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Citing ‘Corruption’ Potential, Sheriff Turns Over Investigation of Tourism Director Matt Dunn to FDLE as Lukasik Takes Over Division

| April 5, 2019

Matt Dunn last November at Princess Place Preserve. (© FlaglerLive)

Matt Dunn last November at Princess Place Preserve. (© FlaglerLive)

A brief Flagler County Sheriff’s report released today states that an internal county investigation found “clear enough evidence” to suspend county Tourism Director Matt Dunn and to further investigate his conduct as a county employee.

After a meeting this morning between the Sheriff’s Office, the State Attorney’s Office and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the sheriff’s office announced early this afternoon that it was asking FDLE to take over the investigation because of the “potential for public corruption.”

Jarrod Shupe, The county technology director and the point man in the internal aspect of the investigation, went to Dunn’s office Thursday morning to inform him that he was being suspended and required to be off the property, to seize all his electronic devices, and to lock him out of all electronic access to county business. His office and devices have been secured for law enforcement’s investigation. The county will not be conducting its own investigation until the criminal part is completed.

But the sheriff’s report leaves little doubt that the matter, after being vetted by Interim Administrator Jerry Cameron, who has extensive law enforcement experience as a police chief and an academic, by Sheriff Rick Staly, Chief Mark Strobridge,  and others, warranted a criminal investigation. That investigation will continue even if Dunn were to resign.

Cameron said he was “absolutely” comfortable with FDLE taking over. “All I want is someone authority and competent jurisdiction to tell me whether there is criminal activity or not,” he said. “That’s where I want to be. I also want to make sure we don’t run the risk of painting Matt Dunn as already deemed guilty of this stuff. These are accusations and those accusations need to be disposed of because this is an issue of public trust and we can’t treat it lightly.”

The accusations, or allegations, were brought forth reportedly by a fellow-employee who had documented Matt Dunn’s alleged irregularities. Dunn, 44, has been the county’s tourism director for five years. Cameron did not confirm that it was a fellow employee, saying only that the suspension and subsequent moves were based on “an accusation from an individual or individuals that are stating that this condition exists.”

Amy Lukasik. (Facebook)

Amy Lukasik. (Facebook)

Meanwhile, Cameron met with the tourism office’s four remaining staffers, who came to the Government Services Building for the meeting, which lasted more than an hour. (After the county acquired the tourism office from the Chamber of Commerce, the office moved to larger accommodations in a building at the county airport.) Cameron appointed Amy Lukasik, the division’s director of tourism and marketing, to lead the office for now.

“We talked about who was the best person to take this forward while this investigation was going on and it was unanimous that they thought Amy ought to do it,” Cameron said, referring to Lukasik’s colleagues. “I deferred to their judgment willingly because I thought she was capable too. I’m really impressed with the passion that this group has with the work that they do, and I think it’s a sad situation that they’ve got to sail through this choppy water, but I think they’re up to it and we’re going to try to reset our course over there.”

Lukasik’s task will not be mere caretaking: she will be in charge of developing the division’s budget, as budget season has begun, and presenting it to the County Commission this summer, as it is very unlikely that Dunn would be back by then–if at all. Cameron is also looking for more results beyond budgeting. “I told them that based on what I have sen so far maybe we need to get a clearer picture of where we are and where we are going,”  he said.

The tourism division is a county department, but it also answers to the oversight of the appointed Tourist Development Council, a collection of government and hospitality industry representatives chaired by County Commissioner Greg Hansen, who himself looked into a Dunn-related complaint previously and cleared him.

Commissioner Joe Mullins in early February started questioning Dunn about his business practices. Mullins says Hansen approached him to tell him there was nothing there, regarding Mullins’s concerns about Dunn. Mullins says he walked away from Hansen, fearing a sunshine violation. “It’s not what he said, but I don’t want to go into that,” Hansen said.

Hansen explained why he’d looked into Dunn’s paperwork at the time, after he was approached by Kim Carney, the Flagler Beach city commissioner, who herself had concerns about Dunn’s practices. Carney had approached Hansen not in her role as a commissioner, but as a Rotarian who’s organized an annual cycling event, and applied for modest grants from the TDC over the years. She was once turned down, so she raised issues with the way Dunn accounted for so-called room-nights–the number of people who stay in local hotels because of a particular event. That number supposedly dictates whether an event gets one type of TDC funding or not. But the accounting is hazy and, as Hansen found out when he looked into it,  dependent on visitors volunteering information and telling the hotel they’re there because of a specific event.

