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Sheriff Lashes Into County Administrator Over “Disregard” of Security Protocols in
Operations Center

| August 20, 2018

staly coffey

County Administrator Craig Coffey, left, with County Commission Chairman Greg Hansen, center, and Sheriff Rick Staly ahead of a workshop on the Operations Center’s conditions in mid-July. (© FlaglerLive)

In the strongest-worded pair of emails since the evacuation of the Sheriff’s Operations Center, Sheriff Rick Staly on Sunday lashed into County Administrator Craig Coffey and blamed him for potentially jeopardizing the law enforcement agency’s accreditation and its crime-fighting abilities after county cleaning crews went through secure areas of the building without escort or the sheriff’s knowledge.

The crews did so last Friday even though on Thursday the sheriff’s Chief Mark Strobridge had spoken with Coffey to find out what was planned for the building so he could make arrangements for proper entry and escorts into secure areas such as records, human resources and so on. Coffey, Strobridge said, did not tell him a major cleaning was planned for the next day, nor was Strobridge contacted before that cleaning took place, either by county or by sheriff’s employees.

On Thursday, Strobridge had written all employees: “This is still a secured facility and people who enter the facility must be CJIS Certified or under escort.” CJIS is the Criminal Justice Information Systems, databases that may not be accessed without proper authorization. “Several locations that have further restriction to maintain state accreditation include but are not limited to, Records and Evidence.” Violations of CJIS could result in fines or worse disciplinary measures from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

A sheriff’s detective found out about some activity at the Operations Center Friday morning, and Staly discovered the place had been subjected to a “deep cleaning” most of the day, though he did not know by whom, and whether the people who’d gone in were cleared to do so in accordance with CJIS requirements.  

“This continued behavior and disregard is totally unacceptable and I cannot and will not tolerate it,” Staly wrote Coffey, describing himself “disappointed” that there’d not been clearer communication.

“As you may know,” Staly wrote Coffey, the Sheriff’s Office “is a state accredited agency and the disregard of accreditation security requirements I saw on Friday could cause us to lose our accreditation and FDLE could pull our CJIS access that would cripple our ability to solve and fight crime in Flagler County. And, your IT Director is responsible for compliance with CJIS security requirements. These actions could cause his authorization by FDLE/CIJS to be revoked.”

Staly at the end of his email told Coffey he was done dealing with him, and that from here on he’d only deal with elected officials.  

Relations between Staly and Coffey have been poor for weeks, but this latest development, reflected in a series of internal emails FlaglerLive obtained and some that Coffey disseminated late last week, represents what could be a tipping point, at least for the sheriff: he is dispensing with all pretenses of making nice. As an elected official with a powerful constituency, doing so turns up the pressure on Coffey and the county, who have been taking pains to present the issue as a carefully calibrated balance between legal liabilities, science and employee perceptions. But by so intently lawyering up and filtering many of its communications through its lawyers, the county has inevitably fed into a degree of adversarialism it hasn’t helped by minimizing communications or framing responses in strong legal language.

“The county has gone above and beyond any legally required obligation to cooperate with the Sheriff and counsel for the various Sheriff’s employees in preserving the condition of the building and making the building available for inspection,” Michael Roper, the county’s attorney hired to handle the Operations Center issue, wrote Coffey on Friday at the end of a three-page letter that gives Coffey legal cover for going ahead with cleaning the building. The key words in that sentence was legally required, words that skirt the political reality of the issue and the sheriff’s concerns by suggesting that the county is doing the strict, legally required minimum, as opposed to going out of its way to cooperate with the sheriff or put employees’ minds at ease.

Staly in his letter pointed out the irony of hiring outside counsel to dispute his request that some bores be carried out in the building to test for mold or rotten wood behind the facade, a request he implied would cost less than the county’s legal bills being incurred. (The county retained Bell Roper, the Orlando firm, in June, “with respect to any anticipated litigation,” according to the engagement letter, which noted: “We believe communication is essential to the attorney-client relationship and our efforts on the County’s behalf.” The firm is billing $180 an hour for partners, $145 an hour for associates, and $90 an hour for paralegals. A county official said today the firm had not yet invoiced the county.) Roper asked for “proof” from Staly that there was any rotten wood, an odd request since Staly is seeking to find out if such wood is sitting behind facades.

