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Sheriff Says If It’s Up To Him, ‘I Will Be Advocating That We Never Reoccupy The Operations Center’

| August 21, 2018

Sheriff Rick Staly addressing the Flagler County Commission Monday evening. (© FlaglerLive)

Whether the Sheriff’s Operations Center is found to be healthy enough to reoccupy or not, it appears that Sheriff Rick Staly, for his part, has made up his mind, and unequivocally so: “If it is truly and solely up to me then I will be advocating that we never reoccupy the Operations Center and the County find alternative and appropriate space for Sheriff’s Operations.”

And County Commission Chairman Greg Hansen told Staly Monday evening–albeit without his fellow-commissioners’ authorization nor consent–that it was, in fact, to be the sheriff’s decision.

It isn’t. Not exclusively so, anyway.

But Hansen, perhaps in a clumsy attempt to lend Staly support, and without considering his words’ implications, set in motion yet another dynamic to the Operations Center controversy by essentially backing Staly into a corner and unwittingly putting the decision on him alone, which would have almost certainly led Staly’s employees to then direct their ire at Staly exclusively, if he bucked their desires.

Staly made his startling statement in an email to his staff written shortly after a County Commission meeting in which the matter of the Operations Center took up nearly half the session, even though it was not on the agenda.

He did so even though several key developments are ahead: the county has possibly agreed to comply with Staly’s request that a section of the building be drilled to find out whether moldy wood is being covered up. The Centers for Disease Control is sending a team to speak with Sheriff’s employees the week after Labor Day. And results of a review of the recent testing at the Operations Center, a review commissioned by Staly, is to be presented at a workshop on Aug. 30. Staly gave strong hints Monday that the county’s findings that the building was safe to re-occupy will be contradicted.

None of that will be relevant if Staly has made up his mind not to reoccupy the building, as some of his employees have as well.

laura kruger

Laura Kruger, a sheriff’s employee and employee representative, addressing the commission Monday. County Administrator Craig Coffey and County Attorney Al Hadeed are in the background. (© FlaglerLive)

Staly had planned to appear before the County Commission Monday during the public-comment period, using the three minutes allotted to any person wanting to address the board. His intention was only to request that a workshop be scheduled so results of the review he commissioned from Robert Sweeney could be presented and discussed. “Dr. Sweeney has more than 40 years’ experience in his field and has consulted on many symptomatic buildings,” Staly previously wrote his staff. Retired in Palm Coast, the specialist approached Staly and has been reviewing all building-related reports and histories going back to before the building’s purchase in 2013. The commission agreed to an Aug. 30 workshop.

Staly’s appearance was followed by that of several sheriff’s employees, including Laura Kruger, a union representative, who addressed the recent, further breakdown in trust between the agency’s ranks and the county administration, namely over last week’s county cleaning of the building, without knowledge of the ranks or, to a large extent, that of the sheriff’s administration. Staly was furious Sunday when he wrote Coffey, saying the cleaning took place without his knowledge or his top staff’s authorization, circumventing a protocol that was in writing (and that had, in fact, been first put on paper on the county’s side by Michael Roper, the attorney the county hired to handle the building issue).

The sheriff said secure areas may have been breached by cleaners without clearance and put the agency’s accreditation in jeopardy. Emails obtained by FlaglerLive today indicate that no such breach took place. “As you are aware we have had CJIS certified personnel inside FCSO Ops cleaning unsecured areas,” County Facilities Director Heidi Petito wrote Chief Mark Strobridge, point man on the sheriff’s side for all building-related issues. She was referring to the the Criminal Justice Information Systems, which may not be exposed to anyone without CJIS certification. “We have not entered into unrestricted areas with or without escorts.”

“All of the personnel being used to clean the facility are CJIS certified and are responsible for cleaning the Justice Center (including the areas that FCSO are currently occupying) as well as the 911 Dispatch Center,” Petito wrote Coffey in a separate email Monday, in a timeline of the building’s cleaning. The same day, Jarrod Shupe, joint IT director for the sheriff and the county, told Coffey the county’s cleaners were “still in compliance with our CJIS requirements.”

Commissioner Hansen speaks out of turn, and colleagues reassert the commission’s role.

But by Monday evening at the commission, what was perceived as a lack of complete transparency by the Sheriff, his staff and some commissioners had resulted in another breakdown in trust and adding to doubt from sheriff’s employees–and even commissioners, among them Nate McLaughlin, Don O’Brien and Charlie Ericksen–that the issue could be resolved to everyone’s satisfaction. Kruger called it “a circus,” and Elizabeth Conrad, a detective who’s been among the hardest-hit by health issues, called commissioners “brothers and sisters in Christ,” but also told them that “the trust level is non-existent.”

