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County Threatens to Sue Clerk of Court Bexley in 48 Hours Over Space Request for Sheriff at Courthouse

| July 15, 2019

It's not clear if stormclouds are building or receding over the Flagler County courthouse. (© FlaglerLive)

It’s not clear if stormclouds are building or receding over the Flagler County courthouse.
(© FlaglerLive)

The Flagler County Commission, its administration and its attorney tried various ways over the past months to get Clerk of Court Tom Bexley to give up more space than he already has for the sheriff’s needs at the courthouse. They failed. Tonight, they decided to try a threat.

The county commission voted to sue Bexley in 48 hours if he does not respond to the county’s latest ask, a two-part request. First, they want Bexley to agree to a space study at the courthouse, conducted by an independent party, that may or may not show that there is more space that may be allocated to the sheriff. Second, they want Bexley to comply with the results of the study. Absent concessions on either steps, the county will sue for space.

In other words, it will file suit in circuit court, with a judge required to be from outside the Seventh Judicial Circuit, for an evidentiary hearing that would punt the decision on space to a judge.

Short of the clerk conceding to the findings of a study, a lawsuit could mean months of litigation, longer if the case is appealed, in effect letting the clerk use the clock to his advantage while the sheriff’s needs are left wanting.

Getting even to the point of threatening a lawsuit Monday evening was laborious, if not agonizing, with neither Bexley nor Sheriff Rick Staly in the room, though their deputies (Chief Mark Strobridge and Luke Givens) were. One member of the public who addressed the commission said “you can cut the tension with a knife.”

None of the five county commissioners wanted to make a decision. Their meeting dragged on, dragging along with it the latest edition of the discussion about Staly’s need for more space than the clerk of court has yielded. Ninety minutes into it Commissioner Donald O’Brien asked if anyone had a motion. No one did. The commissioners punted to public comment. It didn’t add clarity.

And County Administrator Jerry Cameron had already cautioned: “It seems to me there’s very little likelihood that we’re going to reach some kind of voluntary solution at the courthouse.”

The indecision was a reflection of a choice that wasn’t really a choice. Commissioners had the same three options they’ve had for months: They could do nothing, which is what they’ve been doing for more than a year since the sheriff evacuated the Bunnell operations center and moved dozens of personnel into the courthouse. They recognize that the sheriff’s situation at the courthouse is no longer tenable. But they’ve recognized that for months. They could rent the sheriff new space for what could eventually cost $1 million until a new operations center is built in Palm Coast, which commissioners don’t want to do and Staly is not favoring. (It’s the option Bexley favors, however.) They could hope for Bexley giving ground, literally, though he’s repeatedly said he won’t give more than the 8,000 square feet he’s given–and did so again through his deputy this evening.

Or they could force the issue, act as the landlord that the county is, and either seize the space or force a legal action that would require a court’s determination. Commissioner Dave Sullivan said the impasse “does need clarification, and it may well be the only way to resolve this, through a legal determination.”

Near the two-hour mark of the discussion, Sullivan, who’s become the commission’s impasse-breaker time after time, made just that motion. It eventually took a shape as convoluted as the discussion had been–as indeed all matters related to the issue have been.

He said the situation required legal clarity and directed County Attorney Al Hadeed to start legal proceedings to determine whether the county commission has the “full rights” to determine exact spacing allocations in a building owned by the commission. In the meantime, Sullivan’s motion went on, the hope is that the parties involved–that is, Bexley and the county administration, not the sheriff–are continuing discussions, with a letter prepared by the county administrator to ask the clerk if he’d be willing to accept the results of a space study. That letter would have to be answered in 48 hours.

Givens told the commission that Bexley wouldn’t be available for a week. Commissioner Greg Hansen was willing to set the deadline at 10 days, Sullivan was not.

“Why is that?” Sullivan asked Givens of Bexley’s whereabouts. Earlier in the evening, Sullivan had remarked that “it’d be nice of Tom showed up tonight.”

Givens said Bexley was “indisposed.” (Bexley told FlaglerLive last week that he’d be on a long-scheduled vacation.)

