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Flagler Jail’s Private Provider Says Its Nurses Did Nothing Wrong in Fennick’s Death–and Asks for Reimbursements

| February 11, 2019

Inmates at the Flagler County jail. (© FlaglerLive)

Inmates at the Flagler County jail. (© FlaglerLive)

Armor Correctional Health Services, the health care provider at the county jail, removed two of its employees from duty there pending the outcome of an ongoing investigation in the unexplained deterioration and death of inmate Anthony Fennick, 23, last week. Armor did so at the request of the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office.

Armor placed the two employees on paid leave, however, and is requiring the sheriff’s office to pay both the employees’ salaries and their replacements for the duration of the investigation. The sheriff’s office is disputing the request, as it had requested both employees “be relieved of duty at any FCSO facility,” according to the sheriff’s attorney, Kayla Hathaway.

Armor is asking that the salaries of two nurses, Tracey Columbus, a registered nurse, at $2,190 biweekly, and an employee it initially referred to as Kelsey Gadson, a licensed practical nurse, at $412 biweekly, be reimbursed. Columbus was employed full-time. “Gadson” was employed on an as-needed basis. (Armor had initially reported Kelsey’s last name as Gadson in an email to the Sheriff’s Office, though there is no one licensed as an LPN with the Department of Health, according to DOH records. The company subsequently referred to her as Kelsey Cochran in a later email. After several inquiries by FlaglerLive, the sheriff’s office on Tuesday said there may have been a name change (she was married in May 2017, though her maiden name was Strom), and Kelsey was cleared by the jail under the “Kelsey Delrey Cochran” name. A Kelsey Delrey Cochran, of St. Augustine, is licensed since October 2016, according to DOH records. The Sheriff’s Chief Strobridge said she’s been known as Chochran all along at the jail, and attributed the error to Armor. “They don’t even know who their own people are,” he said.)

Flagler Sheriff’s Chief Steve Cole, who oversees the county jail, requested that Columbus and Cochran be placed on leave on Feb. 7 “Pending completed investigation of possible negligence resulting in a patient death,” according to an email by Armor’s Jennifer Owens, who was following up on a phone conversation with Cole on Feb. 8.

Fennick, a resident of Richardson Drive in Palm Coast, entered the jail on Dec. 28 after failing a urine test, testing positive for cocaine, and getting thrown out of drug court, where he’d been a participant since 2017. He complained of high fevers starting Jan. 30. His mother, Erika Williams, who spoke with him daily, said two of the three nurses he dealt with were more dismissive than caring or concerned, treating him with antibiotics and ibuprofen. He was denied access to a doctor before a doctor’s scheduled visit on Feb. 5. (The contract calls for a medical director to put in two hours a week.)

By then it was too late. Fennick’s health degraded, he lost touch with his surroundings, had a seizure on Feb. 4–a week ago–the night he was finally transported to AdventHealth Palm Coast. There, he went into cardiac arrest and was revived only to have lost all brain functions. He died Saturday (Feb. 9).

Two sheriff’s detectives have been conducting an investigation into Fennick’s death since he was taken to the hospital. “Investigators are doing their interviews, they’re pulling video, they’re listening to tapes,” Sheriff’s Chief Mark Strobridge said Monday, referring to surveillance video at the jail and to recorded conversations between Fennick and his mother, which his mother says document his deteriorating condition.

Armor says it bears no responsibility for Fennick’s fate. “Armor has reviewed the clinical actions of these employees and found nothing inappropriate,” Owens wrote.

“Per Armor Correctional Health Services, the above employees will be placed on a paid administrative leave,” the Armor official wrote. “Both employees positions are required to be backfilled by Armor to maintain continuity of patient care at the Flagler County Detention Center. This cost would be above the contract terms therefore Armor Correctional Health Services requests the Flagler County client reimburse Armor for the cost of maintaining the two above employee’s salaries while on leave as well as any benefits the employee’s may have. The reimbursement is being requested upon the investigation clearance of the two employees. The above employees would be placed on a paid administrative leave rather than an unpaid leave due to neither employees have been found of any wrongful practice nor are neither employees accused of any wrongful practice at this time.”