“There has been questions raised of Matt by one individual overs several years and investigated by the clerk of court, it all involved paperwork,” Hansen said, referring to Carney. “I looked at the paperwork, I couldn’t find anything wrong, but it didn’t have anything to do with money.” The way nights were accounted for is “not particularly good, but I didn’t see any particular way to improve it,” Hansen said.

For all that, it appears the Carney issue has nothing to do with the more recent, more serious accusations about Dunn. “I know for a fact that Kim Carney is not involved in this investigation,” Hansen said. As for the current investigation, he said,”it’s the United States of America, he’s innocent until proven guilty, and that’s all I know. I hope he’s innocent, but there’s going to be an investigation.”

Asked whether he expects Dunn to return to duty in the future, Cameron said: “I have no confidence at all in either direction on this, I just want to make sure he’s treated fairly, and if he has committed serious breaches and a number of defenses he may raise. We certainly will take appropriate action administratively if that turns out to be the case.” He added: “I don’t think anything lights up the radar screen more than when one of these issues comes to bear on us.”


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10 Responses for “Citing ‘Corruption’ Potential, Sheriff Turns Over Investigation of Tourism Director Matt Dunn to FDLE as Lukasik Takes Over Division”

  1. Maffa says:

    It appears mr Hansen is ?? If he did not see the irregularities perhaps he needs to be repla ced also ( possibly he isn’t competent ) . If you read yesterday’s story on Flagler live and read the blue highlited articles about Dunn andCoffey and the princess estate debacle it will open your eye’s , this guy is pickin up where Coffey left off. Or use your immagination ?????

  2. Shane says:

    It’s amazing how corrupt this counties leaders are…….

  3. Derrick Redder says:

    What a joke this is first in two articles not one allegation is cited. What is this pocket politican accused of?
    Second I can be alone in this, but by all optics this is a slush fund back room old buddy agency.
    How much money is gone? How much of our tax dollars have been wasted on such a useless entity with a nice budget and more useless staff cost the property owners. Almost but not quite that believable is the fact that this BS exists. Fire everybody & shut it down

  4. Jane Gentile-Youd says:

    Too bad we’re not yet Dunn cleaning the residue from the Coffey pot. ……..Why it has taken so long is inexcusable.

  5. Concerned Citizen says:

    FDLE shouldn’t just stop with Dunn.

    The whole tenure of Coffey/Sherman needs to be investigated. Likewise so should our BOCC. This whole County has been full of shenannigans and dealings shadier than a lamp store sales person.

    A forensic audit is desperatley needed and when unethical and criminal conduct is found it should be addressed. Stop letting people resign and giving out free passes. Hold them accountable for the mess they left our county in.

  6. Ben Hogarth says:

    It would make my day if some of the accusations against Dunn, now under investigation by the FDLE (State) were to lead back to Coffey and Sherman. Now that State officials are actively involved in this investigation, I’m hopeful that the entire lid is blown off what occurred the past several years. Dunn was far too connected to be a sole actor in everything – that much I’m sure of.

  7. Sherry says:

    Great comments from those in our community who have been really paying attention. I suggest everyone go back and read the Flaglerlive articles about the whole “Princess Place” debacle.

    Pierre is there a possibility of posting some of those articles again?

    In any case, it would be stupidly naive for any of us to believe that the Coffey/Sherman corruption isn’t tightly twisted around the cavalier actions of Dunn and perhaps his staff as well. I agree that a deep state forensic audit of our entire county government is desperately needed and way overdue. The elected members of the BOCC have been extremely lazy and therefore completely complicit in letting such corruption grow like weeds in our county.

    It all begins with a foundation of “honesty, ethics and integrity”, and from my vantage point those moral principles are a thing of the past in Flagler County!

  8. palmcoaster says:

    Don’t we get sick and tired that the taxes we pay in this county and cities first of all to provide our services go first to the pockets of special interest and if is any leftover then go to the intended purpose?
    The conflict of interest of elected ones and their choice administrators and malfeasance, lies and cover ups is offensive to the human intelligence.

  9. adam says:

    Does one person on here actually know him? Or are we all just reading a couple articles where not a single tangible accusation was given? This is all speculation. Matt Dunn is one of the good guys in the tourism industry. He is as by the book as it gets and I can’t wait to see the mud all over the face of the people leading this witch hunt.

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