The commission also voted to hire a law firm that would carry out the lawsuit. It was just before 9 p.m. when the commission finally made its decisions, nearly four hours after starting its meeting.

Several commissioners had hoped to avoid either step and repeatedly spoke of the need for more negotiations with Bexley, though Hansen and Sullivan were critical of the clerk of court not responding to emails or letters, and Cameron, the county administrator, was almost angry with Givens when Givens revealed that the clerk had conducted his own space study in early June–but never revealed the results to the county. Givens said the county never asked. “In all candor I wouldn’t expect as an attorney on an examination to have to ask the exact right question to get an answer,” Cameron seethed.

“What’s missing here is a dialogue,” Hadeed said before quoting the famous line from a movie: “‘What we have here is a failure to communicate,’ effectively, I will add that word to the quote.” Hadeed had just spoken of Bexley failing to reply to emails or letters. But it’s not clear if Hadeed intended to place the county in the role of the sadistic warden who speaks the line in the famous Paul Newman movie, “Cool Hand Luke,” especially given the first name of Bexley’s deputy in the room: Luke (who maintained remarkably cool throughout).

Considering the tenor of the evening, the statements made about Bexley’s absence, the statements made to Givens and the threatening motion, it was unlikely that Bexley would somehow have what Hansen had earlier described as a “kumbaya” moment, and more likely that he would “stand our ground,” as he’s said before. The litigation will mean that Bexley will hire counsel, the commission will hire counsel, and the sheriff, possibly, would hire counsel, if he or his personnel is to be deposed, all of it depleting the very same coffer that, ironically, Bexley audits.

“It is an extremely challenging, expensive process, and it is without a doubt placing the taxpayer as the ultimate loser,” Hadeed told commissioners. “There isn’t a winner in that type of case, there is a big loser, and that is the taxpayer.” Perhaps speaking from a blind spot common to lawyers, he neglected to mention that there would indeed be very big winners: the lawyers involved. Hadeed is not among them since the commission voted to outsource the case.

24 Responses for “County Threatens to Sue Clerk of Court Bexley in 48 Hours Over Space Request for Sheriff at Courthouse”

  1. Concerned Employee says:

    The Board of County Commissioner’s are now taking legal action against the Clerk of Court in response to their inability to solve simple problems. Sheriff Staly has completely manipulated the BOCC into providing him with more space at the Kim C. Hammond Justice Center NOW. They would rather place Flagler County into a position of setting legal precedent (loosing the lawsuit mind you) and burying tax payers with the burden of a lengthy legal process to prove which will be know as “David Sullivan vs. Clerk of Court for not bailing the BOCC out of bad property investment opportunities.”

    What has the Flagler County Board of County Commissioners done in 2 years aside from making their problems the Clerk of Court’s problem? They have yet to mitigate the existing Sheriff’s Operations Center in Bunnell, the Sears Building, nearly every bad investment needs a corrective action plan…yet they have deep tax payer pockets to take on a law suite that they can’t possibly win that has legally been advised against by the Chief Judge of the Seventh Judicial Circuit? Do any of the Board of County Commissioner’s have the mental capacity (Questionable) to think clearly enough to understand what this may mean? Even there own county attorney Al Hadeed is advising against going down the legal road.

    Folks, Flagler County is getting ready to make groundbreaking news lead by commissioner David Sullivan and simpering sycophant Greg Hansen. Citizens of Flagler County…advocate to stop the madness before more irreparable mistakes are made by misinformed commissioners

  2. It's About Time says:

    This Commission is a joke. Fire the man for insubordination. He was told to complete a task and refused to do it. If it was anyone else, they would already been gone. What’s the problem? I guess they are scared of a lawsuit, which is going to happen either way now. The Courthouse is ran by the Sheriff’s Deputies. They deserve the space. Fix it now!

  3. Rick G says:

    As I have said before this is a conundrum that was created by the BOCC. Their lack of due diligence in purchasing the old hospital for the Sheriff’s headquarters is a direct result of what is happening now. Bite the bullet BOCC and spend the $1 million it will cost to cover your mistake.

