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Larry Jones, Flagler County Sheriff Candidate: The Live Interview

| July 16, 2016

sgt larry jones sheriff candidate flagler

Larry Jones retired from the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office as a sergeant in 2014, after a 30-year career at the agency. (© FlaglerLive)

Larry Jones is a candidate for Flagler County Sheriff. He faces one opponent in the Aug. 30 Democratic primary, Jim Manfre, the incumbent. The winner of that primary will face the winner of a Republican primary featuring six candidates, plus one independent candidate who will also appear on the Nov. 8, general election ballot, Thomas Dougherty. Dougherty is running a self-funded and not very visible campaign.


The Aug. 30 vote is a closed primary: only registered Democrats may vote for the Democratic candidate of their choice, only registered Republicans may vote for the Republican candidate of their choice. Independents and voters registered with minor parties do not get a vote in this particular race until the Nov. 8 general election. Independent voters do get to vote in several other local races that are non-partisan or that will be the equivalent of a general election, including school board, Palm Coast City Council and supervisor of elections.

Of the nine candidates for sheriff, only two, Manfre and Don Fleming, have won elections before. The sheriff’s office has been led by one or the other for the past 16 years, starting with Manfre from 2001 to 2004, then Fleming for eight years, then Manfre again starting in 2013. The race has drawn the most candidates for any single local office, and generated the most expensive campaigns, with total fund-raising (and loans from candidates to themselves) exceeding $200,000 between them, as of mid-July.

The sheriff is paid 126,123 a year. The salary is set by the state based on the county’s population, but paid out of local dollars. The winner will serve a four-year term, controlling a current budget of $25 million, 255 full-time employees and 30 part-time employees.

FlaglerLive submitted identical questions to all candidates, with the understanding that additional questions might be tailored to candidates individually and some follow-up questions may be asked, with all exchanges on the record. The Live Interview’s aim is to elicit as much candor and transparency as possible. We have asked candidates to refrain from making campaign speeches or make lists of accomplishments. We have also asked candidates to reasonably document any claim or accusation. Undocumented claims are edited out. Answers are also edited for length, redundancy, relevance and, where possible, accuracy. If a candidate does not answer a question or appears to be evading a question, that’s noted.

But it’s ultimately up to the reader to judge the quality and sincerity of a candidate’s answers.

The Questions in Summary: Quick Links

The Basics:

Place and Date of Birth:
Current job:
Party Affiliation: Democratic
Net Worth and financial disclosure form: Jones did not provide either as requested; his net worth is $418,298. See his disclosure form here.
Resume: Not provided.
Website:

1. What qualifies you to be the sheriff?

Foremost, experience. I am the only candidate who has 30 years of experience in law enforcement in Flagler County. I know the area; I know the residents, and I know the needs of the agency.

But you lack managerial experience of any sort, and the sheriff’s office is the third-largest public business in Flagler. How will you compensate?

Larry Jones did not answer the question.

Jump to other candidates’ answer: Dougherty | Fleming | Jones | Lamb | Manfre | O’Gara | Staly | Whisenant | Yates

2016 Election Interviews

Supervisor of Elections


Kaiti Lenhart
Kimble Medley
Abra Seay

Sheriff


Jim Manfre (D)
Don Fleming (R)
Larry Jones (D)
John Lamb (R)
Jerry O'Gara(R)
Rick Staly (R)
Mark Whisenant (R)
Chris Yates (R)
Thomas Dougherty (I)

Palm Coast City Council


Robert Cuff (Dist. 1)
Troy DuBose (Dist. 1)
Sims Jones (Dist. 1)
Art McGovern Jr. (Dist. 1)
Nick Klufas (Dist. 3)
Anita Moeder (Dist. 3)
Pam Richardson (Dist. 3)
John Brady (Mayor)
Milissa Holland (Mayor)
Dennis McDonald (Mayor)
Ron Radford (Mayor)