“Of course they’re going to deny they did anything wrong,” Carlos Trivino, Fennick’s uncle and one of many members of his family who’d been at his bedside last week, said today. “But that’s OK. We’re going to get to the bottom of this.”

The request for reimbursement surprised the sheriff’s office for several reasons, among them the fact that it had requested that the employees be relieved of duty–that is, replaced–and because the contract with Armor does not spell out a requirement by the sheriff to pay for “backfilled” employment, as Owens’s email suggests. “Can you please point to the specific provision in the contract that calls for reimbursement in these circumstances?” Hathaway asked of Armor in a Feb. 8 email.

As of today, Armor had not replied, Strobridge said.

The contract with Armor, signed in January 2018, does spell out measures to be taken when the sheriff’s office has issues with Armor’s coverage under a section called “Sheriffs Satisfaction with Health Care Personnel.”

“If the Sheriff becomes dissatisfied with any health care personnel provided by Armor hereunder, or by any independent contractor, subcontractors or assignee of Armor, Armor, in recognition of the sensitive nature of correctional services, shall, following receipt of written notice from the Sheriff of the grounds for such dissatisfaction, exercise its best efforts to resolve the problem. If the problem is not resolved satisfactorily to the Sheriff, Armor shall remove or shall cause to be removed any employee, agent, independent contractor, subcontractor, or assignee about which the Sheriff has expressed dissatisfaction. Should removal of an individual become necessary, Armor will be allowed a reasonable time to find an acceptable replacement.”

There is no mention of reimbursement. Strobridge said the sheriff’s office is interpreting the contract as silent on reimbursements.

The only mention of reimbursement in the contract refers to Armor’s potential “Failure to Perform/Reimbursement.” It reads: “For any services required to be performed by Armor under this Agreement, but that are performed by the Sheriff due to Armor’s failure to perform, Armor shall reimburse Sheriff for those expenses and such expenses shall be reduced from the monthly payment due Armor under this Agreement.”

The contract does note that all inmates’ medical records are “the property of the Sheriff,” and that “Armor shall make available to the Sheriff, at the Sheriff’s request, all records, documents and other papers relating to the direct delivery of health care services to Inmates hereunder.”

Fennick was on a respirator for the duration of his last days in AdventHealth’s intensive care unit as family gathered. The hospital delayed removing Fennick from the breathing machine to allow for his family to arrive from Colorado and North Carolina.

“It’s not fair and its scary as hell that this can happen to another person who’s trying to do the right thing,” Trivino said. “As a community we have to come together and make sure this can’t happen to anyone else.”

The breathing machine was disconnected at 10:40 Saturday morning. Anthony Joseph Fennick was pronounced dead at 10:49 a.m.

Note: Anthony Fennick’s family has set up a GoFundMe page here.

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26 Responses for “Flagler Jail’s Private Provider Says Its Nurses Did Nothing Wrong in Fennick’s Death–and Asks for Reimbursements”

  1. Carol says:

    My prayers to the family of this young man. May he Rest in Peace. ❤

  2. Ann Marie Marszalek says:

    I cannot believe Flagler County put out this money. I feel this should have been on the ballot and voted on. As for the nurses it is their job to treat everyone. Has anyone ever heard of M.A.T. (medicated assisted treatment). Instead of being thrown into jail they can get the treatment they need. Other states are doing this why isn’t Florida. I pray for the family. Jail does not help. Read the book “Dopesick” by Beth Macy. Food for thought.

  3. Dave says:

    So Flagler detectives are the ones working the case with possible wrong doing by the Flagler Sheriff’s office? Is that not a conflict of interest?

  4. Dave says:

    So are we to accept that these nurses along with the deputies involved, will not serve jail time for this young man’s death? That would be a complete outrage and the citizens of Flagler County will not let that fly!

  5. Concerned Citizen says:

    So Steve Cole is “investigating” Armor Health care. Well that’s nice and all but who is Investigating The Sheriff Steve Cole and the rest of the Jail staff?

