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Bunnell Police’s Latest Slipshod Accusations Clear Ex-Cop of Counterfeiting

| October 11, 2010

bunnell city manager armando martinez and frank gamarra

Bunnell City Manager Armando Martinez during a meeting when Frank Gamarra, right, questioned his firing after he'd cooperated with a State Attorney's investigation that excoriated the Bunnell Police Department's shoddy ways. (© FlaglerLive)

In early August, the State Attorney’s office released the results of a lengthy investigation of the Bunnell Police Department and City Commissioner Jimmy Flynt. The investigation revealed disturbing patterns of shoddy policing, improper arrests, intimidation of suspects, shakedowns for vehicle impounding fees that should have never been charged, and serial favoritism that benefited Flynt’s towing service and his auto shop.

Two husband-and-wife cops—Lisa and John Murray—were fired and face felony charges. Flynt was never charged, but the sheriff, citing the commissioner’s “impropriety,” removed Flynt’s wrecking company from the county’s towing rotation. (Flynt and the Murrays remain close.) Armando Martinez, the Bunnell city manager and former police chief, said the department was becoming more professional and more accountable. “You want a police administration–you do something wrong, guess what, you’re going to have to pay the consequences, because that’s what brings professionalism in a police department,” Martinez said last month, after the commission had turned back an effort to turn city policing to the sheriff’s office.

The State Attorney’s office relied on a few Bunnell Police officers’ testimonies for its investigation. Among them: Sgt. Frank Gamarra. A few weeks after the report’s release, Bunnell Police Chief Arthur Jones fired Gamarra. Jones said it had nothing to do with the report. The chief said he had two sergeants on staff. He had to cut one. He chose Gamarra, though when Jones spoke to a State Attorney investigator, he told him it had to do with financial cutbacks “and other issues.” He did not explain what those issues were. (On March 22, Jones had presented “commendations of accomplishment” to Gamarra at a public meeting of the Bunnell City Commission, and was nominated officer of the year for Crime Stoppers.)

Gamarra was fired on Aug. 24. The following day, Jones called Jim parker, the State Attorney’s investigator in the larger Bunnell Police Department case and told him about laying off Gamarra. Parker was curious. “I advised Chief Jones that Gamarra’s lay-off seemed coincidental given the circumstances and outcome of the BPD investigation,” Parker wrote. Jones told him it was just coincidental.

Then Jones leveled a serious charge against Gamarra: that when the police chief and his recently reinstated second in command, Lt. Randy Burke, inventoried Gamarra’s police vehicle, they discovered a counterfeit $20 bill in Gamarra’s jacket.

The State Attorney launched a criminal investigation against Gamarra.

Last week, that investigation was concluded. Not only did it find that “no sufficient evidence existed to support any charges against Frank Gamarra regarding the recovered counterfeit bill.” But the investigation revealed some of the same slipshod policing and rash and damaging accusations against an individual that had been shown to be a pattern in the earlier, larger report, when that policing and those accusations involved people outside the department.

Three issues stand out in the investigative report regarding Gamarra.

First, the counterfeit bill that was allegedly found in his jacket was not documented on any of the Bunnell Police Department evidence sheets the State Attorney’s office had previously reviewed. The investigator noted that in the previous investigation there had been “several counterfeit bills collected without serial numbers listed on the initial police reports or evidence submission forms.” That previous investigation also revealed that evidence and actual reports had a way of appearing and disappearing as if by magic in the Bunnell Police Department: wrecker reports went missing, and in one case, a bag of evidence missing from Murray’s locked office mysteriously reappeared. The only people who had a key to that office were Jones, Gamarra and an office staffer. None could explain how the bag had reappeared. (Gamarra said that he did not have keys to that office.)

Second, when the alleged counterfeit bill was found in Gamarra’s jacket, it was neither photographed nor processed, as is the required norm when a crime is suspected. The bill itself was also contaminated. “Lt. Burke said both he and [Sgt.] Barbee handled the counterfeit bill when it was discovered and neither the bill nor the jacket were processed or photographed,” the investigative report states.

Third, when, on Sept. 7, the State Attorney’s investigator contacted Burke for additional follow-ups, Burke told him that he had “just discovered” that Gamarra’s police vehicle was also a pool vehicle used by several other police officers. The vehicle in question is one of the department’s darker Dodge Charges. The department has four or five of those, and a half dozen white cruisers, which spend a lot of time in the shop. Burke told the investigator that “he had no idea it was being used as a pool vehicle prior to the removal from Gamarra and subsequent inventory.”

All along, Gamarra told the investigator that he “didn’t know he had a jacket in the trunk of the vehicle and didn’t understand why he was terminated just after assisting the SAO in the original investigation.”

