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Sheriff Jim Manfre Faces $1,500 Fine in Ethics Violation as Report Details Travel, Gift and Spending Lapses

| November 25, 2014

Sheriff Jim Manfre has admitted to an ethics violation in the latest of a series of setbacks. (© FlaglerLive)

Sheriff Jim Manfre has admitted to an ethics violation in the latest of a series of setbacks. (© FlaglerLive)

In a deal with the Florida Ethics Commission, Flagler County Sheriff Jim Manfre has admitted to violating Florida law by using department vehicles for personal, out-of-state trips on three occasions. He faces a fine of up to $1,500 and restitution of $846. A commission investigation found probable cause for two additional ethics violation charges, but those were dismissed in light of the recommended settlement. A fourth charge was found to have no merit. The Ethics Commission will rule on the settlement on Dec. 12.


The charges were the result of an ethics complaint filed in late May by Linda Bolante, the sheriff’s ex-finance director, who had been forced to resign a few weeks earlier. Manfre, Bolante claimed to the commission, “has consistently engaged in conduct that I believe amounts to malfeasance in public office. He has used and continues to use public property and public funds for personal gain. He has been advised about the inappropriate and improper use of public property/funds but continues with his inadvisable conduct.” Bolante also filed a whistleblower suit against Manfre. The suit is ongoing.

The proposed settlement is brief and clinical. The 13-page investigative report and 19-page Commission Advocate’s Recommendations, which sum up the ethics investigation and were submitted in September and October, were more detailed and harsher. Diane Guillemette, the advocate, couched no terms as she unraveled a pattern of behavior by the sheriff that cast serious doubt on his veracity and showed him repeatedly blaming either his now ex-finance director, his faulty memory or existing customs at the sheriff’s office for what investigators found to be cause for ethical breaches.

“Through his interview with the investigator,” Manfre’s attorney, Linda Edwards of Tallahassee, wrote the commission’s executive director in a five-page letter in early October, Manfre “repeatedly advised that he did not believe he was doing anything wrong.” If he had questions, he relied on Bolante, who “organizationally had the most knowledge and experience with managing financial matters.” Manfre was a private citizen for eight years between his two stints as sheriff, she wrote, while Bolante was continuously at the department, earning $90,000 a year. Manfre, Edwards wrote, has taken responsibility for the lapses, while Bolante has “unclean hands,” and was forced to retire because of “her missteps.” Edwards goes further, saying Bolante had been a supporter of the former sheriff, politically, but that Manfre had agreed to keep her on as long as she complied with a few changes.

The attorney’s letter then systematically turns the charges by Bolante around on Bolante herself, essentially blaming Bolante for the sheriff’s mistakes. The commission investigation and advocate’s recommendations did not take that route, focusing responsibility on Manfre himself.

The Ethics Commission investigation and recommendation were made public Tuesday, ahead of the commission’s December meeting. The report and investigation are the latest in a series of setbacks for Manfre, who was elected on a platform of ethics above all. He faces a federal lawsuit on wage issues, the lawsuit by Bolante and an impasse with his three unions, while the suicide of a deputy who’d recently been forced to resign triggered a wave of bitterness directed at Manfre. The department’s spokespersons have in consequence increasingly bristled at criticism or transparency. (The Sheriff’s Office in early November, and in an apparent violation of the public record law, ceased sending news releases to FlaglerLive, though there’s been a standing request for the releases–which are public record–predating this administration.)

Bolante made four charges. She said Manfre asked her almost immediately after assuming office two years ago to issue his paycheck early so he could buy a fridge. Bolante complied. Manfre, the investigation found, “gained a short-term benefit; however, absent a policy regarding advance issuance of paychecks or pressure upon the Business Services Director, corrupt intent is not shown, and the act would not be considered inconsistent with the proper performance of [Manfre’s] public duties.” The Ethics Commission investigation dismissed that charge outright, finding no probable cause for an ethics violation.

