The Florida Department of Law Enforcement found no grounds for a criminal investigation into alleged “kick-backs” to Matt Dunn, Flagler County government’s former tourism director, the state police agency concluded in a memo on May 12 circulated by county government today.
County Administrator Jerry Cameron fired Dunn last October, citing a new direction for the tourism department under Amy Lukasik, who had worked with Dunn for several years. Cameron suspended Dunn with pay in April 2019 and sought a criminal investigation, turning over documents to the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office. The documents had been accumulated by Dunn’s co-workers at the tourism bureau and some of them had been passed to a county commissioner. The sheriff then turned the material over to FDLE. (The findings are below.)
“It was brought to our attention that there were activities that indicated severe problems,” Cameron said in April. “We are very happy for our former director Matt Dunn that he will no longer have to live under this cloud,” Cameron was quoted as saying, apparently without irony, in a release the county issued today. The release was 115 words long, or about the length of the previous paragraph.
FDLE’s findings by Case Agent Adam Graff were issued in a three page memo that summarized Dunn’s history shortly before joining county government and through his tenure locally, some of it under the supervision of the now-nearly-defunct chamber of commerce, much of it under the supervision of former administrator Craig Coffey, who the commission pushed out a year and a half ago.
The FDLE memo filled in details not known before regarding the nature of the allegations against Dunn and the companies and individuals he was in working relationships with. The companies and some of the individuals were not mysteries in and of themselves: all the names had coursed through the Tourist Development Council’s and the County Commission’s documented paperwork when the TDC awarded grants in the multiples of thousands of dollars each year. But employees at the TDC had claimed that Dunn was favoring certain companies over others, awarding them larger grants than he otherwise would, and that he was benefiting personally in return.
The FDLE’s inquiry verified the business relationships, several of which involved friends of Dunn’s. It verified that Dunn through TDC contracted with those companies and individuals. But FDLE did not find evidence that the contracting was more generous than with other companies, nor did it find evidence that Dunn was benefiting personally.
“The specifics of the complaint involved Dunn inappropriately diverting public funds for his own personal benefit and accepting ‘kick-backs,'” Graff wrote in his memo. That proved not to be the case.
Much of the FDLE investigation restated what was already known about Dunn’s recent history in the tourism business. In 2009 he had started a sports marketing company called the Dunn Agency. In that capacity, he’d made presentations to the Flagler chamber, ostensibly to help develop the tourism bureau’s long-term goals. That was when the county’s tourism bureau operated as a branch of the chamber of commerce. In 2014, the chamber hired Dunn as the tourism director. He replaced Georgia Turner. The following year Coffey led the successful effort to absorb the tourism bureau into county government. The move would prove to be one of the reasons the chamber’s financial problems accrued until its eventual bankruptcy this year.
Dunn’s work drew commendations from TDC board members, Coffey and the county commission as local tourism took a decisive turn toward big sports events at resorts or other venues. Dunn’s tenure also saw the tourism sales surtax jump to 5 percent, which increased the revenue for tourism. Dunn and Coffey wanted the new revenue to underwrite more marketing. But commissioners shifted more dollars toward beach repairs, a move that proved prescient given the millions in additional costs to the county in beach restoration (despite state aid).
Dunn did not dissolve the Dunn Agency even as he worked for the county–until FlaglerLive revealed the fact, and Coffey required him to keep the Dunn Agency dormant while he worked for the county. “At that time, Dunn advised the FCBCC that he was no longer operating the business,” the FDLE investigation states. Dunn had also received a $12,000 raise from the county. The Dunn Agency went inactive after 2015, according to Florida Division of Corporations records.
“In April of 2019, several [county] employees assigned in the TDC made complaints against Dunn,” Graff wrote. “The complaints alleged that Dunn was diverting county funds by providing his friends with contracts at higher than normal costs. Dunn was also alleged to be receiving ‘kick-backs’ resulting from contracts entered into with these personal friends and vendors. Complainants also accused Dunn of having a less than arm’s length relationship with two vendors, identified as Casey Taker and Ravinder ‘Ravi’ Rajcoomar.” Rajcoomar was a college friend of Dunn’s.
Dunn’s bank accounts showed no unusual activity, Graff wrote. Lukasik told FDLE investigators that the cost of services provided by Rajcoomar and Taker “were higher than they would have been if provided by local vendors; however, she could not substantiate the allegation because she, ‘did not have anything to compare it to’.” Graff found numerous contracts between TDC and Rajcoomar or companies associated with him–CMF Sales, Swagger, Consortium, and SixSpeed–all of whose contracts were approved by the TDC and the county commission. For many years both boards have tended to ratify such contracts with little or no close examination.
FDLE also interviewed Taker. She told investigators that she, Dunn and Rajcoomar worked together on creating the so-called Coquina Cup locally, a lifeguard challenge. “The event had been approved for a $25,000 budget” by TDC and the county commission, the inquiry found. “While in the development phase, Triton Collective dissolved and a new contract for the Coquina Cup was approved by the FCBCC. The new contract allowed for Taker, working as Taker Group, to collect and retain the registration fees to provide payment for Taker’s services in organizing and promoting the Coquina Cup. Taker advised that she collected approximately $2,500 from the event instead of the $25,000 that had originally been approved for Triton Collective. Taker was later hired by Dunn to provide contract labor for several events. Each event was completed by Taker at a discounted rate that was less than her normal rate of $500 per day. Taker denied ever receiving or giving any kick-backs or gratuities as it related to Dunn.”
FDLE contacted Dunn’s attorney to schedule an interview. Dunn, speaking through his attorney, declined it. Since it wasn’t yet a criminal investigation, FDLE could not require him to submit to an interview.
“At this time,” Graff concluded, “there is no evidence of conduct which would warrant a criminal investigation.”
Dunn lived in the Hammock while working for county government. Soon after his suspension he put his house up for sale. It sold last July 3. Dunn has since started two companies in St. Augustine–Raconteurs LLC (the word is French for storytellers), a sports marketing company that essentially reincarnates the Dunn Agency (he co-founded it with a partner), and Salty Sports Society, founded, its website states, “to craft unique open water swimming event experiences in memorable destinations.”