  4. Flatsflyer says:

    First time I heard that 8,000 sf had already been given to the Sheriff. 8,000 sf divided by 144 sf offices equates to 55 private offices. No investigator needs a private 12×22 office. How was this space wasted and how many deputies have occupied the space. Maybe it’s time someone stood up to Hollywood Staley and held his feet to the fire. All the Sherrif ever does is complain that he needs more space, more Deputies, more technology, how about telling him to start managing his current resources?

  5. capt says:

    Can this crap get anymore ridiculous. The county is suing itself and along with that the tax payer that pay their salaries.

  6. Dennis McDonald says:

    Commissioner Dave Sullivan said the impasse “does need clarification, and it may well be the only way to resolve this, through a legal determination.” Then add the legal Wizard with “What’s missing here is a dialogue,” Hadeed said before quoting the famous like from a movie: “‘What we have here is a failure to communicate,’ effectively, I will have that word to the quote.”

    As Taxpayers we all know what is wrong, the BOCC CAN NOT GET THEIR JOB DONE ! They own every square foot of this problem. From buying the “brownfield” in 2013 by REVELS,HANNS and MCLAUGHLIN all the way to the current BOCC with CHAIRMAN Hansen maintaining there is no problem with that building and allowing the majority of this BOCC to live in DENIAL since 2016. These guys live DENIAL !

    Suggestion: Re read Judge Zambrano’s letter and fix the Sears building PROPERLY as we the Taxpayers must because of your continued screw upS. Then use the 8,000 sq ft for our Sheriff as a temporary like was referenced being done in Volusia. We also own the bank/morgue that was another train wreck…use it. The ironic part of this is Dance, Tucker, Dickensen[who did not live in Flagler for the last two years of office] DEMOLISHED 54,000 sqft of the best building the Taxpayers owned with $175,000 of education money ! Why ? Because it was planned to be sold cheap to special interests. That was foiled by a new school board in 2016 and “Flagler County Monopoly” with our Tax $$ was put in checkmate.

    Can we make it to 2020 to elect a BOCC that gets the MESSAGE ? The Sheriff and Mr Bexley are hoping that the BOCC has focused their reading comprehension on the Judge’s letter !

    Three votes were needed a very long time ago that would have avoided the largest man made disaster in Flagler History and NOT have poisoned our Deputies and Staff ! Three votes are needed again.

  7. Dianna says:

    What is more important? Our safety and security? Or some old records from 100 years ago? Microfiche the paperwork or call Iron Mountain to store it. Give the Sheriff what he needs. It is only temporary until the new building is ready.

  8. Percy's mother says:

    Waiting for him to barricade himself behind the doors of The Clerk of Court”(s) offices. It’s going to happen. What then commissioners? You’d better plan for when that happens. Better have the TV cameras ready.

    And yes, mom and dad, I speak for MANY (not all) of the taxpayers of Flagler County.

    This is a bloody waste of taxpayer money all because of a petulant egotistical brat person/child who somehow went from not accomplishing anything in life to getting the position of clerk of court. How did that happen?

    The behavior exhibited by this particular county “official” bespeaks deeper issues.

  9. The Realist says:

    They want to bring in an independent party to do a “space study” ? Are we talking about the space between some of these county officials ears? Spending more of your money Palm Coasters…. Let’s do a study to see if we can form a new county out of Palm Coast, Flagler Beach and the Hammock so that we can leave Hooterville to its folly.

  10. Flagler County Registered Voter says:

    As an elected constitutional officer, Mr. Bexley’s defiance bewilders me!