It was then that County Attorney Al Hadeed spoke at length about recent developments with the Centers for Disease Control and a planned visit by their officials, though when it came to the controversy over the building issue, Hadeed said he wasn’t the one to address it. “I’m not an operations guy.” Coffey said sheriff’s officials had been informed.

Staly then stood up again to dispute some of the statements, among them Hadeed’s that “there’s no conflicting opinion” regarding findings about conditions within the building. “You’ll have one this week,” Staly said. “I have been briefed on the findings of my consultant, and there is an opposing view and opinion coming based on all of the studies that have been done on this building from pre-purchase through the remodel to today.”

County Commissioner Greg Hansen, left, with Sheriff Rick Staly. (© FlaglerLive)

County Commissioner Greg Hansen, left, with Sheriff Rick Staly. (© FlaglerLive)

Hansen, who chairs the board, told Staly: “I think it’s important to note, and I’m going to speak for the whole board here, I don’t normally do that, our concern is for the people. And that’s it. It’s the only concern we have. We will never tell somebody to go into that building if they don’t want to go into that building, and you know it’s going to be your call, not our call, your call, whether you go into that building or not.”

It was the first time any of the commissioners had spoken that directly to say that it would be Staly’s call.

But Hansen was not speaking for the commission. His four fellow-commissioners, while silent as he spoke, made that clear in interviews today–and in turn gave Staly a way out of his corner. It wasn’t the first time that Hansen, an appointee to the position for less than two years, has confused his 20 percent weight on the commission or his chairmanship for broader authority he does not have, as fellow-commissioners reminded him.

“No commissioner ever speaks for me,” O’Brien said. “That’s up to Hansen to want to clarify it or make another statement about it. I can’t do that for him. But the context in which I took it was not malicious or politically motivated, I think it was more of an emotional reaction to what was going on right then and there.”

“I was a little startled by the statement,” Commissioner Charlie Ericksen said, disagreeing with the statement that it’ll all be Staly’s decision. “I would hope we both get on the same plane and both sides agree with it. There comes a day called tomorrow and the day after tomorrow and stuff that we have to work together.”

“He wasn’t speaking for me, the board, we all speak for ourselves,” McLaughlin said. “I think when we all sit there and say nothing, if somebody disagrees they would speak up, I think for me, the nuance was, basically we’re not going to force you into the building.” McLaughlin said he would not want Staly feeling isolated and solely responsible for making the decision on re-occupation of the building, the way Hansen’s statement made it sound. He said Hansen may have been taken up by the moment’s emotions, and repeatedly said that it would be “a joint decision, this will not be a unilateral decision, as far as I’m concerned.” He added: “The board will decide whether the building is ready, but it’s not going to be a unilateral decision.”

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Commissioner Dave Sullivan, in the interview, cautioned Hansen: “I think even our chairman Hansen should be careful about making comments that this is the board’s position,” Sullivan said. “I think what he’s saying is, we can’t tell the sheriff what to do with his employees, all we can do is say the building is safe or not safe for reuse.”

Sullivan said it would be difficult for the commission to overrule the sheriff if he stuck by that decision not to reenter the building. “We can’t force him back into the building,” Sullivan said. “It would take legal action and I don’t contemplate that happening. and I don’t see that happening. I just don’t think we should be premature at this point. I think it’s premature to take hard decisions.”

In an interview Tuesday afternoon, Staly said he stood by his email to his employees “because my employees are extremely scared and concerned to go back into that building, and to date there’s been no report that has lessened that fear.”

Asked if he saw a path back into the building, one negotiated jointly with the county and employees, he said he didn’t see one at the moment. But his answer was nuanced. “At this point in time, I am opposed to moving back in there,” Staly said. “There’s a number of things that have to happen. I do not have money in my budget to rent office space. If that’s the alternative, then the County Commission has to fund it. As sheriff, I cannot go out and build a building. So those are all county commission decisions. At the end of the day, if I’m told they’re not doing anything more to this building, they’re not going to give me money to rent space,” and find 35,000 square feet of proper office space in Bunnell, which is non-existent at the moment.

“So at the end of the day, I can advocate all I want that we don’t go back in that building, but the purse string for the alternative is controlled by the county commission. But I will never accept going into that building under the current situation, where my consultant has verbally told me that there are issues with this building and the testing that has been done to date.”

Staly even cast doubt on another pledge Hansen made, without the full commission’s approval: that the physical examination of certain areas of the structure behind drywall be conducted. “There was not a vote that I’m aware of that directed the county administrator to do it,” Staly said. “I believe the commissioners in their word that that’s going to be done, but they need to direct the county administrator to do it because for three months I’ve been asking the administrator to do that.”