The building is owned and maintained by the county, which has authority to go in under proper circumstances. It was evacuated in June after more than two dozen employees complained of symptoms often associated with sick-building syndrome. It has remained empty since. An engineer tested its interiors and concluded that the building was safe, a conclusion sheriff’s employees dispute and that Staly has not trusted enough to revoke the evacuation order. All sides–the county, the sheriff, the employees–have since lawyered up even as the County Commission has pledged (and claimed) that communications remain open, with a solution amenable to all being the only goal.

But Staly was as put off by the lack of communications from the administrator as he was by what he sees as “the push back and road blocks the county continues to use,” in Staly’s words, “and lack of transparency instead of welcoming a team approach to find a solution.” Staly said the push-back was evident in email exchanges between  the Police Benevolent Association (the sheriff’s employees’ union) and Coffey, in communications from Roper, and in the county’s stance during a tense conference call with officials of the Centers for Disease Control earlier this month. Staly described the attorney letter as “written to the tune of a stall tactic and bureaucratic red tape.”

He said the “deep cleaning” of the Operations Center, just weeks before a walk-through visit by CDC officials, is “suspect, regardless of creative writing to justify the actions.”

Contacted by a reporter Monday afternoon, Coffey said he would be answering the issues raised by Staly’s email in writing, and specified that the answer would be addressed to “all,” including a reporter. (This story will be updated accordingly, when Coffey’s answer is received.)

Sheriff’s employees suspect the deep cleaning is an attempt to destroy evidence, though in a long email from Coffey to Jorge Fuentes, the union leader, Coffey used a law enforcement analogy to say that as far as preserving evidence was concerned, that was too late: “From an evidentiary standpoint the building today would not present the same building conditions that existed prior to the relocation of the Sheriff Office employees when testing was occurring,” Coffey wrote. “In law enforcement terms, the scene and any testing would be compromised for the preservation of evidence due to the change in conditions alone not of the County’s doing.”

Although the employees’ issue and that of the sheriff intersect at many points, the issues are separate in key regards. The employees are involved in workers’ compensation litigation and need the evidence from the building to make their case. The issue that brought Staly to the boiling point last week is related to protocols and good faith, both of which his email say have been violated.

According to protocols proposed by Michael Roper himself in a July 20 letter to the sheriff’s and sheriff’s employees’ attorneys, when he described the way to go through the building, “The identity of all attendees that will be present must be provided to the County/Sheriff no less than 48 hours before the agreed upon inspection date to ensure each individual receives the proper clearance to enter secure areas of the building.”

Sheriff’s officials received no such notification before the Friday cleaning.

According to Staly’s email, county staffers contacted a “low-level manager” at the sheriff’s office on Tuesday to ask about accessing the building. That would have been David Valinsky, the purchasing manager, who’s often been the liaison with the county for routine facilities issues. Valinsky told them he’d get back to them, was off for two days, and was told by Strobridge to channel all building-related requests through him.

On Aug. 15, Fuentes, a sheriff’s detective in addition to being a lead representative of the employees’ union, emailed Coffey to ask who had “ordered/approved” a planned cleaning of the building, including carpet cleaning in the evidence area. Unspecified “Sheriff’s Office employees” had been contacted, according to Fuentes, “in order to gain access to secure parts of the building, as well as to provide ventilation of the building as a whole” for the cleaning. A Fuentes email to Coffey the next day refers to Coffey telling him in a verbal conversation that the cleaning was approved by all attorneys involved. But at least one attorney Fuentes had spoken to told him he was not aware.

