Rick Staly, Flagler County Sheriff Candidate: The Live Interview
FlaglerLive | July 20, 2016
Rick Staly is a candidate for Flagler County Sheriff. He faces five opponents in the Aug. 30 Republican primary, including Donald Fleming, John Lamb, Jerry O’Gara, Mark Whisenant, and Chris Yates. The winner of that primary will face the winner of a Democratic primary featuring two 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
- What qualifies you to run?
- Character and temperament
- Policing needs
- Sheriff’s evaluation
- Police shootings
- Black fears
- War on drugs and pot
- Best police agency
- Internal affairs
Place and Date of Birth: Jacksonville, Fla., Dec. 31, 1955.
Current job: Candidate for Flagler County Sheriff
Party Affiliation: Republican
Net Worth: $3.49 million. (See the financial disclosure)
I have 40 years of law enforcement and business experience. I started my law enforcement career as a city police officer and after 3 years joined the Orange County Sheriff’s Office as a Deputy Sheriff. Over the next 16 years I was promoted to different positions and assignments (patrol, detective sergeant, watch commander, Management Services Commander, Administrative Services Colonel, Staff Inspections, Training Director, Communications Center Director) and was appointed Undersheriff or second-in-command of the 4th largest law enforcement agency in Florida and the 13th largest Sheriff’s Office in the nation. In this position I led 2,000 men and women and managed a $120 million dollar budget during a time when Orange County had high population growth. While serving Orange County I was shot 3 times saving the life of a Deputy Sheriff and was awarded the Medal of Valor, Purple Heart Medal and 37 years later the Governor awarded me the Governor’s Medal of Heroism. I am the only candidate that graduated from the FBI National Academy, Southern Police Institute’s Administrative Officers Course and is Certified in Homeland Security appointed to a National Board. After retiring from Orange County I entered the private security field and after moving to Flagler County 10 years ago I started my own security officer and patrol company. Four years later after building the company to 128 employees with annual revenue of $3.5 million dollars I sold the company to a national security firm in 2012. I also served 2 years as Undersheriff in Flagler County until April 2015. As a result no one is better positioned than I am to know the problems within the agency and has the most experience to solve them. I am the only candidate for Sheriff that has successful business and government experience. I have a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice from Rollins College and a Master of Science degree in Justice Administration from the University of Louisville. I am also a graduate of many other leadership classes, such as the Covey Leadership Institute and technical classes such as hostage negotiations, etc.
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?
I believe that most people I have worked with and people that know me would say I am analytical, caring and considerate and look at the total impact of my decisions. Some people would say that I am too serious and as a result they may think that I am not out-going or introverted. Law enforcement is a serious job but I try to surround myself with quality people and remind myself to remember the lighter side of life. I am level headed, willing to listen to others and value their input to keep me further grounded.
Being serious in most people’s books, especially for the county’s top cop, can’t possibly be considered a flaw. We might be tempted to further explore your introversion and how it might affect your ability to relate to your ranks or even the citizenry at large, but at least on the job we’ve known you to be visible and accessible, and you’ve made a point on the campaign trail of pointing out your habit of still going on patrol on Fridays. In other words you appear outgoing in so far as your job is concerned. We’re not concerned with your personal life. So there must be a more revealing professional flaw or two you’ve contended with over the years.
My point is that I tend to be focused and serious and some people take that
the wrong way. Being an extravert does not come naturally to me but I make
it a point to always be visible and accessible. I currently have a listed
home phone number and I do not hide my address. I will still do this when I
am Sheriff. My business cards will have my cell phone number on it. I will
continue my Friday night patrols as Sheriff and I will continue to interact
with our employees to create a team. I believe I can relate to the
Sheriff’s employees as I have walked in their shoes – either as a Deputy
Sheriff or commanding the Communications Center, etc. The other “flaw” if
you will is that I am always working, if not at the office, in the community
or at home (but you said we couldn’t list that one so I didn’t). Finally, I
am a trusting person and when I delegate responsibilities I expect that it
is being handled without having to do follow-ups. Sometimes I am too
trusting but I will accept that trait instead of not trusting people.
