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Sheriff Manfre Faces Federal Lawsuit Over Unpaid Wages, Jeopardizing Raise for Troops

| November 8, 2014

Sgt. Phil Esterhaus briefs Hill Street Station on the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Sgt. Phil Esterhaus briefs Hill Street Station on the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Adding to a series of setbacks and difficulties, including one other lawsuit and a pending ethics investigation, Flagler County Sheriff Jim Manfre is facing a federal lawsuit by at least four former deputies over overtime hours they say they were not paid for years because of the way briefings were routinely held off the clock. The practice dates back to the administration of Sheriff Don Fleming, who was in office for eight years, until the end of 2012.


The lawsuit was originally filed in late July by ex-deputy Daniel Ruddell and has since amended in late September as additional ex-deputies have joined it. Ruddell is represented by Kimberly De Arcangelis Woods of the powerful Morgan and Morgan Orlando law firm. (She dressed as Superwoman on Halloween).

On Oct. 21, a motion was filed to turn the filing into a class-action lawsuit, potentially including all road deputies who worked for Manfre in the last two years. Ruddell would be the class representative.

The lawsuit has implication beyond those parties and could potentially affect every rank and file employee at the agency, including civilians. Because of the lawsuit, and according to people who have followed the union negotiations, Sheriff’s Office negotiators have told union representatives that money for a 1 percent raise that the County Commission made available to the sheriff in this year’s budget cannot be awarded as such, and has been set aside to cover the cost of the lawsuit, should back pay have to be awarded the former employees.

The sheriff and the unions have been negotiating since February, and late last month the union declared an impasse, though the sheriff said last week that the issue may be resolved soon. Even modest employee raises appear less than likely this year, however, upsetting employees who don’t want to be punished over a lawsuit they have nothing to do with.


A 1 percent raise due Sheriff’s Office employees may go unawarded as the money for it is diverted to the lawsuit.


Ruddell is a 44-year-old Palm Coast resident who worked at the sheriff’s office from September 2006 to April 2014, and for seven years at the Daytona Beach Police Department before that. He charges that during his employment at the sheriff’s office, he was required to attend mandatory briefings but was not allowed to clock in for those briefings, which lasted at least 15 minutes.

“I have personal knowledge that all of the other deputy sheriffs/road deputies I worked with were subject to the same pay practices because they were also required to attend the ‘shift briefings’ without pay,” Ruddell wrote in his lawsuit declaration. “In fact, because I complained about our attendance at the shift briefings without pay, the FCSO acknowledged that this policy was contrary to the Fair Labor Standards Act.”

In an April 15 email to other administrators, Jim Troiano, the agency’s human resources director, acknowledged Ruddell’s complaint and explicitly stated that “According to the Fair Labor and Standards Act, we cannot ask someone to come in early to prepare for a shift or work event without compensating them. Since this will cause additional overtime, we are not going to authorize it.” The email also refers to a grievance Ruddell had filed—the same month his employment ended at the agency.

Referring to broadening the case to a class-action lawsuit, Ruddell wrote, “Some of the FCSO who are still employed expressed an interest in joining the lawsuit, but they are in fear of being terminated or of the backlash that they think will come from the Sheriff and others who work for the Sheriff’s Office should they join.”

Since then, ex-employees who joined the lawsuit include Chris Ragazzo, who worked there 10 years until May 2013, Anthony Macchia, who worked there from 2006 to October 2011, and August Arinia, who worked at the agency from 2007 to May 2013.

In his complaint, Ruddell charges that by being denied the additional pay for time worked, which may have resulted in overtime pay, the sheriff “knowingly, willfully, or with reckless disregard carried out its illegal pattern or practice of failing to pay proper overtime compensation with respect to” Ruddell and other deputies. Ruddell also claims that the sheriff’s office “failed to maintain accurate pay and time records in violation of the FLSA’s record keeping requirements.”

In the sheriff’s brief response to the lawsuit, filed on Oct. 20, Mark Levitt, an attorney with Winter Park’s Allen, Norton and Blue, denied most allegations and came down to this: “Any alleged violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act by [the Sheriff’s Office] was not willful and was wholly unintentional.” The sheriff’s attorney is also claiming that the office is protected by qualified immunity and that the statute of limitation may apply “in whole or in part.” The response was surprising for its brevity, but may have been driven by an apparent attempt by the sheriff’s office to resolve the matter sooner than later, and avoid further court action.