Flagler School Board


Colleen Conklin (Dist. 3)
Jason Sands (Dist. 3)
Paul Anderson (Dist. 5)
Maria Barbosa (Dist. 5)
Sharon Demers (Dist. 5)
Myra Middleton-Valentine (Dist. 5)

Flagler County Commission


Charlie Ericksen (Dist. 1)
Ken Mazzie (Dist. 1)
Daniel Potter (Dist. 1)
Jason France (Dist. 3)
Dave Sullivan (Dist. 3)
Denise Calderwood (Dis. 5)
Donald O'Brien (Dist. 5)

2. Describe your character and temperament, and what people you’ve worked with—or citizens you’ve interacted with—would say are your most serious personal flaws, in so far as how they affect your job. What do you do to address those flaws?

My character is to be honest and straight forward. I am open to suggestions and I welcome criticism designed to make the agency stronger. I believe my co-workers and friends would say my personal flaw is that a talk too much. This can be a problem in a busy world where people are rushed for time. Since I am aware of this, I try to make my points without adding in too much detail thereby presenting my position in an efficient way.

Surely you can tell us of a more serious flaw than “talking too much”?

Larry Jones did not answer the question.

Jump to other candidates’ answer: Dougherty | Fleming | Jones | Lamb | Manfre | O’Gara | Staly | Whisenant | Yates

3. What is the most dangerous thing or temptation about a sheriff’s power, and how do you intend to control it?

The most dangerous thing or temptation has already been illustrated by the actions of the current sheriff-taking advantage of the office. I understand that serving as Sheriff is just that, service. The office belongs to the taxpayers and the property and power cannot be used for personal gain. I will hold each member of the agency to the highest standard to ensure all resources are properly utilized to the full benefit of our residents.

Can you give us an example in your 30-year career where you yourself succumbed to a temptation enabled by your badge’s power, and what you learned from that?

Larry Jones did not answer the question.

Jump to other candidates’ answer: Dougherty | Fleming | Jones | Lamb | Manfre | O’Gara | Staly | Whisenant | Yates

4. Raising morale and pay aside, what are your three priorities as sheriff that will directly affect the public and visibly improve public safety?

(a) Bridging the gap with the community. Our residents have been disenfranchised by the current administration. The emphasis needs to be returned to community policing where our residents know and interact with the deputies patrolling their community, even if that means deputies get out of their vehicles to promote this interaction.
(b) Connecting with our senior citizens who make up a substantial portion of our population. Our deputies need to know who lives alone and may need to be checked on occasionally or who may have special needs in times of emergencies.
(c) Getting our youth involved in activities outside the schools. As a former School Resource Deputy, it is important to identify at-risk youngsters in order to engage them in activities that will put them on a productive path for the benefit of the community and themselves.

What do you mean by disenfranchised? There are thousands of older residents in the county: is the sheriff’s office equipped–in staff, time and other resources–to be a social service agency for the elderly, when it is already heavily taxed by other demands that aren’t exactly in deputies’ job descriptions, such as contending with the mentally ill and Baker Acts?

Larry Jones did not answer the question.

Jump to other candidates’ answer: Dougherty | Fleming | Jones | Lamb | Manfre | O’Gara | Staly | Whisenant | Yates

5. Give us your geographically precise and documented summary of where you see the county’s and Palm Coast’s greatest law enforcement needs, how those needs compare with the way personnel is currently assigned, and what you would do differently, if anything.

FDLE profiles Flagler County as having a 2.3 percent increase in population between 2014 and 2015 with a 10.3 percent increase in violence but a 4.5 drop in arrests. Agency resources are not being properly distributed and there is a breakdown in tapping into crime intelligence that is typically shared between local and state agencies. Without having access to the agency’s staffing records it is a difficult to pinpoint where the weaknesses are occurring. The deadline for responses does not allow adequate time to obtain that information through a public records request. However, in an attempt to respond, I would document my statements by citing from a Flagler Live article posted July 6 which reports some 45 burglaries overnight at local hotels. In that article, a sheriff’s spokesman said other counties had also experienced this type of event which indicates the breakdown of an effective crime prevention effort. Armed with this intelligence, additional patrols should have been dispatched to the areas where hotels are concentrated. Additionally, hotel managements should have been placed on alert to inform their guests to protect their valuables. More to the point, road patrols need to be strategically staffed in the commercial districts to be proactive to criminal activity. Improved community policing will draw our residents into actively participating in crime prevention in their neighborhoods.