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20 Responses for “Sheriff Says If It’s Up To Him, ‘I Will Be Advocating That We Never Reoccupy The Operations Center’”

  1. TATOWN says:

    This is absolutley a circus. I hope every voter reads this and votes EVERY incumbant out of office so that we can get rid of Coffey. They all need to go.

  2. Dennis McDonald says:

    At the Commission meeting on 7/16/2018 min 10:00 I spoke with this very same commission and asked that they be aware that as recently as April 2018 County Manager Coffey mitigated for asbestos the deputies exercise building that sits to the rear of the main building. It was closed down within days due to County Clerk Bexley’s concerns made to the administration after meeting with John Ruffalo and myself. Coffey refused a meeting with us, a Commissioner and his staff regarding the demolition so we decided to “follow the money” with Mr Bexley. Our meeting was about the illegal demolition of the old hospital [21,000sqft] 4 wings and how this could happen without a BOCC vote.

    At the end of my 3 minutes [July 16] I asked this Commission to find the money and put together a fund that would test all the effected employees so we could have the much needed information to assist getting these folks whole again. Coffey/Hadeed have complained that the employees are not submitting the records. Truth is most do not have the $$ to get it done because Workmans Comp denied the claims and the regular health insurance said no, you have a WC claim. They are between that proverbial rock and a hard place !

    Once again like they did at the other two workshops, the Commission took no action because I believe they are purposely misinformed by Coffey/Hadeed.

    The biggest problem the BOCC has is their two employees. Chairman Hansen has been operating in lock step with them since he was appointed by the Governor. I never quite understood how a new appointee is made Chairman within a few months of being appointed. Could it be a perceived lack of leadership in Flagler ?

    Sorry Governor nothing has changed !

    Dennis McDonald

  3. tulip says:

    Seems like Hansen lets the “power” of being a chairman for a year has gone to his head. Another reason to vote him out. No one person on the BOCC has the power to speak for the entire commission unless he has been given specific permission to do so.

  4. This is all a joke says:

    I chuckled when I saw the #clearascoffey hashtag going around social media. This Coffey guy is an absolute genius. He does whatever he wants and steamrolls the commission and residents. It is as if he does not work for them. They just sit back and attempt to correct his actions, yet he does it over and over again. Even in this most recent meeting, where the topic of sick employees continues to be brought up, Coffey sits there and laughs. And then he tries to justify not including the employee union in the emails. This was just another “oops, sorry” moment by Coffey. The board “corrects” his actions, Coffey laughs to himself, and will surely repeat his actions. As if he could accidentally forget the sheriff’s office union in one of the biggest topics surrounding this county and employees. Are we supposed to believe that? The old expression is that is easier to beg for forgiveness than to ask for permission. This guys does not care about your permission and certainly not your forgiveness.

    It is quite obvious that Coffey is playing games and everyone but him will be a loser.

    Cleaning occurs and nobody stops Coffey. So now, will they stop any further cleaning until the CDC comes in or the new sheriff’s report is released? That remains to be seen, but I doubt it. Coffey does what he wants and how he wants to do it with complete disregard for anyone else.

    The sheriff said in relation to testing the wood “I believe the commissioners in their word that that’s going to be done, but they need to direct the county administrator to do it because for three months I’ve been asking the administrator to do that.” WHY HASN’T THIS HAPPENED MR. COFFEY? IS THERE ANY PARTICULAR REASON? You cannot say money or purchasing rules because you have declared all this as emergency expenditures so you can just write a check. So why has this not been done? Why aren’t the commissioners screaming about this? It makes you wonder… They didn’t have any problems finding the time and money to hire outside counsel to take care of this problem. Interesting.

    In summary, nobody has control over Coffey. The commission seems to be at the mercy of Coffey and the commission will be at the mercy of the taxpayers since the voters need him controlled.

    He will continue to do whatever he wants, cleaning away any potential evidence, and will say nothing was ever wrong. Or maybe he will give another “Oops” and try harder next time.

    But I guess everything is just a big joke to Coffey. Just like in the Board meeting on June 11, 2018, at the 15:15 mark of the video, where they are discussing storage facilities and there is a joke about the vacant Sheriff’s Office building as a storage solution.

    “The purpose of government is to enable the people of a nation to live in safety and happiness. Government exists for the interests of the governed, not for the governors.” – Thomas Jefferson.

    Coffey just keeps laughing in the faces of the Commission, the Sheriff, the employees, and all the residents. It’s funny how smug and arrogant people can become when they are not subject to an election or any chance of losing their position.

  5. Peter Levin says:

    Always at center stage……this guy is a media gobbler…..and a lousy leader

  6. Power grab 2018 says:

    I will move from this county before I’m forced to pay for another sheriffs office. Staly has already raised his budget by 6 MILLION dollars in 2 short years. Promoted numerous deputies and given huge pay raises. He is grasping for power and anyone in his way will be mowed over. Did none of you watch what’s he did to Manfre???