The sheriff’s strategy appears to be to block the case from turning into a class action and instead limit potential losses by negotiating a settlement with the four ex-deputies. That would mean paying them what they say they’re due (and using the money once earmarked for the 1 percent raise to all employees) and preventing a much more expensive lawsuit or eventual settlement.

Two days after the ex-deputies filed the motion to win class-action status, Manfre and Riddell jointly filed a motion to stay the case for 60 days. The move is intended to allow both sides “to engage in

formal mediation and settlement negotiations to determine whether the Parties can reach a resolution of the claims pending in this litigation.” District Judge Marcia Morales Howard granted the stay on Oct. 27. It’s valid until Dec. 23.

Mediation is scheduled for Dec. 3.

Ruddell vs. Manfre (2014)

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30 Responses for “Sheriff Manfre Faces Federal Lawsuit Over Unpaid Wages, Jeopardizing Raise for Troops”

  1. Jan Reeger says:

    I wonder why no suit has been filed against Fleming unless they are just testing the waters.

  2. m&m says:

    We had him once before so you people who voted for him you got him….

  3. John Smallberries says:

    Hey FlaglerLive, you do realize that police are civilians too, right? Don’t take this as disrespect as I like flaglerlive and I enjoy many of the articles posted here, but the sooner that particular “divide” is closed, the better.

    • FlaglerLive says:

      That’s a good point JS, we too frequently fall into the language trap by accepting the organization’s phrasing. It’s been changed to “administrative personnel.”

  4. Flatsflyer says:

    Why is OT pay even involved, Deputies used to be salaried not hourly workers

    • anonymous says:

      Deputies are paid hourly. They have been so for at least the last ten years.

    • Nancy N says:

      Being a salaried worker doesn’t exclude you from being eligible to collect overtime pay. Some salaried workers must be paid overtime pay under Federal law.

  5. BS says:

    I would be pissed too if money was to be paid to me was withheld and paid to someone else to shut their mouth. How about reducing that cocky under sheriff’s pay and paying it from that!!!

  6. No Tricks Here says:

    Don’t believe Mr. Levitt. Manfre knew about the violation all along. All of command staff knew, and yes, there is proof. Don’t forget folks, Manfre was an attorney. He negotiated labor contracts and knows very well you can’t force people to work without paying them. He might as well be stealing money from the employees. Sheer thievery.

  7. Freddy says:

    Again the under paid rank and file is getting screwed with no raise because of the actions of the sheriff past and present.

  8. biker says:

    This wannnabe sheriff is going to cost the county a fortune by the time this and all the other yet reported lawsuits are settled. I am actually enjoying watching this train wreck. Karma is a wonderful thing !!

  9. Heading North says:

    Time for someone to get the Governors office involved and remove Mr. Manfre from office, not unlike they did with former Sheriff Dan Bennett back in the early 1980’s. They found out he was crooked also!
    Best thing the “Constitutional Sheriff” could do right now is plead the 5th and sneak out of town!
    I hope the honest people of Flagler County have finally seen the truth about this man and will literally run him out of office!
    Again, I wish the good people of Flagler County well.

  10. Enlightened says:

    It just keeps on getting better and better.

  11. Christ is alive says:

    I believe most of the infractions were under Fleming’s reign as Sheriff. I believe they both have a part in this. Both of these Sheriffs are playing this game. Here is the question, can Flemming be sued personally over these infractions? If so is the city on the hook to defend him?

    • Past Ghost says:

      I recall the same issue in manfre’s previous term, the deputies had to wash their vehicles while off the clock. It went away quietly, but sounds like a lesson that could have been learned the first time.

  12. Ray Thorne says:

    “The practice dates back to the administration of Sheriff Don Fleming, who was in office for eight years, until the end of 2012”

    The practice pre-dates Fleming.

  13. Enlightened says:

    I worked for both of these Sheriff’s. They both have their bad points. The one thing I could never understand is how they get away with so much lying and stealing. This office is suppose to be about honor and integrity. These sheriffs were seriously lacking in this area. They are only out for what they can get for themselves. Nice cars, country club memberships, and the like. Disgusting.