After having worked for five Florida Sheriffs over my career the one consistent theme I have noticed is that some Sheriff’s forget that the Office of Sheriff belongs to the people and not them personally for their personal gain. This can often result in them becoming arrogant and developing a sense of entitlement. This mindset can be avoided in several ways. First, I believe in term limits and will self limit my tenure to eight years (two terms). Second, I will continue my tradition of serving on the streets on Friday nights and continuing to show my support to the Sheriff’s employees during law enforcement activities and critical incidents – both in their personal life and employment. This will keep me grounded with the agency and the community. As a graduate of the Stephen Covey Leadership Institute I will lead by Principle-Centered Leadership. I will develop policies that apply to the members of the organization and not to benefit me alone. A Sheriff sets the tone for the agency and I intend to set an ethical, honest and professional tone at the top so that all employees understand that our role is to serve and secure the community. I am endorsed by the founder of the National Institute of Ethics.
1. Service delivery methods – Flagler County has three distinct communities – beachside, urban core (Palm Coast) and the Westside (rural, ranch and farming). Within each of these service areas there exists the need for basic law enforcement as well as quality of life issues unique to that particular area. I would assign a management staff using existing supervisory personnel to each area along with patrol deputies whose job it will be to reduce crime and address quality of life issues existing within that community.
2. We will focus on quality of life issues such as traffic issues, domestic violence, drug dealers and gangs. We will work closely with both County and City code enforcement to improve the quality of life in our neighborhoods.
3. Implement STAARRS quality Community Policing. This policing philosophy provides Security for all; Teamwork among all stakeholders; Attitude and Accountability; Reliability and Respect; and Service with a passion by using community and problem-oriented policing methods, innovative solutions, cooperation and partnerships to reduce and solve crime, reduce vehicle crashes and improve quality of life issues by addressing the causal factors. STAARRS quality community policing includes all employees – both sworn officers and non-sworn support staff along with decentralizing law enforcement services as I noted in # 1 above.
How can the sheriff’s office, and particularly deputies on the beat, focus on domestic violence beyond the parameters of responding to calls and making arrests? What’s in the sheriff’s office’s–or your–power to somehow reduce the incidence of domestic violence? And are deputies too quick to make arrests in domestic violence situations when mediation may be an equally effective approach? Is there no middle ground between arrest and immunity?
Regarding STAARS, the answer includes a lot of great-sounding slogans but not a clear explanation of how that form of community policing differs from that in place now, and what it might look like to the lay person on a day to day basis.
When I was Flagler Undersheriff I started a Domestic Violence Task Force of stakeholders to address the issue of domestic violence after I noticed how many arrests were being made. The committee faltered after I resigned. There is clear evidence that this community has a serious domestic violence issue. As Sheriff I would use my position to create a Domestic Violence Task Force of community leaders and stakeholders, such as law enforcement, prosecution, defense, judicial, social workers, victim advocates, etc. to create a concerted effort to find effective and long-term intervention and prevention solutions to this problem. We would use education, prevention, victim support, enforcement and prosecution to be successful. The local Family Life Center does an outstanding job but they cannot do it alone. Making an arrest that rarely gets prosecuted is a short-term solution. Obtaining an order of protection is only good if the individual is willing to follow it. I would like to pattern our plan around the very successful Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police and community response to domestic violence initiative for long-term solutions. This is a societal issue that must be resolved with a community-wide solution. Your readers can learn more about the Charlotte-Mecklenburg initiative here.
As to the second part of your question, deputies are often the equivalent of social workers in domestic situations. Deputies must follow the law and in many cases discretion is not allowed under the law. If there is evidence of domestic violence an arrest is usually made. Failure to do so may lead to a more serious incident that possibly could have been prevented by an immediate arrest. The problem is that the initial arrest is only a short-term solution.