Bolante also charged that Manfre on three occasions had misused department vehicles by traveling out of state with his wife. One of those trips has previously been reported after the car in August 2013 was involved in a wreck that Manfre failed to properly report, as agency policy requires. The sheriff had gone to Virginia to visit his daughter and to visit colleges with his college-bound son. The sheriff subsequently conceded to have erred by using a department vehicle and reimbursed the office for $667 in mileage fees.

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But Bolante documents two additional trips: one to New Orleans in January 2013, after the sheriff had attended a job-related conference in Destin, Fla., and one to Pigeon Forge, Tenn., in May 2013, to a cabin owned by Undersheriff Rick Staly. Manfre was pulled over by a highway trooper on the trip to New Orleans, but the reason is not disclosed. “There was no public purpose for this trip,” Bolante wrote of the trip to Tennessee. “It was merely a vacation for he and his wife.”

The cabin would have rented for $370 to $430 per night, Bolante charged, saying the sheriff accepted a gift without it being reported on his disclosures of gifts. Manfre paid only the $75 cleaning fee for use of the cabin. Five months later, following a Florida Sheriff’s Association ethics training webinar, Manfre told the undersheriff that a gift disclosure was in order, but said he would claim the value of the gift was $99 a night. Staly, according to the investigation, advised against that, saying the disclosure must be in line with the advertised value of the cabin’s rental. Manfre told the investigator that he did not recall having had that conversation with Staly. Manfre, the investigation reports, “did not file a gift disclosure until he learned that this Ethics Complaint was to be filed against him.”

The advocate found probable cause that Manfre had violated the law by accepting a gift and improperly reporting it late.

The commission’s investigative report notes that when first interviewed by the investigator about the Tennessee trip, Manfre said he’d driven his own BMW to Pigeon Forge. It was only after “the commission investigator delved into the matter further” that the investigator found that not to be true. In hi second interview, Manfre told the investigator “it is possible that he used the FCSO vehicle for the Pigeon Forge trip, but he cannot remember.” Manfre said he may have been confusing the trip he’d made to Naples with his BMW.

Manfre told the investigator that Bolante had spoken of the previous sheriff, Don Fleming, using his sheriff’s issued vehicle “for personal reasons and, therefore, he did not think about the legal ramifications of using it for personal travel.” Bolante acknowledged not warning the sheriff about using the vehicle for out of state travel. The sheriff would subsequently cite instances of Bolante not cautioning him on key department matters as among the reasons why she was forced to resign. At any rate, the investigation found, Manfre “was less than forthcoming about his use of the county vehicles, which may be viewed as an indicia of of knowledge of wrongdoing.”

As a result, the ethics investigation found probable cause that Manfre had violated the law by using sheriff’s vehicles for public travel,

Bolante then, in what would amount to the fourth charge, listed a series of instances where Manfre used his sheriff’s office-issued credit card without submitting receipts. most of the purchases involving alcohol and most of them involving people that included non sheriff employee, among them the sheriff’s wife. Bolante listed six such instances. Only one such instance was previously reported, when, at a job-related conference, the sheriff paid for a meal for himself, his wife, the undersheriff and his wife, at which alcohol was also served. Staly, the undersheriff, subsequently documented that he and his wife had not had alcohol, nor had he been aware that the sheriff was paying for the meal with a sheriff’s issued credit card. Staly reimbursed the office for the meal. The total charges for the six occasions add up to $610. Manfre reimbursed the office $344, Bolante said, only after public record requests of credit card documentation were made.

Manfre told the investigator that Bolante had given him the procedure for using the credit card: he could charge all expenses on any given business trip to the card, and Bolante would then calculate the difference between the per diem allowance and what balance he would be responsible for. Manfre told the investigator that he “did not follow up to reimburse, despite the credit card charges being obviously larger than his per diem, because he was very busy and he depended upon Bolante to tell him he was using the credit card improperly.” Bolante, the investigator reports, denied ever telling Manfre that his travel purchases would be offset by the per diem.

State policy prohibits the use of government-issued credit cards for meals and alcohol, and a written department policy was provided the investigator. The policy states: “Sheriff will make only agency related purchases and return receipts to Finance.”

