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Allegations of Falsified Records and Bogus Inspections Lead to Resignation of Palm Coast’s Chief Building Inspector

| June 6, 2019

Allegations centered on favoritism between Palm Coast Chief Building Inspector Charlie Mini and a pool contractor. (c FlaglerLive)

Allegations centered on favoritism between Palm Coast Chief Building Inspector Charlie Mini and a pool contractor. (c FlaglerLive)

Charlie Mini, Palm Coast’s long-time chief building inspector, resigned last fall in light of an internal investigation that found he was manipulating inspection reports, including signing off on inspections he had not actually performed in person, and favoring one particular contractor over others.

The city’s eight-page investigative report was documented through the permitting database and GPS tracking that showed Mini’s whereabouts, indicating permitting-inspection locations where he did and did not stop.

“The allegations against you are serious,” Wendy Cullen, the city’s human resources director, wrote Mini on Oct. 22, placing him on administrative leave pending the completion of the investigation. “Specifically, it has been alleged that on more than one occasion you have passed inspections without visiting the location and physically performing said inspections.” Mini acknowledged Cullen’s notice. Cullen hand-wrote a note on the notice: “Charlie does not agree with this.”

A month later, Mini resigned, saying he’d enjoyed his time with the city but “decided it is time to explore other opportunities.” (Mini started Charlie Mini started work for the city in March 2006. He was making $69,400 at the time of his resignation. As of June 6, he was still listed as a chief building inspector on the city’s contact page in his name.)

The accusations against Mini were brought forward by two witnesses, according to the investigative report. The allegations and investigation pre-date by a few weeks another similar whistleblower case that led to the disciplining of several city employees, also in the building department, after they had accepted whiskey bottles from a contractor. Several employees were suspended without pay for a few days, one resigned before the completion of the investigation, another resigned subsequent to it, though not necessarily because of it. Both investigations pre-date by months the arrival of City Manager Matthew Morton, taking place during the tenure of Deputy Manager Beau Falgout as interim manager.

The city set up a whistle-blower reporting system through its website that led to at least three internal investigations with consequences for employees. Three months ago, a similar complaint led to the firing of the city’s golf pro at Palm Harbor Golf Club.

Allegations against Mini centered on his relationship with Hernan Longo of Crystal Clear Custom Pools, a company that operates in Flagler, St. Johns and Volusia counties. A whistle-blower reported to the city that Mini “is passing inspections for friend’s pool contracting business immediately after the permits had already been failed by other building inspectors,” according to the internal investigation. The investigation was conducted by Jay Maher, the city’s compliance manager in charge of ethics and contract fraud investigations. The whistle-blower had a list of “many pool construction projects” where that had allegedly taken place.

The same whistle-blower claimed Longo had performed extensive pool work at Mini’s home, free of charge and without permits. Mini denies the allegation, according to the report, and said he did not socialize with Longo beyond being friends on Facebook.

The witness told the investigator he had personal knowledge of the matter because his own pool “was built by Hernan of Crystal Clear Pools and had failed the initial Pool Final inspection because the contractor had installed too small a pump,” the report states. A day or so later, Mini came back and “passed the pool even though no changes had been made to the pool pump.” The witness then claimed that the contractor’s own personal pool had recently failed back-to-back inspections for being built too close to the neighbor’s property. A third inspection was scheduled. It was “cancelled by the contractor so that the Chief Building Inspector would be the one that did the Final Pool inspection.” The contractor needed that passed inspection, the witness told the investigator, because he was trying to sell the house. Mini passed the inspection and the house sold, according to the report.

The investigation includes the account of a state certified pool contractor who reported working for Crystal Pool and performing work totaling $37,000 (for which complained he’d not been paid), and that the company’s owner had told him he has a “Goombah” in the city’s building department who passes inspections for him. The same contractor, who is not named in the investigation, told the investigator that he had himself at times taken pictures of work he’d performed, sent them to Mini, and had Mini pass the inspection based only on those photographs. There were instances where other inspectors had disapproved of work that Mini would then accept. Longo did not respond to a call or an email before this article initially published.

Investigators then proceeded to analyze Mini’s GPS records and permitting documentation through the city’s database. The GPS records went back only three months, so the investigation had to be limited to that time frame. It revealed on various occasions that Mini had either not physically been to inspection locations or merely driven by without stopping, and where a fence would have blocked the view even for a drive-by look at the work meant to be inspected. Mini told investigators that there may have been cases where he was not at a particular inspections, but that he would have conducted in-person inspections there previously. But the investigator did not buy the argument: “A pool deck inspection performed 8 months earlier would not suffice for a Pool Final inspection,” he wrote.

The investigation also found irregularities with a specific electric alarm inspection in the B Section and another pool inspection in the W Section.

Maher concluded that “the basic elements of the complaint that was made are accurate. The investigation reveals that [Mini] did extend special treatment” Crystal Clear, while the investigators “were unable to identify any other contractors for whom [Mini] entered inspection results for permit locations he had not actually visited.” He did so on three occasions that investigators could document. All three had previously been failed by other inspectors. The investigation also found that, within the 90-day period it could analyze, Mini had performed nine other inspections for Crystal Clear, all of which he did perform in person. None were re-inspections. One was failed.

Maher and the “Internal Control Team” concluded “We believe the allegation of Conflict of Interest to be true,” and that the records were falsified four times.