Regarding STAARS, I used a similar acronym to build my security company to 128 employees with $3.5m in annual revenue and clients across central Florida. This is a service delivery philosophy and takes community policing to the next level and builds partnerships with the community and its stakeholders to deliver solutions to problems. This allows the deputies and the community they serve to act as guardians of the community together. This works in conjunction with my three district plan as previously described. The S.T.A.A.R.S. philosophy uses community and problem-oriented policing methods, innovative solutions, cooperation and partnerships to reduce crime, reduce vehicle crashes and improve quality of life issues in our neighborhoods and community to address the causal factors of crime and quality of life issues for long term solutions. Implementation of this philosophy requires participation of all employees (sworn deputies, civilians and volunteers). How does it differ from what is going on today? The incumbent has never trained the employees on community policing but expects them to do it. The only training the incumbent wanted was ethics, twice, and the state required training. When I was Commander of Management Services for the Orange County Sheriff’s Office I was responsible for implementing the Community Policing training program for the agency. During 1990, after Dr. Robert Trojanowicz founded the National Center for Community Policing and wrote a book on how to implement and conduct community policing, I arranged for Dr. Trojanowicz to travel to Orange County and conduct training classes for all 1,500 Sheriff’s Office employees on how to do community policing. This is something that to the best of my knowledge has never been conducted at the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office.
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.
The county and the City of Palm Coast are on the verge of experiencing another period of high growth. The agency is presently under-staffed and underfunded but to bring the staffing to the levels recommended by the International Association of Chiefs of Police may not be affordable to our taxpayers. As such I would leverage Federal COPS grants, reserves and public safety officers to supplement the existing staff. I would also change the service delivery methods as I described in question 4 number 1 above. I would also focus the agency in our neighborhoods to improve traffic safety through education, enforcement and to work with our traffic engineering partners to have real and lasting solutions. We would also focus on domestic violence through education, intervention and enforcement. Gang members and drug dealers must be aggressively investigated. I would implement Gang Resistance and Education Training (GREAT) in the middle schools using existing School Resource Deputies and work with the school board and county to fund deputies in all elementary schools where the deputies would teach Drug Abuse Resistance Education. They would also be available to respond to an emergency immediately on our elementary school campuses.
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.
Handled well – increased Police Athletic League (PAL) participation; implemented body cameras; implemented Seniors vs. Crime volunteer unit.
Handled poorly – Poor treatment of employees; Failed to develop close working relationships with County and City governments which has resulted in failures in radio communications and Sheriff’s Office records management systems; Failed to develop a long term plan for the future growth of the Sheriff’s Office as the county continues to grow.
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 turn-over is caused by low pay and benefits along with a work environment that is not positive. This occurred when the incumbent fired so many long-time employees and set a negative environment upon taking office and would not listen to the advice being provided to him by myself and others. Employees want to be paid fairly but most importantly want to be treated fairly and know they will be supported. I would reduce turnover by building a work environment that is enthusiastic, friendly and cohesive; that recognizes good performance. My management team will be focused on serving the employees and the community as one, in order to create a safer community for all who live and work here. We will have employee family picnics, professional awards recognition events, etc. to build a team environment. To attract and retain employees you must have a leader that people want to work with. Currently police academy recruits are applying to other agencies. In my former agency we had large waiting lists as everyone wanted to work for us because we were progressive, visionary and professional. That is what I plan to create here. To attract experienced deputies and support staff I would offer a higher starting wage based on their experience and education, i.e. lateral type entry plan. However, the current pay plan must be fixed first before you implement this type of incentive plan so that it is fair to all current employees.
Sherif Manfre’s heavy-handed approach is well documented. But you were the undersheriff for the two years that saw the most turbulent treatment of employees at the sheriff’s office. You were his right-hand man: that’s why he picked you, and you’ve been referred to, fairly or not, as his hatchet man. Do you bear no responsibility for those years’ methods? And were you and Manfre not correct when you spoke of a need to end cliques and entitled positions at the agency, as you both did before taking over and in the early weeks of the administration? Would you be less vigilant about those who slouch toward complacency?