    The Sheriff has a legal responsability to safely incarcerate offenders. Jail staff sworn or civilian have a legal resonsability to operate ethically and morally at ALL times. This Sheriff has had so many major incident in the past year it’s not even funny. Yet he ducks responsability on all of them,

    I hope that some screams loud enough for FDLE and the Feds to come in and investigate. Likewise I hope a wrongful death suit is brought on both Armor and the SO. Its time someone made these clowns pay. It seems to me a number of things went wrong and maybe there is even a civil rights violation in there.

    I spent most of my adult life in Law Enforcement. Sheriff Staly has to be one of the most inept Sheriff’s I’ve seen in a long time. If he stopped playing Wyatt Earp running around with NRA members and playing SWAT maybe he could actually lead his organization.

    Sheriff Staly you’re in command of your agency at all times. The buck stops with you.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Ridiculous!! Something needs to be done.

  7. Anonymous says:

    A full-time nurse at ~$56k per year, an on-call nurse and a doctor who visits once a week, for $641,000. What?

  8. Michael Cocchiola says:

    Inmate was neglected and ignored. No story here. Is there enough money in the budget to cover incompetence?

  9. Linda says:

    No one deserves to die over failing a urine test, Come on! This is absolute negligence. As a nurse who worked many years in an ER, I have seen first hand the attitudes of some health care workers and their treatment of inmates and those struggling with addiction. This is sad.

  10. gmath55 says:

    @ Anonymous – How do you come up with $641,000 and a doctor? Did you read the article? Tracey Columbus, a registered nurse, at $2,190 biweekly, and Kelsey Gadson, a licensed practical nurse, at $412 biweekly, be reimbursed. (Columbus was employed full-time. Gadson was employed on an as-needed basis.)

    RN = $2,190 biweekly = $1,095 weekly = $1,095 x 52 weeks = $56,940
    LPN = $412 biweekly = $206 weekly = $206 x 52 weeks = $10,712

    Total = $56,940 + $10,712 = $67,652. Simple math. $641,000 ??? and what doctor are you talking about?

  11. Jane Gentile-Youd says:

    All involved are guilty. The county is just as negligent as the Sheriff’s sub contractors. Dont we have enough qualified residents to take charge ? Why do we pay incompetent uncaring unqualified contractors? Because…. of laziness and the easiest way out. Disgraceful

  12. Melisaa says:

    Prayers to the family . but this is sad 5 days with Faber should have been took to e r and got checked could have saved his life but all the jail and fcso care about is money this is sad as he’ll they need to be treated the same way they did him . I don’t even know the guy but know its wrong on all levels

  13. HonkeyDude says:

    Staly and Cole should be up on Manslaughter charges at a minimum! Deputies run around arresting parents on child abuse and neglect charges all the time (I.e. mother driving carelessly with a child not properly secured). I see no difference between a parent and someone who’s job it is to provide a safe environment for someone who doesn’t have the right to do so for themselves! Manslaughter and Wrongful Death at a minimum. That young man was MURDERED by negligence! Stick that on your next political sign offering vacancies at your MURDERED INN (Green Roof Inn).
    Can someone PLEASE justify why the sheriff needed to attend swat training halfway around the world? Whats next? Cold weather training in a Ice Castle, mountain warfare training in Nepal, shark training in Australia, WTF???

  14. Outside Looking Out says:

    Ann Marie Marszalek,
    I agree, it’s hard to believe that the sheriff’s department can spend this much money with no accountability to the public.
    There’s no telling how much cowboy staley and eight of his crony deputies are costing the taxpayer with their little trip to Dubai.

  15. mark101 says:

    Armor Correctional Health Services, they are solely to blame.

  16. lena marshall says:

    Hope you have documentation and witnesses ready FCSO Sherriff Office.

  17. Flatsflyer says:

    $650,000. Somebody is getting kickbacks for sure, one RN for 60k, one PN for 30k and 104 hours for a MD, check everyone in the FCSO for new cars, trips to foreign countries, etc. Privatization is costly not only in terms of money but also in terms of life. Someone needs to be on the other side of the bars when they allow support and condone these stupid and criminal activities.