Jump to other candidates’ answer: Dougherty | Fleming | Jones | Lamb | Manfre | O’Gara | Staly | Whisenant | Yates

6. Putting aside ethical issues that have affected the current and previous sheriff—and that have been amply treated in the press and elsewhere—what are three community-related issues the sheriff has handled well, and three that he’s handled poorly.

Not to be disingenuous but I do not recall any community-related issues handled well in this administration. As for failures, fiscal responsibility would top the list. As an example, a purported $18,000 spent in the last 90 days for a Public Service Announcement on Brighthouse Cable featuring the sitting Sheriff. There apparently was no need for a PSA on Brighthouse in the last three years but the need arose before the August primary. Another is a top heavy, over paid administrative staff which is eating up taxpayers’ dollars at an alarming rate that could be better spent in the area of community policing. A second failure is connecting with the community which is well aware that morale is low among the agency staff-both sworn and non-sworn. A third is connecting with the business community to improve the safety of their shops and customers.

You were part of this administration for two years: there is nothing in community related policing you took part in, in those two years, that you consider to have been well handled? The sheriff claims he’s reduced administrative ranks and expanded road patrol. Is that inaccurate? 

Larry Jones did not answer the question.

Jump to other candidates’ answer: Dougherty | Fleming | Jones | Lamb | Manfre | O’Gara | Staly | Whisenant | Yates

7. Turnover has been steep. The average years of experience of deputies on the street has fallen, exposing the public to generally younger, possibly more gung-ho but less seasoned deputies. To what do you attribute the turnover, and what specific steps will you take to reduce turn-over and add experience to our streets?

The turnover can be directly attributed to the micro-managing by the sitting Sheriff who has no law enforcement experience. His experience lies in the legal profession as he is an attorney. The turnover can be drastically reduced by putting qualified people in the right positions, regardless of whether or not they are your political supporters. In order to identify those people, there needs to be an effort to recruit experienced law enforcement officers who bring maturity and knowledge to the agency.

Can you name unqualified individuals in positions of authority, other than the sheriff, and are you suggesting you would remove, demote or fire them, as did the sheriff on Day One of his administration?

Larry Jones did not answer the question.

Jump to other candidates’ answer: Dougherty | Fleming | Jones | Lamb | Manfre | O’Gara | Staly | Whisenant | Yates

8. Since Sheriff Manfre took over, not a single individual has been killed, shot, or shot at by a Flagler County deputy in Flagler County. (One individual shot himself in a stand-off with deputies in November 2013, and ex-Flagler deputy Daniel Ruddell was shot at last November as he attempted to flee from deputies, including Flagler deputies, in St. Johns County). But there were at least four documented instances of armed individuals who were peacefully apprehended after stand-offs or confrontations. That’s in contrast with numerous police shootings in Volusia and St. Johns over the same period, at a time when police have been under greater scrutiny because of such shootings. To what do you attribute the way Flagler deputies have bucked the trend, and what will you do to ensure that this, as opposed to a more violent, norm, continues?

The agency has been fortunate not to have had an officer-related shooting in the last three years, but neither the current Sheriff nor any Sheriff can be credited with that accomplishment. Circumstances dictate those occurrences. There was an instance in which a mentally disturbed woman threatened deputies but a veteran FCSO deputy was able to talk with her and she was unarmed while being distracted. An excellent job was done by that deputy with nearly 20 years of experience. He has since left the agency and is another example of talent being lost under this administration.