25 Responses for “Allegations of Falsified Records and Bogus Inspections Lead to Resignation of Palm Coast’s Chief Building Inspector”

  1. Agkistrodon says:

    Yeah, I a shocked…….and Astounded………sarcasm……..Who will be the next to fall? The way things are being done, gotta be someone next in Line, too many ‘capable” candidates available it seems. I will wait, with bated breath. I’m sure it will not be long………

  2. The original woody says:

    time to drain the swamp.Landon,Coffey,Dunn this is just the start of corruption and waste of taxpayer money.

  3. Percy's mother says:

    To sum things up:

    This is just the tip of the iceberg.

  4. oldtimer says:

    Does anyone know if this guy inspected the sears building or the sheriff ops center?

  5. David S. says:

    Need to go over inspections from some of these filp homes in palm Coast also…..

  6. TheTruth says:

    How long has that corruption been going on? ;Time to investigate our city officials.

  7. john says:

    Really ? this county is a mess. I had to move my company away from Palm Coast. Just couldn’t break thru. It was who you know and are you related to someone. CIty and the county. More issues with the city should have come to light by now. Most of them are conflict of interest related and that is illegal.

  8. Freddy says:

    This was happening last fall and only coming out with the story six months later. Pool owners that have pools not properly built but passed by this person should hire a lawyer and sue the city. That pool contractor should be banned from doing any more pools in this county.

  9. Arthur J Bowles says:

    The TIP of the iceberg!!!!!!! The entire city hall is full of duplication, over staffed departments, fire chief as a public works director. This city is to small for the amount of city employees we have. I hope the new town manager steps up and starts cleaning house. Meanwhile taxes go up and up!

  10. Rex says:

    They are all corrupt!!! Time to drain the swamp people!!

  11. Brian Curbow says:

    So glad I moved out of this cesspool of corruption years ago! Could not be happier!
    The rest of you get out while you can!

  12. Dave says:

    No suprise here. This is just the little things. Much more to come once they dig deeper. The whole Palm Coast Building Dept seems to be crooked.

  13. Chris Howell says:

    Funny how this story comes out while Crystal Clear Pools goes belly up.Taking a whole bunch of peoples deposits and leaving the country. I hear Firms like Pool Captain, Raszl, Waterside and even the local Pinch a Penny are finishing the pools that are not even completed. Sad, I feel for those people who got scammed by such people. I hope the current firms that are doing the work can help the people affected by this.

  14. Doug says:

    Like I’ve said before, I welcome the FBI to set up shop in Flagler County and investigate the corruption! LMFAO!!!

  15. Edward Walsh says:

    I had the same problem with roof inspection,1 inspector passed roof in 3 minutes I have him on the camera.other building inspector failed the same roof.Wkl did the roof.inspection failed 2 times and passed 2 times with out anything done.1 inspector did his job and 1 didn’t care because of corruption or incompetent? This rubber stamping of roof jobs by certain roofers has to stop.The Flagler building department has no problem taking permit money they just have a problem understanding what there roll is.

  16. Born and Raised Here says:

    This makes it difficult for companies to trust Palm Coast, and move there operations here. Corruption and falsifying public records puts a bad reputation on a city.

  17. Blaine says:

    Neighbor saw me changing out a broken irrigation sprinkler in my yard. He says to me, ” You need a permit to do that “. I said back to him…..” I don’t need no stinking permit ” . He said he was going to call the City inspector office. I just laughed and said , ” Go ahead, but your going to need $50.00 cash to give him to come out.

  18. Can't believe it says:

    Every one should be contacting the State Attorney General’s office and the FBI and insist they investigate the entire county including Palm Coast. It’s the only way to put a stop to the corruption and put a stop to misuse of taxpayer’s funds.

  19. Carole Eure says:

    Gee, i wonder if he is the one that passed my plumbing inspection since ive since been told the plumbing work is all wrong!! Im one of those lucky ones that got scammed by crystal clear pools. Funny, when i went to the city for help with this contractor, they told me it was my own fault and shoulf have been better informed!!

  20. Agkistrodon says:

    Would now be a good time for the theme song to “Deliverance”…………..

  21. Nathan Jacques says:

    Chris Howell
    How do you know they have been completing pools. We’re you getting a pool from them?

  22. Concerned Citizen says:

    I’m sure it’s just not employees. Has anyone taken a look at Mayor Holland?

    A firm she works for was being used for City work. And although a comment was made to me that they weren’t taking money this is still ethical? How is that any different than a building inspector favoring a contractor?

    I recall the FBI paying a visit to Palm Coast not to many years back. It seems they are needed again. This time to take a look at our entire city/county management.

  23. Robert Lewis says:

    Do your research into crystal clear pools. Look at how many permits they had open and what the status is. It will blow your mind to uncover the corruption of crystal clear.

  24. john dolan esq. says:

    I was give a citation for not having a privacy fence around my air conditioner. Get real Romeo.
    Not allowed to have a boat in my yard in a place where a boat could be your last resort.

  25. Appalled says:

    Survey after fence install ….flipper surveyed the lines with his phone …..after all he was in the army.
    Inside whats left of the structure ..i mean the custom remodeling …wall removal… rerouting plumbing …and electrical..with no permits work in daylight hours… hammering and sawing into the night …..sold to a buyer with no clue ….wow ..and to top it off he gloats about how good he is and his friends.
    this artical sounds like its about this real estate agent broker flipper and his buddies…

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