Within the hour of that Fuentes email, Strobridge wrote Coffey and Fuetnes about being the point of contact. The next day–Friday. Aug. 17–Fuentes wrote Coffey of going by the Operations Center and seeing a Carrier, air-conditioning repair truck outside the building and a worker working on the system. “This is supposed to be a ‘transparent’ process but it does not appear to be that way,” Fuentes wrote Coffey. “Can someone please be transparent and inform us what is going on?”

Coffey responded in a lengthy email Friday afternoon just before the close of business. Coffey disputed that he’d ever told Fuentes that the county had to get sheriff’s attorneys’ approval before proceeding: “I did say our attorney released us to proceed with our responsibilities to maintain the building, based on those legal communications/activities, our inherent responsibilities and liabilities for our facility, and the recommendations of our experts as further supported by our consultations with the CDC. I did not mean to indicate that we had received or sought the concurrence of your legal counsel to properly maintain our County facility.”

Coffey continued: “Accordingly, per these communications within the workers compensation proceedings and the specific guidance received from the CDC’s Chief of the Health Hazard Evaluation Program, along with the professional recommendations of our experts, we are proceeding to clean the building, to make adjustments/improvements to the HVAC system and to make any repairs in the course of our ownership of the building. I might mention that a representative of your union was on that call with the CDC Chief and would have heard all of this.” Coffey stressed that not acting to “address” the building could “create different civil liabilities for the County.” He said the building had never been maintained “as is” since it was vacated, as it continued to be used by sheriff’s personnel for training, bathroom usage, cooking in the kitchen and such. He provided a list of things cleaning, repairs and mitigation would accomplish, including a “deep cleaning” of the facility.

It’s not clear what took place Friday. “Here’s what I do know. I don’t know if their escorts were CJIS-certified,” Strobridge said. “I don’t.”

In the sheriff’s words to Coffey: “They apparently had been in the building most of the day, if not all day, totally unescorted and as far as I know never had a required CJIS background check to be in the building. I entered the building and found every door propped open by chairs, including secured areas such as Records, HR, Finance, Investigations, supply, etc. and the inner secure lobby door also propped wide open. I do not know who opened these doors. While this may be a county building you must realize that only Sheriff’s employees were relocated with their bare necessities to do their job. All other items, such as personnel files, evidence, financial records, guns, ammo, uniforms, etc. were left behind in what I thought was a secure area because there is no place to relocate these items. You and your staff have now totally compromised the integrity of the Operations Center, our files, etc. and risked our accreditation and CJIS status. I also learned that on Wednesday the exterior of the building was pressure washed. Did people access the building then also unescorted?”

The county may well have carried out its entire procedures within regulated norms–Jared Shupe, the county’s and the sheriff’s IT director, is CJIS-certified, as are various members of county cleaning and maintenance crews–but that still leaves the sheriff sidelined over his own Operations Center, while creating a fresh and bitter new point of contention in a controversy desperate for more clarity and cooperation.

Strobridge said it was likely that the sheriff might be either at this afternoon’s County Commission workshop or its 5 p.m. meeting. Based on what the sheriff has written commissioners, copying them on email to Coffey, his appearance does not appear intended to make nice anymore than his emails.

Sheriff Staly’s Aug. 19 email to Craig Coffey:

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33 Responses for “Sheriff Lashes Into County Administrator Over “Disregard” of Security Protocols in
Operations Center”

  1. Ready says:

    I think it would be a good idea if there were no weapons of any kind allowed in any of the meetings occurring with the county and sheriffs department regardless of who they are!!

  2. Lt Frank says:

    So, you want to know about CJIS Certification; well, we all do. When I say we, I’m including the the folks who created, modify, teach and enforce the CJIS Security Policy. I consider myself part of that group because my focus is still along those lines.The reason why we want to know is because it doesn’t exist; to borrow a phrase –“there ain’t no such thing.” In all of my years at the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), working with the FBI, and working on the FBI’s CJIS Advisory Policy Board (APB) Security and Access Subcommittee, no one has developed or bestowed “CJIS Certified!” While at FDLE, I used to get calls all the time from law enforcement agencies asking me “is this vendor CJIS Certified?”, or telling me “that vendor says they are CJIS Certified.” My response, the response from the FBI, and the other ISOs from around the country was “there is no CJIS certification”.