You say circumstances dictate those fortunate outcomes, which reduces it all almost to luck. Is that what you’re saying? Is there nothing that a sheriff, as a leader and tone-setter, can do to at least more broadly enable those more fortunate circumstances?

Larry Jones did not answer the question.

Jump to other candidates’ answer: Dougherty | Fleming | Jones | Lamb | Manfre | O’Gara | Staly | Whisenant | Yates

9. Ta-Nehisi Coates tells his teen-age son, in his National Book Award-winning “Between the World and Me” (2015): “Black people love their children with a kind of obsession. You are all we have, and you come to us endangered. I think we would like to kill you ourselves before seeing you killed by the streets that America made. That is a philosophy of the disembodied, of a people who control nothing, who can protect nothing, who are made to fear not just the criminals among them but the police who lord over them with all the moral authority of a protection racket.” Is Coates wrong? Putting what Coates tells his son in the context of a county that was last to desegregate in Florida, and that still has an overwhelmingly white sheriff’s office, tell us how you’d reassure parents of young black men in this community.

As the only black candidate in this contested race, I am perhaps most qualified to respond to this. I am seeking office because I want to serve this community where I have been raised. I believe that my candidacy for the Office of Sheriff and the support I have received sets an excellent example for young black boys. I was raised in this county, went through the difficult years of desegregation and fought discrimination both inside and outside of the agency where I worked for 30 years. The situation today is much better for young black men but the community must pull together to provide education and employment opportunities to keep our youth on the right path.

That’s understandable, but you did not answer the question. Is Coates wrong?

Larry Jones did not answer the question.

Jump to other candidates’ answer: Dougherty | Fleming | Jones | Lamb | Manfre | O’Gara | Staly | Whisenant | Yates

10. If you were to give a grade to the war on drugs as it’s been conducted since Nixon, what would that grade be, and why? Putting aside what the law is at the moment, do you think casual pot users—the occasional reefer smoker, the person caught with a few joints—should be criminally charged and jailed, as opposed to issued civil citations? What role should officer discretion play in criminally charging casual pot users?

This question is confusing. You refer to Nixon, so are you talking about grading the effort nationwide or on the local level. Keeping it local, at the time I retired in 2014, I would give the agency at C+ or B-. The agency took a major step toward drug interdiction when it joined the federal High Density Drug Trafficking Area which allows for an exchange of intelligence information between federal, state and local agencies. This exchange makes for a more organized assault on illegal trafficking by law enforcement agencies. Although it is not up to a Florida Sheriff to decide on civil citations for the casual pot user, I would not oppose such a move. Deputies have discretionary powers they use every day, not just in situations such as this, so role would remain unchanged.

Jump to other candidates’ answer: Dougherty | Fleming | Jones | Lamb | Manfre | O’Gara | Staly | Whisenant | Yates

11. The Flagler County jail’s bed space has now more than doubled, though for the past decade, including the years of somewhat higher crime during the housing boom years, it served the county’s needs. Despite an increasing population, crime is not increasing apace. Diversionary programs are also helping. But jail beds have a way of abhorring emptiness. What will you do to keep beds from getting filled just because they’re there?

I believe justice intervention programs can serve as a useful tool in reducing the number of inmates incarcerated. With that being said, more federal and state dollars need to be funneled to the local level, either through grants or funded programs, to allow the creation of effective alternative programs.

Jump to other candidates’ answer: Dougherty | Fleming | Jones | Lamb | Manfre | O’Gara | Staly | Whisenant | Yates

12. In your opinion, and your own places of employment past and present aside, what is the best example of a Police or Sheriff Department in the United States, and why? Please be precise in your choice of agency.

Police departments and Sheriff agencies carry vastly different missions, however share the same common philosophy with reducing and fighting crime. I would not pin point an agency that is greater than another. We are all brothers and sisters in this profession. However, I will be honest; Flagler County Sheriffs Office will strive to be the best and brightest law enforcement agency in the nation under my leadership. As Sheriff, that would be a goal. The citizens deserve that and I intend on fighting Daily to get it to them.