“The facts as presented,” the investigation concludes, show that Manfre “used the FCSO issued credit card, a resource he was entrusted with, to secure a benefit for his wife and others (the meals and drinks purchased). [Manfre] may also have personally benefited in terms of goodwill when others thought he had ‘picked up’ the check.”

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49 Responses for “Sheriff Jim Manfre Faces $1,500 Fine in Ethics Violation as Report Details Travel, Gift and Spending Lapses”

  1. Johnny Taxpayer says:

    Shocking.

  2. JoJo says:

    haha, LOL – Looks Like Manfre is Getting Ready to Ride Our of Town.

  3. Just the facts says:

    The ethics committee is a joke. Complete and disgusting joke.

  4. rick says:

    Not shocking. He is a crooked sheriff.

  5. John Smallberries says:

    A $1500 fine for what amounts to theft, with no criminal repercussions. Delightful.
    My guess is that he’ll use the company card to pay the fine.

  6. biker says:

    What was that acronym this guy used to throw around during the election AIR- Acountabilty Integrity & Repsect ?? Wow guess it was only a catchy election slogan.. This phony needs to step down he is a disgrace!!

  7. tulip says:

    I remember all the people that criticized Fleming because he had a gift card from a private organization that entitled him to a discount on meals. He didn’t disclose the fact that it was worth more than $100.00

    I think what Manfre has and is doing is far far worse than anything Mr. Fleming did and I hope people remember it 2 years from now when Manfre is up for re election.

  8. KD says:

    Karma… funny thing, isn’t it? Somebody please get this idiot out of Flagler county- and out of that FCSO uniform that he so undeservingly wears each day. This man is a joke and a disgrace. It’s only a matter of time before all his secrets come out, and he’ll finally get what’s coming to him. 6140

  9. Ray Thorne says:

    “The commission’s investigative report notes that when first interviewed by the investigator about the Tennessee trip, Manfre said he’d driven his own BMW to Pigeon Forge. It was only after “the commission investigator delved into the matter further” that the investigator found that not to be true”

    Really? He doesn’t remember what vehicle he drove to Tennessee? Big difference between a Charger and a BMW. This is the same Sheriff who had all employees go through ethics training (twice) at a hi dollar cost. This is the same Sheriff that told ranking officers while they were at a middle management training program that they all were the laughing stock of law enforcement. He went so far as to characterize Bunnell PD by telling those ranking deputies that even the Bunnell PD was laughing at them. One thing is for sure, the man lacks the maturity, the integrity, the respect for the badge the respect for those he serves and every other good natured quality needed to do the job. Dishonesty runs rampant and the good deputies have sure grown tired yet they carry on because at the end of the day, they don’t work for the Sheriff, they work for the citizens.
    Not even two years and look what we have. I wonder who the laughing stock is now Mr Manfre…

  10. Enlightened says:

    Well, well, well! Look whose doing unethical things now. I seen this one coming. Surprise, surprise, he is blaming it on a former employee. This reeks of deja vu. You need to be fired by the Govenor or step down you crook! People, did you really think this arrogant man had changed?

  11. Leah whalen says:

    Doubt it

  12. Carol Mikola says:

    I’m very disappointed.

  13. Ben FL expat says:

    He sure fooled me.
    I wish I could retract my vote.

  14. Outsider says:

    Getting a paycheck early is the equivalent of receiving a loan, without interest, I might add, and would be considered unethical at any private company. There is an entire industry know as “payday loans,” where people get money until payday. They pay quite a bit of interest which proves there is value to the service. He received a benefit for which he paid nothing. This man should be removed from office.

  15. YankeeExPat says:

    It’s a slimy little county isn’t it? Funny that the realtor didn’t tell me this from the get go.

  16. Marbury v. Madison says:

    …then what? We’re going to elect another loser.

  17. Ray Thorne says:

    Enjoying the luxury of the position like a fat cat while denying deputies a pitiful 1% raise.