  3. Fernando Melendez says:

    I think it’s really a way to undermine our sheriffs dept, but more importantly the disregard and disrespect Mr. Coffey has for Sheriff Rick Staley. Disgraceful

  4. Outside Looking Out says:

    Haha, a pissing contest between two useless asses, both of which costs the taxpayers thousands of dollars.
    Hey Staly, I have a question. What about an incident that occurred Friday night? Kid having a big party with many underage kids drinking and partying while daddy’s out in Vegas. Your guys come, he’s in handcuffs (contributing to delinquency?) but daddy’s a lawyer and Mommy ‘s running for public office and he’s released? No report? Typical Flagler County cover-up.
    And of course, Coffee still has his cream for a quarter million bucks.
    Flagler County Good Ole Boys System.

  5. atilla says:

    When you put Coffey up against Staley, Staley has the upper hand. Coffey wouldn’t even qualify as a school crossing guard if he worked for Staley.

  6. Anonymous says:

    When are they going to realize that NOBODY BUT NOBODY can go up against the self proclaimed “president ” of Flagler County? I.e Coffey.
    He has been running amok in the county for years, long before a department and employee minded Sheriff, I.e.Staly, came around.
    Coffey has no regard for rules be it CJIS or any other agency involved.
    Let’s be realistic folks, the County, the Operations Center, the Highway Department, all are ultimately controlled by Coffey, and no one can stand against him, I do however respect and admire the Sheriff, and the Union for attempting to do same.
    Nothing will change until Coffey is either removed or perhaps even charged for interfering with law enforcement operations” and I’m sure he’d be released ROR anyway!
    Good luck Sheriff Staly, keep up the fight!!!!!!

  7. Anonymous says:


  8. palmcoaster says:

    When is the FCBOCC going to fire Coffey? Is he also witch hunting our elected constitutional official and law enforcement chief now! We elect our constitutional officials and the FCBOCC make their performance and expertise to hang in the balance? Not enough with former Democrat Sheriff Manfre and then former SOE Kimberle Weeks that now they undermine our very good top law man and Republican Sheriff Mr. Staly?

  9. oldtimer says:

    I’m pretty sure the people doing the cleaning are not certified with any kind of un escorted clearance. They are from the company the county is subcontracting the custodial duties. A little checking on the background would be real interesting if anyone took the time

  10. Art Bowles says:

    Lt Frank ….. nice try.. looks like you just copied a paragraph from the following
    Larry Coffee
    Sr. Security Analyst
    850.656.3333 ext. 288
    You only gave part of the story.
    Anyone wanting the truth about CJIS please google it to get ALL the facts!

  11. 107 says:

    For the Board of County to know Coffey pulled this sneaky stunt to cover up what is there (there would be no need to be there!) they should immediately take action and terminate him because he is their employee and this is wrong on all levels. Coffey should be charged with destroying evidence. Calling the AC man in says it all. Coffey violated security protocol and has put the county in jeopardy and he is the one spewing BS that he is being transparent and isn’t up to speed on this and that. He is ahead of the game and is expecting litigation and that is why he is already lawyered up! This is why Nate McLaughlin and Greg Hansen should be unseated this election and Abby Romaine and Joe Mullins should be elected…..we need leadership who will put an end to Coffey and Hadeed…….the master manipulators. The Sheriff needs to file with the state attorney the paper work for an investigation and indictment.