The sentiment of not wanting to pinpoint one agency over another is commendable, but the question goes to your broader knowledge of policing across the country, of trends, of institutional successes and failures. Your answer draws a blank in the name of the blue line, but you are running for the most important law enforcement position in the county, which requires–we hope–a more discerning analysis than kumbaya, especially at a time when methods of policing are an issue for every community in the country. Please try again.

Larry Jones did not answer the question.

Jump to other candidates’ answer: Dougherty | Fleming | Jones | Lamb | Manfre | O’Gara | Staly | Whisenant | Yates

13. If you have been the subject of one or more Internal Affairs investigation or its equivalent, or a use of force complaint, please tell us in what agency, when, what the circumstances or issues were, and what the disposition was in those cases.

11-20-98-Internal Investigation-A female dispatcher filed a complaint that I had called her a slut while talking with another deputy. The case was closed when it was found that the accusation was unsubstantiated. You did not ask for these, but I have included letters of reprimand: 22 years ago, I made three prank telephone calls to three officers-two females and one male. All three contained the same joke which was a commonly used reference to pay day. I admitted to making those phone calls and apologized. I received a written reprimand in September 1994. No further action was taken. There is an incident in which I was reported to have attempted to “pop” the neck of a dispatcher with a stiff neck. The incident was documented to include an apology to the dispatcher. No reprimand was issued and no further action taken. 10-19-1997-Letter of Reprimand-Failure to arrest a person with a .18 or over BAC. This involved a 17-year-old male who was stopped for a faulty headlight. The teen had never been in trouble, was a good student in school and was headed for college. He was cooperative and rather than have him be followed by an arrest record for the rest of his life, his father was called and came to the scene to pick him. This is an example of officer discretion. At no time in my career with the FCSO, under the supervision of an all-white administration, was I ever suspended for any type of disciplinary action.

Please give us your analysis of the traffic stop in which Rebecca Lawless was pulled over drunk, was allowed, by deputy Chambers, to call someone to drive her away, though she later got back in the driver’s seat and within minutes was involved in a wreck that claimed the life of Diane Upton. Lawless now faces a DUI manslaughter charge. In light of your own reprimand over the failure to arrest a drunk driver, how would you have handled the Lawless incident? Should the deputy have been reprimanded? If not, why not?

Larry Jones did not answer the question.

Jump to other candidates’ answer: Dougherty | Fleming | Jones | Lamb | Manfre | O’Gara | Staly | Whisenant | Yates

14. Customized additional question for Larry Jones: Your long tenure and life in Flagler is an asset. It is also a liability: you have innumerable personal connections with citizens, and your record includes at least one instance of reprimanded favoritism. Can you cite examples where your duty as a law enforcement officer overrode your loyalty to friends in law enforcement matters? How will you maintain just objectivity as sheriff?

Larry Jones did not answer the question.

Jump to other candidates’ answer: Dougherty | Fleming | Jones | Lamb | Manfre | O’Gara | Staly | Whisenant | Yates

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20 Responses for “Larry Jones, Flagler County Sheriff Candidate: The Live Interview”

  1. The Oracle says:

    What’s up with Mr. Jones? Net worth, NOT PROVIDED. Resume, NOT PROVIDED. He didn’t completely answer the first question, on how he was qualified to run the agency.

  2. August Maxwell says:

    If the man does church on Sunday, I might respect that , instead of make fun of it. For SOME people, Church on Sundays is almost an all day event. Especially in the South, & I have seen this, while growing up here.

  3. Dick Tracy says:

    Larry may not have meant to, but he did point out that the incumbent can learn from his mistakes, “…$18,000 spent in the last 90 days for a Public Service Announcement on Brighthouse Cable featuring the sitting Sheriff. There apparently was no need for a PSA on Brighthouse in the last three years but the need arose before the August primary…” This time round he lavatory lawyered his way through the citizens of Flagler County paying for his self-promotion, not like last time we he got caught with his hands in the cookie jar to pay for the calendars.