  11. Jane Gentile-Youd says:

    Hadeed will never file suit himself. He will cost us more money, again ( my opinion) and hire ‘outside counsel’. I also firmly am of the opinion that he is the cause of this fiasco for not giving GOOD LEGAL ADVICE to the commissioners not to buy ANY building ( especially an abandoned one in a warm climate such as Flagler County Florida) that could only be ‘seen; in the daytime with a flashlight!
    Had I, as a real estate broker, advised a buyer I was working with that it the dumbest, most idiotic, irresponsible method of making an inspection – especially when other people’s hard earned money will be spent and not their own personally.
    Just my opinion.
    ( Again last night hapless Hadeed approved a contract to give away almost 3/4 million $$ without having a name, address or phone number of an unknown company, without proof of who they are in real life since there is no such entity authorized to do business in Florida with the name “Project Columbus” as the half-assed contract states in paragraph one ( which staff refused to put up on the screen).

    The day Hadeed wins a lawsuit against Bexley won’t be in this lifetime I am quite sure ( unless the judges are as incompetent( my opinion) as he is.

  12. atilla says:

    What the hell is going on with those ego maniacs throwing away the tax payers money. They need a LEADER not a bunch of followers. I think the state should investigate this whole situation,

  13. Dave says:

    Stand your ground Bexley!! Have we got the test results yet from the old sheriffs operations center? No? Oh because that was all a scam for the workers to move out of Bunnell? Hollywood Staley and his workers do not need more room. Bexley and the taxpayers have given enough to the Sheriff and his workers. The last thing the county needs is to add to its police force and space. We dont have the money. Also what do you think the children of our county learn from all this fighting amongst yourselves? That’s right hatred and division. We have kids killing each other in the streets because thier roll models are constantly fighting and bickering.

  14. Flabbergasted says:


  15. Mayberry Re-run says:

    Maybe Barney Fife and Howard Sprague need to sit down over a drink, and have Otis help them work it out.

  16. Ramone says:

    I understand both sides in this matter, but it seems to me that Mr. Bexley could be a little more flexible. Helping out a fellow County agency for the benefit of the citizenry seems like the way to go. It’s temporary. Impose some deadlines but work together for goodness sake. Now we have to pay for them suing each other. Great!

  17. A joke says:

    The major underlying problem here is the bocc and purchasing of unusable property…. the old operations center, sears building, and most of the people haven’t heard of the building the county purchased off of 305/100 that they cannot use as a fire dept. because the concrete floor cannot support the water trucks and engines, all wasted money!!! So, why don’t we hold them responsible for all of this instead of pointing fingers at the clerk. The clerk has been more than generous opening up space in the very beginning to what was told to be only a 3 month temp solution until the BOCC would find something else.

  18. palmcoaster says:

    While they play and display their egos Palmcoasters foot that legal bill with higher taxes.

  19. tom says:

    Get rid of them all

  20. Mike says:

    Did the BOCC not read Judge Zambrano’s letter? Why would you sue after a judge just called you out for the Sheriff’s occupation of any space in the court house. It would be cheaper to rent temporary space than to spend money on a lawsuit that not only will you lose, but also make Flagler County the laughing stock of Florida.

  21. Concerned Citizen says:

    And the drama between marshall Earp and Cry Baby Bexley goes on and on.

    Now we have our BOCC who dropped the ball also trying to save face by suing a constitutional officer. Let’s see how well that goes.

    All this time and effort being wasted on trivial 3rd grade sandbox nonesense. What about the real issues in this county? Nothing like a little distraction to take away from the unethical conduct going on.

  22. Mark says:

    Lawyers must be lovin this circus. Ca-ching!

  23. Common Sense Resident says:

    So let me understand this issue. Mr. Bexley, the Commision and the Sheriff will be hiring Lawyers to settle this dispute. The only winners are the Lawyers. If everyone comes to a compromise on space, it will not cost the taxpayers anything and we will all win. Sorry for the inconvenience until the project is completed, but all concerned need to “suffer” a little for the good of the whole.
    Common Sense Resident

  24. My Two Cents says:

    If the county owns the bank bldg. on Old Kings N. & the Bldgs . roof is now watertight. And their there are no perspective buyers Why oh why cant that space be turned into a temp. sheriff’s quarters ?????. I have only lived here for 5 yrs. and next election I plan to vote every incumbent OUT. This is just boarder line plain stupidity.

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