John Pollinger, Steve Clair and Randy Burke Among 25 Candidates for Bunnell Police Chief
FlaglerLive | October 31, 2013
The list of 25 applicants for Bunnell Police Chief is rich in familiar names, including the current interim chief, a former candidate for Flagler County sheriff, and two of the highest-ranked and longest-serving individuals fired from the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office earlier this year.
John Pollinger, who came in third in a three-way Republican primary for sheriff in 2012, is applying. So is Steve Clair, the former sheriff’s major fired the first day that Jim Manfre became sheriff in January. Clair made it to the final three candidates for Flagler Beach police captain (the top position there) this month, but was outlasted by Matt Doughney, who was named captain on Oct. 15. Lynn Catoggio, who’d risen to captain under former Sheriff Don Fleming before being demoted by Manfre, then re-promoted, then fired last month, is also applying for the chief’s job.
Manfre made it clear that he opposed Clair’s appointment in Flagler Beach, and exerted as much influence as he could with Flagler Beach City Manager Bruce Campbell to ward off that appointment, though the final three candidates were all considered strong contenders regardless. Manfre’s influence with Bunnell’s new city manager is untested.
Pollinger appears willing to return to the public arena after a bruising election campaign that featured his own party attempting to discredit him, then trying to boot him off the primary ballot. Pollinger ended up losing to Ray Stevens and Don Fleming. Fleming lost to Manfre.
“Life has other plans for me I guess,” Pollinger said after the primary. Today, he said: “I still want to be a cop, that’s why I ran for sheriff.” Pollinger was certified to be a cop in Florida in August. A three-month stint aside for another individual, Pollinger is the only two applicants who has been a police chief in his career, but it’s not always about the person with the most qualifications and the highest rank, he said. “It has to be a good fit for the applicant and a good fit for the town. It’s the philosophy overall of what the community wants and what the governing body wants.”
The city is no longer taking applications. City Manager Lawrence Williams is in no hurry to nominate a chief. He’s frozen the position until Dec. 1, by which time he said he’ll announce his decision. The city manager—not the city commission—chooses the police chief. The position was last held by Jeff Hoffman, who became the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office’s head of the patrol division on Oct. 7 after barely a year as chief.
Lt. Randy Burke, who’s been with the department for two decades, is currently its acting chief. Burke was passed over for the chief’s job when he applied in 2012. He’s applying again, although the job description required a college degree, which Burke does not hold. The job description was written before Williams took over. Burke and others have interpreted the specification of a college degree as intending to keep Burke from getting the job, though Williams has publicly stated that he was very satisfied with the job Burke was doing as interim.
Burke is also the only candidate who happens to live in Bunnell, has deep roots in the city, and equally deep civic commitments in the city beyond the job, coaching and mentoring youths (and occasionally bringing them in for a civic lesson by way of a Bunnell City Commission meeting). Burke will nevertheless face tough competition.
Four candidates are from Flagler County, 10 from elsewhere in Florida. The rest are from other states. Here are the candidates and their current or last jobs held:
Robert Bentivegna, Woodstock, Ga., a senior detective with the Dunwoody Police Department since 2009.
Jeffrey Brown, Mohave County, Nevada, deputy director of the county jail since February 2007.
Randy Burke, Bunnell, acting police chief of the Bunnell Department, where he’s served more than 20 years.
Robert Campbell, since 2009 has been the Team leader of Operations for the joint operation tasking center (JOTC) of the United Nations Mission in Haiti, established in response to the 2010 earthquake.
Lynne Catoggio, Palm Coast, rose to rank of captain at the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office, was fired in September in Sheriff Manfre’s latest “reorganization.”
Ronald Chapman, Apopka, traffic captain at the Orange County Sheriff’s Office since 2012.
Steve Clair, Ormond Beach, rose to rank of major at the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office, where he was fired on Sheriff Manfre’s first day.
Brent Coates, an adjunct faculty member at the University of North Florida and briefly police chief in St. Albans, W.Va., in 2011, but spent the bulk of his career rising from trooper to major with the Florida Highway Patrol, from 1983 to 2011.
Gary Darby, Mesa, Ariz., was a security officer until May, and previously a parole agent with the California Department of Corrections.
Kevin Costello, Tillson, N.Y., has been running his own security and investigation company since 2008.
James Fish, Shelby, N.C., not currently working, last worked as a security officer in 2008.
Thomas Foster, Orlando, retired in 2012 from the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, where he was captain of special operations, street crime section.
Robert Girod Sr., Fort Wayne, Ind., a lawyer, private investigator and head of his own consultancy.
Gregory Gonthier, Miami, counter-intelligence agent with the Coast Guard since 2009.
Paul Grohowski, lieutenant in the Port St. Lucie Police Department, where he’s worked since 2002.
Andrew B. Johnson, Gulf Breeze, Fla., law enforcement consultant for the Department of Transportation since Jan. 2009.
Donnie Lucas, Jesup, Ga., the assistant police chief and director of emergency services for the Fort Stewart Police Department.
David Lyndon, Palm Coast, a private investigator.
Paul Meyers, Celebration, Fla., not currently working, was a lieutenant with the Florida Division of Insurance Fraud from 2010 to 2013, and previously a state attorney’s investigator in the 16th judicial circuit (Key West).
Andres Obregon, Lady Lake, Fla., a police officer with the Howey-in-the-Hills Police Department since 2008.
John Pollinger, Palm Coast, candidate for Flagler County Sheriff in 2012, served 32 years in the Middletown, N.J., Police Department, including almost eight as chief.
Frederick Smith, Phoenix, Arizona, a police officer with the City of Maricopa Police Department since 2008.
Larry Stebleton, Bernalillo, New Mexico, has headed the office of professional standards at the New Mexico Department of Corrections since 2012.
Larry M. Thomas, Orlando, self-employed pilot examiner on contract with the Federal Aviation Administration in Orlando. Was a guard at the Putnam County jail for three months in 2010.
David Townsend Smith, Cumming, Ga., not currently working, was a colonel with the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office from 2001 to 2012.