While I was Undersheriff, I was not the Sheriff. I was not allowed to provide any input on the firings Sheriff Manfre conducted on his first day in office. I did not know the individuals he fired and did not have an opportunity to interview those employees. Sheriff Manfre made it very clear to me that he is the only person who hires and fires and that I did not have the authority to do either. Subsequently, I would give him advice when asked on personnel issues. Most of the times Sheriff Manfre did not listen. One of the exceptions was when a young deputy made a tragic mistake and was involved in a fatal traffic crash while responding to an emergency call. Sheriff Manfre wanted to fire him. Although I did not know the deputy personally everyone advised me he was a very good deputy sheriff. After weeks and weeks of discussion I was able to convince Sheriff Manfre that instead of firing the deputy to transfer him to detention. This saved the deputy’s job and he continued to be able to support his family and serve the community. The deputy was a good employee, who made a very tragic mistake while responding to an emergency. The deputy was disciplined and remains a productive employee today.
In an example of a case that my advice was not listened to (most cases it was not) a long time deputy sheriff could no longer perform his duties. We had four open vacancies in the Communications Center and I recommended that the deputy be transferred to the Communications Center and be retrained for one of those positions so he could finish his career. Sheriff Manfre ignored my suggestion and the deputy retired early rather than be fired by Sheriff Manfre. Shortly thereafter the deputy tragically committed suicide.
An Undersheriff can only give advice. The Sheriff makes the final decision. I gave him good counsel but he chose to ignore it. He is welcome to his opinion and so are others but they are not welcome to change the facts and history. The turbulent times continue as employees are still leaving constantly. I offer the following proof that I was not the cause of the employee issues. Manfre was Sheriff in 2001-2004 and now 2013-2016 and during that time he has had many Chief Deputies or Undersheriffs and the turbulence still continues. There is only one common denominator in these eight years and that is Manfre.
As to your other questions I am not aware about speaking of “end[ing] cliques and entitled positions… before taking over and in the early weeks of the administration.” I did not know the employees of the agency. I was an outsider that had applied for the Undersheriff position. Mr. Manfre may have spoken about that and I was present but I did not have knowledge of the agency and its employees to speak to that topic in the early days.
Finally, you ask “Would you be less vigilant about those who slouch toward complacency?” No. My goal is to bring employees up to the expected levels through training and should it become necessary a performance improvement plan. I would also build an atmosphere of enthusiasm within the agency aimed at the delivery of high quality service and crime reduction. When I owned my security company I had a 28 percent turnover rate, which is unheard of in the security industry (most security companies have a 80-100 percent turnover rate) while at the same time expecting our employees to perform their duties. People that know me know that I work hard and expect my team to work hard also but at the same time I recognize and reward our team for our successes.
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?
Quite often deputies are faced with situations that change rapidly and turn from a casual encounter into a life-threatening situation. It is of the most importance to ensure that proper staffing levels are maintained, that deputies receive proper training on current methods of policing and are properly equipped. I was involved in such an incident early in my career where I was shot three times saving the life of a fellow deputy. That incident was over in less than 13 seconds. To this day I am thankful for the training I received and the bullet resistant vest I wore on that day. This experience has allowed me a great understanding of these issues. Most law enforcement officers show great restraint when using deadly force and only use it as a last resort. There are many times in my career that I could have legally used deadly force but chose not to. That is why as Undersheriff in two agencies I have always ensured we provided great training, including how to de-escalate situations, verbal judo, etc. and good equipment including less lethal alternatives, such as beanbags, etc. This training has been instrumental in Flagler deputies using great restraint and alternative weapons to avoid using deadly force. Another part of this equation is to hire educated, well balanced employees who have passed psychological screenings, polygraph type tests, etc. along with a thorough background investigation as part of the hiring process. I will continue this proven philosophy of hiring the right person, training and proper equipment.
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.