  14. Ray Thorne says:

    Sheriff’s attorney Sid Nowell, in another recent article involving another lawsuit, told Flaglerlive that the Sheriff’s Office is facing no other lawsuit from a former employee. And now we see that there is in fact another lawsuit where five other former employees are involved.

    http://flaglerlive.com/71473/bolante-manfre-lawsuit/

    • Kathy says:

      His good friend & attorney isn’t speaking honestly either? You’re kidding! Who would have guessed that might be happening?

  15. Seminole Pride says:

    I always thought Florida was a “Work at Will” State. Also aren’t Deputies salary employees. Mandatory meetings and special assignments should be a part of the job. To many influences are being brought here to Florida.

    • No Tricks Here says:

      With all due respect Seminole Pride, I believe you are misinformed on several points. I believe you are referring to Florida being a Right To Work state. This concept refers to an employee’s choice to be affiliated with a union or not. It prevents “closed shops” in the workplace. Command staff and higher ranking supervisors are salary employees, not rank and file. That is standard, just as in the private sector and non-sworn positions. And since they are hourly, they should be compensated accordingly, just as ANY other employee deserves. Special assignments, that require special skills and training should be recognized monetarily, just like in any other industry. And especially in cases where the employees are placed in higher risk situations. What’s fair is fair. Because they are public employee, does not mean they should be enslaved to the rest of us.

    • anonymous says:

      No, deputies are paid hourly.

    • Informed says:

      Only upper management is salaried. Law enforcement officers get paid overtime. Don’t you see them working off duty details? They are not doing it out of the kindness of their hearts.

    • Johnny Taxpayer says:

      Work at will yes… work for free, no. Mandatory meetings and special assignments should be part of the job… so long as employees are paid for attending these events! However forcing someone to attend a briefing as a condition of continued employment (i.e. not being fired) with no pay, is an obvious violation of Federal and probably state law.

  16. Groot says:

    Speaking of the local cops…there was a serious assault in the parking lot at Publix Palm Harbor last nite. One guy was jumped by a group of men and they kicked him in the head repeatedly to the point of him being unconscious. Odds are that this never gets reported? Very likely not to be reported, this sort of thing is swept under the rug. Got to keep those crime stats lower than they are.

  17. The taxpayer says:

    I don’t want to be “the taxpayer” anymore. I’m sick and tired of having to pay for all these political and law enforcement “screw ups”. Make them pay for their own mistakes.

  18. Southern Genteel says:

    Most companies pay OT for 15 minutes or more. I certainly don’t want to work for nothing. You call me in 15 minutes early then you need to pay me. Manfre and Fleming are from up North and I find it appalling they would take advantage of southern genteel. Just goes to show you, what goes around comes around. I would never vote for either of these two carpetbaggers again. Why are Flagler County voters stuck on stupid.
    There are much better candidates out there that can and will do a better job for sheriffs and taxpayers alike.

  19. Jim says:

    from BS…”I would be pissed too if money was to be paid to me was withheld and paid to someone else to shut their mouth. How about reducing that cocky under sheriff’s pay and paying it from that!!!”

    B.S. you hit the nail on the head it is the “COCKY” under sheriff (your words) who’s calling the shots and doing the negotiations. He AS MUCH TO BLAME FOR ALL OF THIS MESS AS MANFRE

  20. Jasonstryker says:

    I feel bad for the sheriff. He is about to be blindsided by his own undersheriff. Staly is telling people that as soon as he has shoulder surgery (he want his Fcso insurance to pay the bill) he is planning to resign and begin his run for sheriff. Staly is saying he may wait for Hoffman to return from the FBI academy in spring. Hoffman and Staly = planning this together. Staly has been slowly destroying the FCSO moral and he is going to pont the finger at Manfre. Manfres biggest fault is that he is clueless. His own campaign staff told him this was going to happen.

  21. Michael says:

    Why would a Deputy be salary? Better question is why would the Sherriff (who by trade is an attorney) allow these prctices to go on? You cannot even speak to an hourly employee about work if he or she is not on the clock, it is a lawsuit waiting to happen. if you want to hold briefings for hourly employees, they need to be compansated, this in simple management 101. Manfre is a mistake, how he was voted back in is beyond me, I just hope the people of Flager remember what a problem he and Ms. Weeks are when slectiond roll around again.

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