Gamarra said the counterfeit case should never have escalated to what appeared to be a retaliatory investigation when it was clear the vehicle he drove was a pool vehicle. “It might just be a case of complete ignorance and incompetence,” he said.

Contacted Monday, Jones, who had been on vacation the previous week, said he had not seen the State Attorney’s investigative report yet.

11 Responses for “Bunnell Police’s Latest Slipshod Accusations Clear Ex-Cop of Counterfeiting”

  1. Citizen says:

    Wow, sounds like Hazzard County over there and Boss Hogg is not happy that his boy went against the grain! How blatant must it be before the State Attorney or the FDLE steps in. Unreal…

  2. Kurt says:

    what the heck is going on in that place! fingerprint the bill people and see who tuched it.

  3. Just the Facts says:

    At this point, fingerprinting does no good, the “evidence” has already been compromised. Whats really needed is for someone to come in with a microscope and see whats really going on in Bunnell.

  4. Nero Fiddled..... says:

    all I can do is shake my head and wonder if FDLE notices that Bunnell is burning……..

  5. Larry Glinzman says:

    You let your elected officials keep the Keystone Cops instead of hring the Flagler County Sheriff’s office. You get what you deserve.

  6. Haw Creek Girl says:

    There is only Elbert Tucker and Daisy Henry that have decent sense as ‘elected officials’. Catherine Robinson is very, very smart and very educated but has lost touch with the reality of the common man. The rest are blooming idiots as evidenced by Jenni Crain’s blatant disregard for the Sunshine Law (probably more truthful is her lack of knowing any better) and Jimmy Flynt’s blatant disregard for the law in general. Jenni and Jimmy both have reason to keep the police force from being effective. Jimmy’s arrogance has pretty much been brought to light and well, anytime you ride near Jenni’s house you will smell her reasons.

  7. starfyre says:

    i pray for them

  8. Kurt says:

    starfire…seriously, do u ever pray for people that dont do horrible things? what world do u live in? why dont you pray thet the evil people ar punished and the victims receve some justic for once?

  9. Just the Facts says:

    As usual, Haw Creek Girl hits the nail on the head and starfyre has nothing of importance to add… Furthermore, Jimmy “I run this city” Flynt pretty much admitted that he participated in at the very least, unethical activities (tire dumping and receiving tows out of rotation) and is still holding a public office. Mr. Flynt should have the respect for his office (as insignificant as it may be) to resign his post and spare the city and the citizens of Bunnell the embarrassment of enduring any further shame. Equally shameful is the mayor turning a blind eye to all of the recent happenings at the Bunnell Police Department and the actions of Mr. Flynt. When its all said and done, we, the citizens of Bunnell, are responsible for allowing this mockery of government to occur. When are the citizens going to stand up and demand some answers!

  10. chiara476 says:

    Maybe the State Attorney should look at the correlation between the officers who helped the investigation and those that were fired or recently had accusations placed against them. There are/were some good cops on the force and it seems that shortly after the SA’s investigation came out that a bunch of them got dragged through the mud… the State Attorney needs to look into the higher echelons and dig deep. I have a feeling some good cops were punished for doing the right thing in helping with the investigation. Its not fair that such injustice is being delt to those who fight for our justice on the streets but they cant fight it in their own organization without being targeted. Personally, I think maybe the city manager and the police chief should allow an outside organization i.e. County Sheriff’s to help unless they have something to hide and dont want the state’s to maybe uncover something they would rather keep buried. Hmmm …

  11. HSART says:

    Wow, The Chief Clams he let the Sgt. go due to Budget Cutbacks and a little farther down it states the “Reinstaded” Officer, Key Word, “Reinstated” Took part in the Investigation that led to the Discovery of a Fake $20.00 Bill. No Proper Proceedure Followed What So Ever, Not to Mention What led to the “Reinstated” Officers Dissimissal in the First Place, aahh, Does the Word “Money” come to mind? Hope the City Residents Stand up for Sgt. Gamarra,s Return and Start Looking for a New Chief, Between Flynnt,s Chananigans and the Mayberry RFD Proceedures the the Present Chief allows to go on, Seems like “ANDY” and “Barney” are Hard at it !! Not sure where “OTIS” is We think he either Driving a Tow Truck or Running the “Evidence” Room. Remember We Lead by Example and its Very Clear there is NO Leadership to be Found, Lets see what “ANDY” does now since the “State Attorney” has Cleared Sgt. Gamarra. Flaglers Finest should be a Top Priority to take over, Hope F.D.L.E. Steps in SOON!!!

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