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Changing Position, Key Commissioner Says Sheriff’s Building is Not Repairable and Calls For New HQ Elsewhere

| January 7, 2019

Commissioner Dave Sullivan at today's workshop on Bing's Landing, before he made his statement on the Sheriff's Operations Center. 'At some point,' he said, 'you’ve got to look around and say this is insane, what we’re doing to the Sheriff’s Operations Center.' (© FlaglerLive)

Commissioner Dave Sullivan at today’s workshop on Bing’s Landing, before he made his statement on the Sheriff’s Operations Center. ‘At some point,’ he said, ‘you’ve got to look around and say this is insane, what we’re doing to the Sheriff’s Operations Center.’ (© FlaglerLive)

Flagler County Commissioner Dave Sullivan is done with the Sheriff’s Operations Center.

In a stunning, unequivocal statement this morning at the end of a three-hour workshop on an unrelated issue–the lease for Captain’s BBQ at Bing’s Landing–Sullivan said he will not approve spending another nickel on the troubled operations center except to demolish it, and that the county must create a task force to figure out how to build a new operations center at a different location, how to pay for it, and what to do with sheriff’s personnel in the interim.

Just as consequential is Sullivan’s call for a commissioner to be delegated to the task force, suggesting a loss of trust in the county administrator to fulfill a job that would normally be his.

Commission Chairman Don O’Brien said he would have proposed the task force delegate had Sullivan not done so (and thinks the commission’s delegate should be Sullivan), so a commissioner is at the table in every meeting concerning the operations center. But O’Brien said it’s not for lack of trust in County Administrator Craig Coffey, but so the sheriff’s side has someone they can trust, since they’ve lost trust in Coffey. “We have a sheriff that doesn’t want to communicate with him,” O’Brien said.

Clearly though, there appears to be some discomfort with relying on Coffey alone. “I want one of us to be the point person for the commission,” O’Brien said, “to be at every meeting, and take on the responsibility to be our eyes and ears, to come back to us and keep us appraised of what’s going on, and for the commission to take back some control of this issue, or more involvement, than just waiting for reports.”

That Sullivan made the statement carries tipping-point weight: Sullivan has so far been more cautious about the fate of the building and has been willing to let testing take its course, preserving a commission majority still willing to seek solutions to eventually re-enter the building. That majority is now as oozy as the operations center’s foundation. The difference was last week’s testing in the building, which revealed serious and unexplained water intrusion through the base of the building, and in many spots. Those revelations shocked even county officials, including Coffey, and appear to vindicate what sheriff’s employees and the sheriff have been saying since the middle of last year: that the building is sick, and making employees sick in turn.

The sheriff and close to 70 employees with offices in the building evacuated it in June after persistent health issues affecting more than two dozen employees. Sheriff Rick Staly–who called the Operations Center an “albatross” in May–spread his operations between temporary offices in the county courthouse and the old sheriff’s administrative building. Staly and County Administrator Craig Coffey are no longer on speaking terms. Coffey’s job is in jeopardy.

Over the weekend Sullivan told Coffey that he was “finished” with the building. “It’s the most important issue we face, and it’s time to put that on the front burner,” he told Coffey. Today, as if to remind his fellow-commissioners and dozens of people in attendance that a county lease with a popular restaurant was not the most pressing matter on the county’s agenda, he spoke briefly and directly just before adjournment.

“I’m stating at this point, just so you all know: I’m not willing to put one more nickel into that building,” Sullivan said. “The only money I’ll ever approve now for that building is to demolish it. And I think at this point, at this point in time, we need to establish a task force. I want a commissioner on that task force to find out what’s going on, and come up with a plan of action and milestones for replacing–first, to come out with a more robust interim solution, and then a long-term solution. I know this is a tough issue, but I don’t think we can kid ourselves any longer, and it’s time to do something. I just want to make that point clear, that’s my opinion, and I think that’s the most important thing we face right now. Not anything else.”

“We can build a new building, and the other building can stay there and rot for all I care.”

He was even more direct when interviewed after the meeting. “It’s time to fish or cut bait. We can’t waste any more time. It’s time to get on with a plan of action and milestones of what to do,” Sullivan said. He wanted the matter separated from the ongoing legal struggles of sheriff’s employees and their workers’ compensation claims, or even with their health issues, which the county can’t affect–except to the extent that it is responsible for providing them with a safe and healthy building.

“We’re in charge of the building. Period,” Sullivan said. “We can build a new building, and the other building can stay there and rot for all I care. But right now we’re not going back to that building and I’m not going to authorize any more money for it.”