  18. Groot says:

    Maybe it would be better if the sheriff was appointed by the county and was chosen from a pool of law enforcement professionals? As I recall, Mr Manfre’s previous profession was a realtor. What works in private business does not work in public service. So, has he ever heard of a credit card to buy a “fridge” instead of requesting to be paid early? Remember, these are only the things the guy got nailed for. Really upsetting story and chain of events.

  19. Not At All Surprised says:

    Interesting how the head of a department isn’t aware of the policies within. In no way should Bolante be held responsible for Mr. Manfre’s ignorance. How can we expect anything else from a man who has never worked to enforce the law. Mr. Manfre is a scheister and has no idea what integrity is about. Some one who has never served in the line of duty has no business leading real men and women who risk their lives on a daily basis. Mind you not one of the sworn of Flagler County respect him. He has destroyed the brotherhood among the FCSO and tarnished the honor of bearing a badge. Shame on you Mr. Manfre, shame on you.

  20. John F. Pollinger says:

    During my time as a chief of police, a plaque hung in my office with the quote, “Character is doing what’s right when nobody is looking”. It was a quote I often repeated during my unsuccessful campaign for sheriff. When Mr. Manfre took office, he uttered those same words during his swearing in ceremony.

    Since taking the oath of office, Manfre has sullied the office he holds and apparently from this latest folly believes that “when nobody is looking, it doesn’t matter”. He has taken a destructive path of destroying so many careers and yet he believes he is exempt from the ethical standard he sets for his employees including his laughable firearms qualification done in secret. A public servant should always avoid conflict and even the appearance of a conflict. “ I didn’t know” or “I can’t remember” or paying reimbursement is just a lame excuse for getting caught. You are even highlighted in an article as the only sheriff in Florida who has never been a police officer.

    http://www.leoaffairs.com/news/electing-sheriffs-case-qualified-leadership/

    Mr. Manfre you have stained and continue to stain the very badge you wear.

    • Anonymous says:

      As a worker on The John Pollinger for Sheriff campaign who saw how Mr Pollinger ran his bid for this office with the utmost respect for the County, the office, and the people of Flagler County. He is a man with ethics and principles who would never have allowed this to happen under his watch in addition to the treatment of the Deputies by Sheriff Manfre which is appalling. Mr Manfre should be ashamed of all of these issues that have taken place under his administration especially his misuse of the office. In my opinion the man who is sitting in the office of Sheriff should never have gotten that chance. Mr Pollinger was the only man who was totally qualified to be sitting in the office as Flagler County’s Sheriff. This County missed an opportunity to have a GREAT SHERIFF. Our loss.

    • jadobi says:

      Mr. Pollinger, I hope to see you running for Sheriff when this clown’s term is up.

    • Ray Thorne says:

      Bravo John.

    • Ben FL expat says:

      I will cheer you from afar.

  21. Jason Stryker says:

    Thank you Flagler Live for posting this story. I have been involved in law enforcement since 1992 and I am saddened by the out right disregard for public trust that Manfre and Staly have demonstrated since they took office. A law enforcement officer is a public servant who has a responsibility to make certain that they do not take advantage of the trust granted to them. I think that c.s. Lewis is credited as saying that integrity is doing what’s right even when no one is looking. Obviously Manfre and Staly believe that they only have to correct their lack of integrity when they are caught in the act. Believe me, as a former FCSO employee, Staly has known everything that is going on in that office. He has told multiple FCSO employees that he is waiting for Manfre to self destruct so that he can step down and begin his run for sheriff. Staly has been planning this every since his friend Bisland was forced out of the top Investigation position only months after taking office. Bisland was Stalys best man at his wedding. I am wondering if the sheriff knows that his own agency policy states that being dishonest during an internal investigation is grounds for termination. How can this administration expect anyone to believe them after reading the ethic committee findings….resign Manfre…resign Staly. Bring some fraction of honor back to this office.

  22. Winston says:

    If I stole from the goverment in this manner and was not sherrif I would be facing felony charges and jail time.