  18. Robjr says:

    Once again the police are investigating the police. In this case it is the Sheriff Dept.

  19. J. S. says:

    This is exactly why you don’t let corporations get involved in providing government services. They are trying to cut corners on cost and race to the bottom line. I spoke with former inmates who say it takes days to see a doctor no matter what the problem. They might be inmates but their health should not be ignored or dismissed as trying to get over. Armor should not get one red cent for reimbursement. I pray for the family for their loss.
    I believe the county and sheriff’s office may want to think again about going into another contract with armor. Also the liability for the sheriff’s office is going to affect us all when there liability insurance goes up from this and higher premiums are expected. All of this for letting corporate hacks get involved in providing government services.

  20. Armando says:

    No. Absolutely not. That’s ridiculous. If nothing was wrong. Then why did he end up brain dead. Why did he die. Why were his parents not allowed to see him until it was too late. It is a clear case of neglect, and failing to do your job.

  21. Jeff says:

    Do we not have attorneys to negotiate contracts for the Flagler County Sheriff’s office? Who has the right to sign a contract for that amount of money? Is that in the sheriffs budget? I’m not sure how many nurses/lpn’s are designated for this particular account. Two were relieved of duties. Mrs. Fennick speaks of three nurses, I was just wondering, because That is a horrendous amount of money for 2 nurses ($67k plus) and a doctor that gets paid over $11,000. for a designated 2 hour week. It doesn’t appear that said dr was even available for emergencies?

  22. Cyrus Buelton says:

    Ann Marie Marszalek,

    Yes, I am quite familiar with Medicated-Assisted Treatment (MAT) while your post clearly indicates you do not.

    Medicated-Assisted Treatment (MAT) is a recovery model for those with an opioid dependence.

    This article indicates Anthony Fennick’s drug of choice was likely to be cocaine as that is what landed him in jail.

    Jails are starting to use Medicated-Assisted Treatment (MAT) Programs, but these programs carry a high risk diversion because the medication used, buprenorphine, is an opiate.

  23. Former inmate says:

    As a former inmate at the Flagler County Jail I can tell you first hand that the medical staff sucks. It took me 5 days to get some very important medications that I take on a daily basis. When I pushed the emergency button in my cell I was told by a Deputy “not a medical person “ to chill out and that medical would see me in several days. Well my mental condition began to go south. I again hit the button and was threatened by a deputy if I ever hit that button again I would be in serious trouble and that the judge would see that I was being unruly. Deputy Civil came to my cell and quote asked “What is your damm problem” “leave the button alone you’ll be fine” we’ll by the grace of gots 2 days later I received my medications. I would love to testify to my expierence and the fact that if you take meds but don’t have your jump suit on means you don’t het your meds is bullshit. Sheriff you need to step down stop being a media hound and let a professional run the Sheriffs office. @flaglerlive if the family of this young man would like my information please feel free to give it to them. This has got to be stopped. If I were the family I would notify FDLE ASAP. Don’t let the people who killed your son investigate the wrong doing of those who they work with every day and are often all seen together at the local bowling alley!

  24. Thurston Howell III says:

    This is a DISGRACE by the Sheriffs office and ‘Murder’ charges should be applied to the Sheriff and his staff responsible for this INEXCUSABLE event! This young man was NOT a criminal, he just had the disease of addiction! Nurse’s take a oath to care for the sick and DO NO HARM to patients., but that was not the case here. I can’t believe there is not more coverage about this issue? Surely, if it was a black person treated this way, it would be dealt with swiftly! The Sheriffs office must pay for this! As a citizen, I want to see someone arrested and held accountable for this young man’s tragic passing! Prayers to his family.

  25. Anon says:

    Why is everyone only going after the nurses who only see people when they make a sick call or get their prescribed medicines? Why is no one attacking the guards who lay eyes on inmates way more often than anyone else??

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