Even Coffey, after Sullivan’s statement, spoke with more concern about the building’s problems than he has in the past, seeing a significant difference in what was just uncovered. “I think it was a milestone the other day, we found something. So that puts us on a lot of different courses. That puts you on a course for potentially the employees, but it also puts you on course for more testing to figure out where it came from. It could have come from something as benign as carpet cleaning. I don’t know. We will find all that, and there’ll probably be an estimate at some point to fix it or repair it. If it’s not repairable, obviously the scenario he threw out made a lot more sense. The board will have a tough decision either way. Obviously you have some stigma now with everything. But let’s say the repair is $1 million. Do you throw away the asset for that to build a $10 million facility, and the delay in time? I don’t know. But the county found this through its testing, and it was even outside the protocol we were there to do. Some of the minor stuff I don’t think is significant. But the water obviously is the most significant thing. Is it repairable or not? I don’t think we know the answer to a lot of the questions at this time.”

Click On:

But Sullivan’s point today was that the building is beyond repair.

He was asked repeatedly whether he thought the building was salvageable, or whether the site was. He left no room for doubt either way. “There’s no hope for making use of that building again no matter how much it costs,” Sullivan said. “I’m tired of the whole thing, we started in 2013, and the chickens have come home to roost.” Meaning? “The problems with the building starting with the purchase of the property and the old hospital, through what we found with the most recent testing.”

Sullivan, who was not a commissioner at the time, opposed the commission’s purchase of the building, which until 2003 used to be the old Memorial Hospital (which became Florida Hospital Flagler on State Road 100, until the hospital’s name-change last week.) The negotiations leading to the purchase were secretive, the $1.23 million purchase was controversial and questioned.

Commissioner Joe Mullins was supportive of Sullivan’s position, particularly after what he saw last week, when he spent time inside the operations center during testing and pointed to spots that should be uncovered, including flooring. “I think it’s long overdue, I think it’s time, with what I walked through,” Mullins said of Sullivan’s statement.

O’Brien was more cautious about Sullivan’s statement. “I carefully said I agree with most of what he said,” O’Brien said. “I need to think through that a little bit. I don’t know. I’m not quite there yet as far as not another penny. We need to vet through the other options and all of the information, because we still don’t have the final report from the firm that did the inspecting last week.”

Commissioners Greg Hansen and Charlie Ericksen did not address Sullivan’s statement, though Hansen, by choosing to echo whatever Coffey says on the matter, has become a marginal voice in that regard.

On Sunday, Mullins emailed his impressions of his time inside the building, with pictures and explanations, to all four commissioners (after he said he checked with County Attorney Al Hadeed on how to do so without violating the sunshine law.) “This building is very new to have items looking like the pictures,” he wrote as one of his “take-aways,” suggesting “corners may have been cut.” He concluded: “with all that was found, this issue will not be resolved anytime soon.”

Commissioners will select a member to be on the task force at their next meeting, currently scheduled for next Monday, Jan. 14, when they are also scheduled to consider Coffey’s fate.

Sullivan’s statement radically alters the conversation, raising the questions of where the sheriff’s operations should be located now and in the future, and how the county will pay both for the interim and the new building. The money, Sullivan said, “will come from the county, and we may have to go as far as do a referendum for special funding, for a new building. All that may have to happen. But I’m saying: let’s stop fooling around on this, and just face facts and move on with a plan. I’m talking only about the building.”

29 Responses for “Changing Position, Key Commissioner Says Sheriff’s Building is Not Repairable and Calls For New HQ Elsewhere”

  1. TheTruth says:

    It is about time someone stands up and says no more money into this building and only funds to demolish it. Thank you Mr. Sullivan for saying something that was long over do.

  2. thomas says:

    Thank you Mr. Sullivan and Sheriff Staly .

    My suspicion was that Chiumento and Coffey were in cahoots when this derelict building was purchased.

  3. Liberty and justice for all says:

    Boycott the local “businessmen” that sold the County this building in the first place. They knew they had an albatross on their hands and off loaded it to we, the people. Enough of these backroom deals.

    Thank you, Dave Sullivan, for stopping the hemmoraging of our dollars into this money pit.

  4. Concerned Citizen says:


    Th BOCC is finally owning up to the fact that we have a building that is uninhabitable. What happened to the oh we can just hang some new dry wall and paint and it will be fine?

    This whole mess has not just been Coffey’s (can’t believe I’m saying that) doing. We have folks like Sally Sherman, Heidi Petito and Al Hadeed involved in these transactions. As well as Manfre/Staly and a lot of Commissioners also.

    The purchase and inferior rehab of this dilapidated was sketchy at best. And in not rehabing it properly you people made employees that YOU are responsible for sick.