  23. Michael says:

    Manfre is a disgrace to the position, uniform and law enforcement officers across our nation. I love the fact that he cannot remember what car he drove, he is unethical and a criminal. It is called embezzlement when you steal from your company; you are prosecuted and face real restitution for what you stole.

    He needs to be suspended from his position and an outside investigation initiated so we can find out exactly how much he has stolen from the taxpayers of Flagler. He should also face perjury charges and be investigated for wrongful termination complaints for all the people he terminated who would not join in with his corrupt ways of working. Manfre needs to go, I cannot believe we were stupid enough to believe this bullshit artist and re-elect him to office again. My belief is he will only face the $1500 charge and this will be forgotten, it is a shame that an elected official can get away with crimes that the average person cannot.

    Sheriff Manfre, do the right thing for the first time in your life and resign from office so you do not further embarrass the good people of Flagler County. You want to be tough on crime, start with yourself, but you are too much of a coward and liar to do that, Wait you probably do not have any recollection of all your campaign promises now that you are in office, you are a pathetic excuse for a law enforcement official,

  24. FiveO says:

    The most frustrating part about this is all the deputies who are trying to do the right thing but they keep having to deal with all this. Where are the ethics when the awards committee recommended one person for deputy of the year, yet when their nomination went to Manfre he decided to pick Steve Williams instead just because? Just wait. When it comes out, just know that he was picked alone by Manfre

  25. Downtown says:

    He drives a BMW but needs his county paycheck issued early to buy a fridge? Come on now he can make up a better BS story then that. This guy is dishonest and an embarrassment to the County. He should resign asap!

  26. Moe Syzlak says:

    Mr. Manfre uses a credit card for purchases that he’s not supposed to and its and ethics violation. If I was to use a credit card for something its not supposed to and its a fraud or theft. Get this crook out of office. He should be sittin in a jail cell

  27. DoubleGator says:

    What a joke. Glad the finance director was terminated. Me thinks the whistle she’s a blowing is of the petty vindictive variety. So goes the mud throwing of our little peyton place.

  28. Emile says:

    During the 2012 election year, the Republicans started attacking each other. When Ray Stevens threw his support to Manfre, it was all over.

    • Jim says:

      In response to Emile,
      Ray Stevens threw some support to Manfre because, at the time, he was the lesser of two evils. Since then he has publicly criticized Manfe’s actions on a number of issues. Ray Stevens is a carrier law enforcement officer who retired with distinction and not under a cloud of suspicion. As a candidate it was plain to see that he had the most diverse law enforcement credentials of all the candidates. It is unfortunate that “backroom” deals were made which led to his defeat.

  29. ken says:

    The sheriff was elected with the expectation he would enforce the law, not break it.

  30. Marty Siegel says:

    As a worker on the John Pollinger for Sheriff campaign who got to see first hand what a man of integrity acts like each and every day it is appalling to hear about these improprieties coming from the Sheriff’s office. It has also come to light about the way our Deputies are treated on a daily basis by the Sheriff and not in a very positive way. This never would have occurred had Mr Pollinger been elected he is a man who talks and treats people the way they deserve to be treated. None of these issues would have arisen under the watch of John Pollinger. This county lost a great opportunity to elect a virtuous man who embodies everything the Office of Sheriff of Flagler County needs and wants from it’s elected officials. This was our profound loss as a county.

    • Brenda Pollinger Bomar says:

      To Marty Siegel – On behalf of the Pollinger family I thank you for the kind words about my brother. His opponents tried to trash his integrity during the horrific campaign. He was a great cop and a great Chief and work side by side with his fellow officers – it appears that the likes of him have never been seen in Flagler County. What a shame – he would have never disrespected the badge or the office.

  31. m&m says:

    I and many others warned you at election time that we had him once before and he was a looser then. So you people who voted for him got what you wanted.. you’ll know what to do next election.

  32. Groot says:

    Nice hat.