  12. Bill harvey says:

    Petty BS everyone wants to have more power than the next guy , I seen enough of it on my old 5700 man pd SOS , Grow up and act like professionals

  13. Alex says:

    I personally think they are both, how is it said (Scum Bags Of The Month) Staly wants to be seen as some big shot Sheriff, When his officers are incompetent and as crooked as they come. He should be cleaning house in his own department. But that being said Coffey is definitely wrong in his actions, if they had evidence and weapons in there and people were aloud to roam free it can be said on up coming criminal cases that evidence was planted, tampered with and if there is a chance that it is possible. Then everything in there should not be admissible. But knowing our sheriff he will say something like there was no evidence showing any tampering but in his letter made public to Coffey he is saying it was, so now what. Criminals have a chance to get away with some thing, I hope no one gets hurt by any ammo that might have been taken from there. So let’s see what happens a good sheriff that wants to do things rite we’ll time for officers to start working on new evidence ,and Coffey just resign cause your just opening this county up for law suits

  14. Dennis McDonald says:

    If you would like to confirm Mr Coffey’s level of incompetence then review tonights 8/20 meeting regarding item 7i. and watch the BOCC Fire Drill, pathetic ! This was a consent agenda item for a $8,000,000 grant dating back to 2013 on Mr Coffey’s hand prepared agenda. I asked for it to be pulled for public discussion because it had two pages included from a Palm Coast commercial property. Mr Coffey in the end called this a “typo” and the Chairman Hansen calls a site plan and a map “pictures”….yikes ! I stated to Chairman Hansen that the public needed clarification on this public offering because of past history. The last time I inquired of him as Chairman was regarding the Demotion without Permit of 21,000 sq ft of the old hospital wings this spring. Chairman Hansen told me he was quite satisfied that including this major REMOVAL of a County asset as a $45,000 line item[went way over budget] in the 2017/18 budget was proper notice.

    County Clerk Bexley was not comfortable with that action when I contacted him for assistance as our CFO.

    The demolition was never VOTED on as a direct action of the Board. Mr Coffey’s attempt to deceive the BOCC and the public about this “brownfield” property continues tonight. This Board should have Terminated Mr Coffey for Cause when they were fined by the FDEP the Maximum fine allowed on April 30,2018.

    The dynamic at tonight’s meeting was interesting as Mr Hadeed pontificated at great length to the Commissioners in an attempt to cover for Mr Coffey’s failures. Mr Hadeed’s actions were ironic because Mr Hadeed was terminated as the county attorney in late 1998 for $30,000 of questionable billings that former County Clerk Crosby refused to never pay and never did. Mr Hadeed was brought back nearly eight years later when our then good county attorney passed away.

    History does repeat….all to often in Flagler where “the few benefit at the expense of many” and this time our Deputies physical well being is taking a direct hit !

    Dennis McDonald

    [Correction: McDonald is mis-characterizing the matter of Hadeed’s firing. The commission voted 3-2 to fire Hadeed in December 1998 at the first meeting for two newly elected commissioners who said their constituents wanted a change. The vote was not related to the financial issue, which the News-Journal at the time reported this way: “Because Hadeed is not on salary, he submits bills to the county for work done in excess of 2,292 hours. Excluding any excess hours, Hadeed would normally be entitled to about $81,000 a year. However, he had worked the 2,292 hours by July in a fiscal year than runs from October to September so he submitted bills for excess hours from July to September. Those bills totaled about $24,000. Crosby, who serves as county treasurer in his role as county clerk, has refused to pay the bills until Hadeed provides better documentation of what he did during those excess hours. Crosby has said in the past that he has no evidence that Hadeed failed to work those hours, but he still wants to make sure the bills are proper.” Hadeed says he was eventually paid.–FL]

  15. Anonymous says:

    Let me say this as a former employee of FCSO, no cleaning people have ever been CJIS certified. However, to maintain the integrity of the records, evidence and other area, personnel have always been present. Mr. Coffey is going way above his head on this one and should be fired. Especially, if items like guns turn uploading. They should all be under lock and key, including the evidence per Accreditation. Sorry Sheriff, are wrong about this one. Aren’t all records and financial files on the computer. Kind of hard to access, unless you turn on the computer. Still, hating how the County has treated the Sheriffs Office. This has been going on for years. No respect from them at all for the work they do. But, they will be the first ones they call when they need them. Don’t bit off the hand that offers you. Find and fix the problem. These employees deserve better!

  16. Freddy says:

    Enough of the BS with the county administrator, city manager, and weak city and county council. I already voted for primary and none of the incumbents were in my ballot. Vote them all out I say!