    We can only hope now that we end up with some new leadership that wants to do the right thing the first time.

  5. mark101 says:

    “”it’s not for lack of trust in County Administrator Craig Coffey, “”, that’s really way out there, almost to the point of laughable, that is the very reason the Sheriffs Operations employees are in condition they are today. Coffey made the decisions, he oversaw the project. The amount of money from this lose is huge, and as we the tax payers are left WHAT, paying for the demolition of this SICK building and further more, we the taxpayer will somehow pay for a NEW building and a new location. What a cluster. .

    I think a lot of citizens of this county will agree, Coffey has lost the trust of the citizens of Flagler County.

  6. The original woody says:

    All of a sudden he’s an expert.It’s easy to waste millions of dollars of tax payer money.They have been doing it for years,many unscrupulous people ( on the county tax roll) made bank.Time to sue the contractor for the repairs no matter the cost.It must be be white glove approved before ANYBODY moves back in.

  7. In Support of Flaglers Finest says:

    Oh Mr. Coffey… now it’s the carpet cleaner? Would that be the cleaner they used prior to the CDC visit? Even now, that the walls have been exposed you still have more excuses? When will it end?

    Maybe… Monday around 5pm? Start packing Craig, you have long overstayed your welcome!

  8. John Brady says:

    Thank you Mr.Sullivan this is the correct course as I have been saying from the beginning
    We need to move on

  9. Jane Gentile-Youd says:

    Thank you Commissioner Sullivan for stepping up to the plate..

  10. wth and I mean WTH says:

    Let me sincerely ask my uneducated fellow citizens of Flagler County…..what exact finding are you basing your desire to tear down the results of millions of dollars of taxpayer money and throw it in the garbage? Why don’t we get the real names of the people who support the new Staley building and bill them for the cost of it? I do not want to pay for another corrupt police palace. In fact, may I purchase the existing Sheriff’s Office as is? I would love to have it and all its additions as is. I would make a fortune on it.

  11. I hope you got something says:

    I sure hope you did get some sort of kickback from the sale of that hospital Mr Coffey. Because you just cost yourself a career as an administrator for any municipality or county. This ill advised purchase almost certainly will cost you your job here and any place that so much as Google’s your name will see that you fudged numbers to make a purchase that defied logic, as no one, anywhere, ever, would recommend purchasing land and renovating a dilapidated building, in Florida’s harsh environment, over using existing land and building new. And they will see you were warned about this outcome repeatedly, and ignored the warnings. Then they will see you efforts to cover up the shotty work, and that you opened the county up to multimillion dollar lawsuits from the long term health effects you subjected the employees too. And finally that a $7million building had to be demolished within 5 years because of your recommendations. Hope you saved some of that money or you are qualified to do something else because it looks like your lifestyle is about to take a hit.

  12. TATOWN says:

    Thank you Comm. Sullivam for stepping up. That building needs to go. And a FYI to the Staley haters who post on here: Sheriff Staley was not with the Flagler County Sheriffs Office when this building was built or opened for use. Manfree was Sheriff when it was being built and walked around like a project manager. Manfree was Sheriff when this building was dedicated. Sheriff Staley had absolutely nothing to do with it and inherited this sick building.

  13. RobJr says:

    Coffey is the one who floated and pushed the idea.

    The elected officials voted for it, with the exception of one who had his head screwed on right.
    And there was one who had a business relationship with one of the sellers.

    Michael Chiumento and partners smiled all the way to the bank.

  14. Flatsflyer says:

    What action is underway related to the contractor who did the remodeling, was their work inspected, was the work waranteed, is the contractor still in business and was he insured and bonded?

  15. Donnie riddle says:

    Oh boy, could have come from the carpet being cleaned. I guess the bats must have been doing the job, since we found evidence they were there. Coffey needs to get a job selling cars!

  16. Anonymous says:

    Now we need an investigation into how this whole sale of the old hospital started who are the players who own a part of that hospital make them pay for it which I doubt they will . I truly believe there were a lot of dirty dealings with that building and the people who were involved in the ownership and sale of the building should be expose .That investigation would probably bring into the picture a lot of lawyers, politicians and realtors and hopefully bring criminal charges against all involved there by decreasing the surface population of these three crooked professions

  17. Agkistrodon says:

    @wth and I mean WTH Please enlighten us to your advanced “education” As one of those “uneducated” Flagler residents, who happens to hold Multiple Degrees in ACTUAL Science. I would offer up a large bag of Bat Guano, and ask you to place you face in that bag and take a few deep breaths on a daily basis, and THEN get back to us with you new “education” on exactly what Bat Guano does to humans that inhale it. If you like I could give a preview, it is called Histoplasmosis, and not only will it do you in but it also makes one MORE vulnerable to Cancers and Other diseases. This is only the Bat Guano portion. The Soil around the building is ALSO contaminated.