All people want to make sure that their children remain safe and can walk the streets without fear. It has become commonplace for the blame for lawlessness on our streets to be placed on the police and that the police sometime use heavy-handed tactics. The extreme cases are profiled by the media while countless positive encounters go unrecognized. For example, over the past 4th of July holiday the City of Chicago news media reported that five people had been shot to death and another 80 injured by gunfire. Each of those killed or injured received their injuries at the hands of another person living in their community, not at the hands of a law enforcement officer. The real issue is social decay and the unwillingness to assist police officers in investigating and apprehending these offenders. I understand the concern and mistrust from past years and in many cases, decades old, experiences. It will be my goal to develop an active recruiting program within the agency and seek out the best candidates in an effort to create a racially and ethnically diverse workforce which reflects the existing diversity within our community. We will also increase community outreach into all areas of the community to build mutually trusted relationships. This is why my three district service delivery method is so critical. This allows the deputies that work the district to build relationships with the community and the churches they serve and develop a guardianship form of community policing – where the deputies and the community form a bond to serve as guardians of the community together. We will enforce the laws of the community with respect and honor. As your Sheriff, my deputies and I will treat all people with honor and respect regardless of skin color, gender, religion, economic status or ethnic background.
A black citizen tells you she has been profiled and subsequently disrespected or poorly treated by a deputy, and wants a consequence. The deputy tells you that’s not the case, that it was all handled by the book. There is no body camera footage. Only the two individuals’ word, and no witnesses. What do you do?
Regardless of the race or ethnicity of the person making the complaint an inquiry would be conducted in accordance with the Florida Police Officers Bill of Rights and the Coastal Florida Police Benevolent Association contract requirements (they are the union representing the deputies). The initial complaint would be entered into the employee tracking system and the complaint referred to Internal Affairs for investigation. Based upon the results of the investigation, the complaint would be either sustained and forwarded through the chain of command for review and suggested disciplinary action to include remedial training, or not sustained and the case closed if the allegation could not be proven either way.
The results of the investigation and the investigative report would be entered into the employee tracking system as a tool designed to be used as an early warning system designed to identify employees who may need additional training in a given area. If subsequent similar complaints occur all with “smoke” but no proven “fire” a further review would be undertaken to see if remedial training is needed.
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?
I would give the war on drugs a grade of “C+.” Unfortunately the desire for illegal substances has not diminished over time, and the lack of adequate funding for treatment facilities and education continues. I understand the long-term impact of an arrest for minor possession on a person’s future. As Sheriff I do not pass the laws. As a result laws concerning the possession, use of and/or distribution of “pot” and other illegal substances remain on the books at state and federal levels. I will continue to enforce those laws as my oath requires. However, should the county and our cities pass a local ordinance to provide an alternative civil citation program for possession of small amounts of marijuana I would allow the deputies to have discretion on how they handle the encounter. However, without state or federal laws being changed I believe there are constitutional issues involved in any ordinance and enforcement could lead to claims of discrimination.
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?
The dependence on whether a jail bed is full or empty falls not upon the Sheriff but on the individual. People who violate the law are subject to arrest and detainment. Once a person is arrested, court processes are in place to allow for the release of or holding of a subject in the jail. The decision to hold or release is made by the State Attorney’s Office and the Courts. After a conviction only the Judges have the authority to sentence persons to county jail (or state prison). As a result of the above, the Sheriff has no control over how many inmates are held or sentenced to jail time. As far as diversionary programs, I would like to see continued use of Drug Court, a mental health court, domestic court and the development of in-house educational and trades related programs within the jail. This would allow qualified detainee’s to earn a skill that can be used when released for gainful employment. This can be funded by working with the Flagler Technical Institute using Full Time Equivalent (FTE) funding from the state. The goal is to stop the revolving door and filling the need for skilled tradesmen in Flagler County.
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.
Seminole County Sheriff’s Office, Sanford, Fla. This is one of the most progressive and professional agencies in the nation. They have only had two Sheriff’s in the last 40+ years and the new Sheriff was just elected unopposed. This is an indicator how controversy free and satisfied the citizens of Seminole County are with their Sheriff’s Office. While no agency is perfect, I believe this agency is a great example of how professional police agency’s should serve the community. They have been a visionary and cutting edge agency solving identified community issues. They are structured using the district concept I am proposing.
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.
Orange County Sheriff’s Office – Using a photograph of a former position in a flyer without written permission (had verbal permission only) – written reprimand. c. 2000.