  4. Jeannie says:

    Nice job by Larry. Thank you for pointing out how Manfre has spent $18,000 of tax payer money to self promote himself and for his election. Leopards do not change their spots. Anyway he can use tax payer money to advance himself he will.

  5. Fredrick says:

    The answer to #8 is classic. “Circumstances dictate those occurrences.” If there would have been one then it would have been the fault of the current Sheriff.

  6. My2Cents says:

    Nothings “up” with Mr. Jones. What’s “up” with you??? His 30 years is ENOUGH! The current Sherriff had no REAL qualifications!

  7. theevoice says:

    ummm ok..bol…hehehehehehehe

  8. anonymous says:

    I will vote for anyone except for staly, flemming, and manfre.

  9. August Maxwell says:

    Question 1 is ok for me. Some people are just not blow hards, when it comes to speaking about themselves, I would rather see that, than New York histories . Im guessing he was a cop, so the message got through.

  10. Haw Creek Girl says:

    What’s up with Larry? Oh, just integrity and experience…..

  11. Anonymous says:

    I think the only reason Larry is running for Sheriff is to take away votes for Manfre. Having worked with both of them, I would not vote for either of them. Manfre is dictator who has caused the agency to break down. Larry, who I like a lot is too easy going. The deputies would walk all over him. Fleming should just stop trying and retire. We need some new blood. It’s a shame Steve Clair didn’t run. He is far and smart and knows this agency. I am sorry to say, that this election has once again given use a bunch of poor choices. New Yorkers who think they know what is good for Flagler County. Sorry guys you have no clue.

  12. Fraddy says:

    Too many crickets on the follow up questions.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Thank you Larry for telling us of the $18K Manfre spent advertising himself….how many tax dollars were spent to defend his Ethcis complaint that he fought for months/years? It is no wonder the Sheriff’s budget is so high with wasted monies being spent like this.

    Some can knock you for your responses here Larry, but less is better. It really doesn’t matter what is posted on this blog, Good job not falling in the trap like so many others have done. The more you say, the more it will be twisted and used against you. You would make a great Sheriff.

  14. Ws says:

    Larry can do all interviews he wants but he still can’t compare to Lamb. Better luck next time arounf Larry. I don’t think you are getting the votes this time!

  15. downinthelab says:

    Last time I applied for a job I had to provide a resume, can we see one please?

  16. Letsbenhonest says:

    This is the truth and if you don’t believe me wait and see. Don Fleming will say that his biggest mistake he made during his reign as sheriff is that he placed people in positions of leadership that he should not have. Manfre brought in an entire transition administration that quit on him the first year. Let him deny that!!!! Staly was meeting with people and informing them that he was going to run against Manfre 6 months into Manfres administration. No one at JSO AND I MEAN NO ONE will say that Lamb is anything other than hot air. Larry Jones is a TRUE COP. He knows this county and if it wasn’t for the color of his skin he would have achieved much much more. Don’t believe me…..then why did Bunnell deny his as the top cop? It was reported that the color of Larry Jones’ skin offended some people. Larry Jones is a great man and he has earned this!!!

  17. footballen says:

    Well he is better than having a crook for a sheriff.

  18. retired says:

    I wish Larry Jones could clarify when he was an SRO. I know Paul Mercado was an SRO but to my knowledge Larry worked the Jail, and Patrol his entire career. He did assist with the drug task force part time as well. Stopping by a school or working OT school events doesn’t qualify you as being an SRO.

  19. My2Cents says:

    Oh, I believe you, because it’s VERY TRUE! Larry Jones for Sherriff. He is a great man and the ONLY one with the credentials highly suited for the job. Skin color always changes the game rather one what’s to believe/accept the truth or not.

  20. Old Lady says:

    Larry Jones seems to provide needed information to make a choice. I will support Larry for sherif

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