  18. wow says:

    Interesting. Didn’t the same kind of deal go down with the old ITT building on Corporate Way? A bunch of anonymous “investors” bought it and sold it for a huge profit to Palm Coast? And it had to be torn down. Someone is making fools of us all.

  19. ASF says:

    The entire process of this debacle–from before the decision was made to purchase the building to now–should be examined by a special non-partisan committee, with recommendations made so that it will not happen again so easily. If malfeisance is uncovered in that process, the appropriate legal ramifications should follow.

  20. John dolan esq. says:

    Tear down this Chernobyl and send Mr. Coffey his LAST! check.

  21. Ben Hogarth says:

    Two words, two syllables:


    At least Commissioner Sullivan is coming around to realize just how insane this whole ordeal has been. That’s why those of us in the public administration field understand that “adaptive reuse” is the dirty industry equivalent of saying “clean coal.” The whole idea of using the old hospital building for anything was from its inception, a terrible decision befitting decision-makers with a track record of poor judgement.

    Millions have been wasted… time has been wasted… political capital has been wasted. Is enough finally enough? I guess we shall see very soon.

  22. Jim O says:

    @Commissioner Dave Sullivan, wow you are a clairvoyant. Never knew… Easy to throw away tax payer money isn’t it. Just did not know you had such bandwidth to make a call on something out of your lane.

  23. Fernando Melendez says:

    Give credit where credit is due!! Thank you Commissioner Joe Mullins for igniting this fire storm to begin with, and those commissioners that are just jumping on the bandwagon now are doing so to save their hives.

  24. palmcoaster says:

    Because the Chamber of Commerce have thru many years supported proposals like CPT BBQ many times over including the famous never built Palm Coast Resort while demolishing our Palm Coast Resort (Old Sheraton Hotel) were 300 jobs were lost forever. Because all these reasons is that the Chamber of Commerce around the late 90’s had over 1,400 members that I recall and now is down to only 750 members.
    Kudos to Mrs Gentile Youd for her outstanding 3 minutes realistic and original lease fact finding disclosure. And yes Mr. Dennis Clark you are right yes, the FCBOCC is suppose to vote representing their constituents wishes preserving their park. Looks also the over protection of Cpt BBQ helps the county to denied lately approvals for other five potential new restaurants that could have created many job opportunities as well. Glad that Abbey Romaine is not seated at the commission.

  25. Charles Bub Robson says:

    Those who protect us need a decent place to serve this rapidly growing county. While the building was being redone after the purchase I thought this was going to fail. The area is not big enough. The property backs up to a housing project. The property should have sold for peanuts, & the building pushed down, & a new facility erected. The county commissioners & real estate people pushed this sale through in a hurry. I say lets pass the sale of this property to the Grand Jury & find out who made money on this sale. When I saw the sale, I knew it did not smell right. Those who made money on this sale need to be held accountable.

  26. Dave says:

    Let’s keep our fingers crossed that the building is still salvageable after the
    test results come in. Would be a big waste to walk away.

  27. Right says:

    @ TATOWN, check your timeline again in reference to when Staly was with the S.O.

  28. Show me says:

    Sooooo, I should be very easy for the numerous”sick” to get a doctor who will mention Histoplasmosis in their diagnosis … Right? At least that is what Agkistrodon says in his reply…. wrong!!! There are no employees who have been exposed to bat dropping …. This is more hype and smoking mirrors… Please show is one doctor who has diagnosised one employee with bat dropping diseases… Won’t happen.

  29. Ben Hogarth says:

    “Show me” – I think you are oversimplifying and overgeneralizing symptoms and conditions brought on by exposure to guano – or any other airborne toxin. Like many toxins, particularly those aerosolized, the frequency and duration of exposure typically correlated to nature of symptoms and contraction of longer term disease or illness. The building is suffering from all sorts of aerated toxins including those created by bay droppings. Mycotoxin is another. And the science on the long term implications of exposure to some of these toxins and irritants is so infantile, that no conclusion could be drawn by any physician as to what the exact cause of any illness believed to have originated from that building. Your response was not only dismissive of health concerns of employees – it was highly ignorant of medicinal and scientific facts.

    But I place my trust with the greater public judgement who as Jefferson stated so long ago – they have managed that office with wonderful correctness.

    It’s time for serious change.

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