  33. Jim says:

    Ray Stevens, too would’ve made an EXCELLENT Sheriff he certainly has the best qualifications and the support of the Deputies! I think all Flagler citizens should realize that Manfre and Staly are both responsible for the SEVERE decline of the Sheriff’s Office, that was already on a great downhill slide from the previous administration. I think it’s time to give Mr. Stevens the shot he deserved last election. As Mr. Delarosby stated soooooo correctly that BOTH Manfre and Staly suffer from….”Arrogance of Office”

  34. Not surprised says:

    Both Fleming and Manfre are crooks. It shows up everyday in the department’s performance. We need a new type of top-cop, one that brings transparency and integrity to the organization. We need someone that instills the motto of “protect and serve” in the rank and file, instead of engaging in bad behavior that results in the whole organization operating like a gang. The only difference, these members have guns and badges.

  35. Show me the money says:

    What is taking so long for Revels to be removed from office for the ethics complaint filed against her?

    $1,500 is a slap on the wrist for a man who is making $130,000 or more a year. What happened about law makers raising fines and requiring mandatory ethics training each year for elected officials?

    This Sheriff is in his own world.

  36. LEO Volusia says:

    See Flagler this is what happens when you ELECT someone who NEVER was a cop, NEVER had to go through the ranks, NEVER was in a fight for his life, never actually putting his life on the line for anyone but himself! We DON’T need individuals in positions of such power without compassion and morals! I am completely EMBARASSED that he is a Law Enforcement Officer.!

  37. rick says:

    If I’m reading this correctly, he committed perjury? How does he not catch a criminal charge. The ethics commission has the authority to send the case to the State Attorney for possible criminal charges. Why did that not happen? Also, Linda Bolante is the wife of the St. Johns County Undersheriff, Joel Bolante. What impact will this have with the relationship with a neighboring sheriff?

    • Ray Thorne says:

      Good question Rick but a complaint to the State Attorney’s office need not rely solely on the Ethics Commission. Anyone that now has knowledge, (which anyone reading the article now has if they opened the link and read the true document) can file.

  38. diagnosed says:

    This sound like someone? They are traits common to persons with psychopathic or narcissistic personality disorders. Read the investigation link and then look at this list:

    1. Self-centered. His needs are paramount.

    2. No remorse for mistakes or misdeeds.

    3. Unreliable, undependable.

    4. Does not care about the consequences of his actions.

    5. Projects faults on to others. High blaming behavior; never his fault.

    6. Little if any conscience.

    7. Insensitive to needs and feelings of others.

    8. Has a good front (persona) to impress and exploit others.

    9. Low stress tolerance. Easy to anger and rage.

    10. People are to be manipulated for his needs.

    11. Rationalizes easily. Twists conversation to his gain at other’s expense. If trapped, keeps talking, changes the subject or gets angry.

    12. Pathological lying.
    13. Tremendous need to control situations, conversations, others.

    14. No real values. Mostly situational.

    15. Often perceived as caring and understanding and uses this to manipulate.

    16. Angry, mercurial, moods.

    17. Conversation controller. Must have the first and last word.

    18. Is very slow to forgive others. Hangs onto resentment.

    19. Secret life. Hides money, friends, activities.

    20. Likes annoying others. Likes to create chaos and disrupt for no reason.

    21. Moody – switches from nice guy to anger without much provocation.

    22. Repeatedly fails to honor financial obligations.

    23. Seldom expresses appreciation.

    24. Grandiose. Convinced he knows more than others and is correct in all he does.

    25. Lacks ability to see how he comes across to others. Defensive when confronted with his behavior. Never his fault.

    26. He has to be right. He has to win. He has to look good.

    27. He announces, not discusses. He tells, not asks.

    28. Does not discuss openly, has a hidden agenda.

    29. Controls money of others but spends freely on himself.

    30. Unilateral condition of, “I’m OK and justified so I don’t need to hear your position or ideas”

  39. biker says:

    The ethics commission is extremely politicized. They conduct only civil investigations and rarely Forward criminal referrals to the state. The state attorney is also an elected official who is not going to want to make waves. The only true outside agency that can conduct a fair investigation free of political influences is the FBI public corruption unit. The are based out of Jax.

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