  7. 12 says:

    This has been a cover up of a sick building from the time the deal was made to purchase this white elephant to the present with Coffey ordering another secret deep cleaning of the building before the CDC inspectors get here, in an attempt to show that inspector nothing is wrong with the building. One picture is worth a thousand words and there were pictures taken during the remodeling of the building of mold being covered up under new materials that were meant to be permanent. Intent to cover up mold is proven by the pictures taken during construction and remodeling. Why is it Coffey and some of the current commission so adamant about this building being safe in the face of numerous sickened sheriff’s office personnel? There were known and proven ethics violations in the procurement of this building, but not much more has been said about that after the fines were paid. I believe an in depth audit of this whole purchase and remodeling of this building be done and see why all the problems with the building were swept under the “moldy rug” and just see if any money’s were not properly accounted for in this process. However Coffey or the County commission should have absolutely no part or contact with auditors in the audit or hiring of the audit firm. It is time to follow the money trail in this matter. The actions of the County administrator and members of the County Commission paints them suspect in a broader way in this matter. Let the chips fall where they may, but something stinks very seriously here and it not just a moldy sheriff’s office. Follow the money people!!!

  8. 107 says:

    It is more evident than ever that Hansen needs to be voted out of office. This man is Chairman and should know better. Bottom line is he was made Chairman because it is election year and he things the extra name recognition is going to get him reelected to an appointed position. We never elected him to begin with and Dennis McDonald needs to be his replacement this November. This Commission has been such an embarrassment to this county. All this unnecessary drama has cost us taxpayers MILLIONS!!!!! This is not board game money folks that you get from Milton Bradley.

  9. Anon says:

    Does that building still have asbestos in it??????? So then here’s Trump wanting to put deadly toxic asbestos into everything again.

  10. gmath55 says:

    The city likes to waste money on projects that we the citizens voted no or didn’t want. So, now there is a project that is needed and they keep beating around the bush. Stop all the testing and investigation (wasting time and money) and build a new building. Plow the Operations Center down!

  11. atilla says:

    Remember these idiots called commissioners at election time. Coffey must go also.

  12. Knows Jack says:


    Stop lying! This week at the Commission meeting you said would have supported other options..but you didn’t. You voted for this. Maybe when you are defeated you can apply to be a janitor and clean the Operations Center! But wait, no experience in cleaning up messes only making them!

  13. Dave says:

    So even if its healthy the sheriff refuses to go back? So now this is about pride and not the TAXPAYERS? Is the sheriff choosin self pride over county? STOP WASTING TAXPAYER MONEY!! Get back to it! Unbelievable how these people let their own personal feelings control them. If the building tests fine go back to work!

  14. JustMe says:

    Thank you Sheriff Staly for protecting your employee’s.

  15. John Brady says:

    Not another dime on testing or legal actions, people have been sick and that is all the facts needed to condemn this building. A new building is needed and Mr. Coffey needs to be removed from any building related matters, .

  16. Agkistrodon says:

    @Powergrab 2018, you do realize this deal was done, behind closed doors long before the Current Sheriff was ELECTED. And you complain that he gives pay raises, yet you probably scream for 15$ an hour minimum wage. The whole problem stems from one source, and his name is Coffey. And I frankly done care what political party he is part of, in my opinion the ONLY thing he is part of is the problem, and those come in both Red, and Blue.

  17. oldtimer says:

    It should be brought to light that a county employee was told to paint over mold behind the refrigerator in the evidence room this past weekend

  18. native FL says:

    Never ending saga… “as Craig Coffey rules Flagler County”.. Many are new to our county & don’t know the history of this sick, sick building. We moved up here in 1999, this building was a HOSPITAL. A very “sick” hospital building back then. If you needed emergency services, you better drive to Daytona. NO ONE HERE wanted this building “re-vamped”, it needed to be torn down & everything either burned or hauled far from here. This building should have been demolished, we all knew this. Wasting our hard earned money once again. Many people have told me they moved here because “it’s so pretty”. Actually it’s very ugly once you look behind the smoke & mirrors.

  19. starryidgirl says:

    There art Two years left before the ” statue of limitations” expires on the sale of this building. Lawsuits against the parties responsible for the sale of this building, the Sellers, the Realtors who represented both Buyer & Seller who concealed the pertinent health hazards and the Appraiser who grossly over-estimated the price should all be prosecuted!

  20. Anonymous says:

    Voted against both Hansen and McLaughlin yesterday; residents need commissioners who take responsibility rather than abdicate to the sheriff or county administrator.

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