  17. Fiscal says:

    Love it!
    Like watching squirrel monkeys!

  18. Anonymous says:

    If the commission doesn’t fire Coffey, fire the commission!!! Elect Joe Mullins and Abby Romine 2018!!! Hansen and McLaughlin need to be sent to the moon.

  19. Anonymous says:

    A grand jury needs to be called in, Coffey indicted, and held accountable!! Getting rid of this master manipulator will rid this county of all these types of problems and drama. Coffey is not above the law. He is being manipulative and is trying to prevent the truth from getting out. We’re more county employees put at risk being ordered to clean this dump? His office should be moved there!! What a dirt bag. The BOCC seems to be OK with what ever Coffey does….it’s time for change….do not vote for Hansen and NcLaughlin so they can be replaced with new leadership.

  20. John Brady says:

    The firm is billing $180 an hour for partners, $145 an hour for associates, and $90 an hour for paralegals. Seriously, more money pouring into that money pit.

    Time for elected county and Palm Coast executives.

    Why can’t our feckless elected council people rein in the managers. Mr Hansen, you were in charge of two war ships and you can’t control one county manager. Did you give orders in the navy or did you just suggest compliance.

  21. DoubleGator says:

    Stop being the whining Staly.

  22. just me says:

    So just HOW did the cleaners get access into sensitive and or secure places within the sheriffs department??? I dont think it is ALL the fault of Coffey or the County. I would say somebody within the sheriffs department gave them that access.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Thanks a lot Nate for this whole mess!

  24. John Dolan esq. says:

    This is why employees need Unions. Fire Coffey and Mayer.

  25. Sherry says:

    This situation is a great example of precisely why we need to vote out ALL the incumbents on the Flagler County Commission. They are too cowardly to stand up to Coffey, and should have fired him long ago.


  26. Heading North says:

    I commend Sheriff Staly for standing behind his employees and standing up to Coffey (the self elected President of Flagler County).
    Coffey has repeatedly gone behind the councils back, undermined the Sheriffs efforts to assure the well being of his people and keep his Operations Center a secure place. When Coffey authorized the cleaning without escort he should have been charged for interference at the very least!
    There will never be a resolution until Coffey is removed in disgrace.
    Keep up the fight Sheriff Staly!
    Wishing the people of Flagler County well, but your life would be much improved with Coffey GONE!

  27. Anonymous says:

    Sherry: This is probably the only time we’ll ever agree on anything, but the current commission needs to go and so does Craig Coffey, post haste!

  28. oldtimer says:

    How is a”deep cleaning” being done on a supposedly sick building by workers who are not wearing some sort of protective clothing and without FCSO escorts into the sensitive areas? This whole thing is one big soup sandwich, sounds like a CYA operation to me

  29. Knows Jack says:

    NATE- why did you vote for it then and now, lie, by saying you wanted other options? Pack your bags… UBER is on the ready! Good luck in your next career!

  30. Anonymous says:

    Mullins and Romaine, all I have to add to this discussion! New Blood should revive our County !!

  31. Nancy N. says:

    So first our taxpayer dollars were spent against our wills on this pit of a building. And now we are paying for both the County and the Sheriff’s attorneys while they fight over the (entirely predictable) mess the building has become.


  32. 107 says:

    Hopefully we will get Mullins and MCDonald elected to the BOCC and they will talk some sense into the remaining three commissioners and fire Coffey, Hadeed, Petito, Dixon, Mayer and a few others! This county is out of control and needs a shake up! A forensic audit is warranted when sneaky stuff like this goes on….just imagine what is going on that we don’t know about!!! Craig Coffey is the ring leader and the BOCC have allowed him, their employee, to get out of control and be deceitful, with their approval.

  33. The Square root of 11,449 says:

    Ditto 107 on the audit. An audit of this administrator’s office and a couple of more departments in Flagler County government definitely need to be audited and the findings made public good or bad. I’m not convinced Joe Mullins is an upgrade though, trading one problem for another me thinks!

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