the former sheriff that spent money like a jersey boardwalk gambler and belongs in a nursing home, a premeditated vengeful butcher that fired, demoted and then brought in his friends, a former commissioner turned state rep in bed with the former chief deputy that still managed to keep a high ranking position when others, just 2 years from retirement, were fired! Meeker, well enough said, the vandalism to his political signs said enough for all of us. Now all of the cronies are sitting patiently on the sidelines waiting for their turn to be “MADE”. I think Jack Nicholson said it best as the Joker “This town needs an enema!”

       8 likes

  12. blondee says:

    Hey Jim Manfre, want to save some more money? How about abolishing the antiquated system of taking home squad cars? Far too much personal use of these vehicles occurring.

       32 likes

  13. Outsider says:

    I gotta agree with Dennis. Why would you re-open a case that’s already been closed? Is the sheriff going to go back and rehash his calendar fiasco, maybe declaring himself not guilty?

       17 likes

  14. PJ says:

    K-9??????

       0 likes

    • PC Aviator says:

      @ PJ that is payback for Birdsong (Fleming supporter) and Roster because he didn’t support Obrien but supported Clair. Obrien has always had it out for those in K9 because of his jealousy for Major Clair. Obrien could not stand that the deputies, community and administration loved Clair. There is alot more to this but it is all about personal agendas and paybacks. The other four K9 deputies jumped on the manfre wagon because Birdsong and Roster were holding them accountable.

      Obrien is not going to last long if Staly is the high level professional that FCSO is expecting–and Manfre lets Staly run the operations.

         15 likes

  15. glide10 says:

    @ blondee, Antiquated really, many agencies have this policy, I believe it’s also a benefit of being hired. I personally like seeing the patrol car in my neighborhood. Doesn’t it also allow the deputies to report for work quicker and especially in an emergency call out situation? And those barking to cut salaries, really, what do you think someone who is willing to do that job and put their lives in harms way should be paid?

       25 likes

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