Orange County Sheriff’s Office – at-fault vehicle accident – oral counseling. c. don’t remember exact date – many years.
14. Question customized for Rick Staly: A nagging shadow of your candidacy has been your history: it repeats itself, albeit with key differences. In 2004 you ran against Kevin Beary, the Orange County Sheriff whom you’d served as undersheriff, lost, then in 2005 filed an ethics complaint against him, which proved valid: he eventually paid a $20,000 fine. You are now running against the sheriff you just served as Undersheriff, and for whom an ethics you were peripherally involved in case was lingering and damaging. You did not file that ethics case, but you were not uninvolved, as you provided the cabin in Tennessee that was at the center of one of the charges–the gift Manfre did not properly report, arguing its value. A circumstantial case can be made that you set him up, and that your two years with Manfre were a Machiavellian stepping stone, which would make you either the most brilliant politician in this county or its most devious. Was it brilliance? Is there a third explanation?
Yes there is a third, true and correct explanation. I retired in January 2001 from Orange County with absolutely no intentions of running for Sheriff. Sheriff Beary provided me a great recommendation letter. However, after my retirement and over the next few years I started observing questionable activities by the Sheriff and senior members of his staff, primarily when he started a private company in 2002 using taxpayer money. (The Orange County Comptroller conducted an audit of the Sheriff’s Office and to this day they do not know if all the money was paid back.) As a result I decided to run for Sheriff to give the citizens a choice. I ran against the most powerful Sheriff in Florida at the time. He denied the issues I raised during the campaign about crime being up and about the company he started with tax payer money claiming he “was never paid a dime.” Thirty days after I lost the election he paid himself $40,000 from the company. Knowing this was a violation of Florida laws I filed a complaint that was investigated and he was charged with six counts of violating the law. He later pled guilty to four charges resulting in a fine, public censure and reprimand by the Governor. I do not know if he ever paid the fine. The last I heard he had not and the fine was now over $40,000 with interest.
[Editor’s note: FlaglerLive learned on July 21 from a Florida Commission on Ethics spokesperson that the Attorney General had to pursue Beary to satisfy payment. The spokesperson explained: “The civil penalty was $10,000 and restitution was $10,000 and was imposed by the Governor in October 2009. The Commission Advocate pursued an enforcement action (on the penalty) in Circuit Court and there was a Final Judgment in July 2011 for $31,763.22, which included interest and attorney fees for the enforcement action. The Judgment was satisfied on February 14, 2014.]
In Sheriff Manfre’s case he came into my office and asked if he could use my rental cabin for his wife’s birthday. I allowed him to use it. That is perfectly legal. It only becomes illegal if the elected official fails to report the use of a rental cabin. When it became apparent that he needed to report the use of the cabin to the State I advised him to report it using the daily rental rate of $430 per night. He refused. Many months later after an ethics complaint was filed against him he decided to file an amended state report but refused to use the correct rental rate despite my advice to correctly report it. Again, good and proper advice not followed.
I testified honestly in both cases and stood up against two unethical Sheriffs. Mr. Manfre is now spewing that I set him up, which you alluded too. He is an attorney and they are taught that when you have no case to attack the witnesses. The Ethics Trail Judge ruled “[Manfre’s] explanation was simply not credible.” At the Florida Sheriff’s New Sheriff School one of the instructors stated the following to the class as part of his instruction on how to be a successful Sheriff: “As a new Sheriff there are three letters in your top desk drawer. When the first problem occurs open the first letter. It reads: blame the former Sheriff [which Manfre has done]; when that doesn’t work anymore open the second letter, which reads: blame the Undersheriff [which he is now doing]. When that doesn’t work anymore open the third letter, which reads: Start writing three letters.”
I am running for Sheriff because the community asked me to and as with your readers this is my home where I have lived for the last 10 years, owned a successful business here and been active in the community. Our community deserves nothing but the best. It deserves as our Sheriff a person who is committed, honest, and experienced, which is why I am running. There is no other reason except to serve my community and our Sheriff’s Office.