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Flashgate: Internal Investigation Clears Bunnell Cop, Citing Another for “Honest Mistake”

| November 10, 2011

Watch those innards disappear. (Scott Johnson)

An internal affairs investigation at the Bunnell Police Department found no malicious intent or serious wrongdoing when the contents of man’s flash drive—turned into the police department as a lost item—were deleted before the drive was returned to the man in July.

Chief Arthur Jones, who conducted the investigation and wrote the report, exonerated Cpl. Sergio Pina entirely. He sustained a claim of “improper procedure” against Lt. Randy Burke, the department’s second-in-command, but found it “evident that the decision by Lt. Burke top order the items deleted was an honest mistake without malicious intent that is not supported by department policy and or state law.” Burke was given “verbal counseling,” Jone said.

The flash drive case is the latest in a continuing series of variously embarrassing or disturbing incidents and findings at the department, some involving evidence, going back several years. The matter was complicated by the fact that the flash drive belonged to Roosevelt James, a former police officer in Bunnell who didn’t made it past his probationary period. Several items on the flash drive were police documents, though most of those were public records. All were deleted before the drive was returned to him, 26 days after it had been turned into the department.

James lost the drive on June 21. Sean Patton, an investigator with the Department of Agriculture, found the drive in a Publix parking lot, examined some of its contents to determine who it might belonged to, and noticed Bunnell Police Department documents. So he turned the drive over to the department. Pina is the department’s assistant evidence custodian. He contacted James to retrieve the flash drive, but by the time James made it to the department the following day, he was told that the drive was still with Pina, and then, subsequently, was told that the drive was under review by Burke. James didn’t get the drive back until July 18. Files had been deleted, “including,” James wrote, “files I saved while being employed as a police officer for the city of Bunnell, personal information, school work, previous addresses and work information.”

James asked for an investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. He did not get it. But Jones launched an internal investigation.

The flash drive, the investigation states, “contained copies of arrest reports, charging affidavits, and police information belonging to an Ofc. James of the Bunnell Police Department”—in other words, documents gathered during James’s tenure there. James turned the flash drive over to the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office’s technology department so it could try to recover lost files. It did, but not all of them, and the retrieval did not show when the files had been deleted. But James “could not describe or give specific descriptions of the missing items,” the investigative report states.

Pina, in his statement to Jones, had said that some of the documents included juvenile information which would not normally be disseminated to the general public. Pina contacted Burke on June 22, as the department’s highest-ranking officer at the time (Jones was on medical leave), and told him of the contents. Burke “confirmed the fact that he instructed Cpl. Pina to delete the Bunnell Police Department reports from the flash drive,” the investigative report states.

On Sept. 9, Jones met with Sid Nowell, the city’s attorney, and Dan Davis, the city clerk. He wanted to find out if the documents on the flash drive had been exempt from the state’s public record law, which might have given Burke more legal cover for his action. “Both Mr. Davis and Mr. Nowell agreed that the documents were not exempt under the current public records law and should not have been deleted,” Jones’s report states. “The other documents in questions [sic.] were copies of official documents related to Mr. James’ tenure as a former Bunnell Police Officer and would not be exempt either.”

Jones concluded: “The responsibility for the decision and any violation of policy is removed from Cpl. Pina and falls under the authority of Lt. Burke. It is evident, however, that the decision by Lt. Burke to order the items deleted is not supported by department policy and or state law.”

The internal investigation was completed and sent to Bunnell City Manager Armando Martinez on Sept. 20. A letter was sent to James summarizing the findings, but without apology. Jones said “pretty much we did that in my office between he and I,” meaning that he extended an apology “for any mistake he considered the department to have made, yes.”

“I’m just done with the whole situation,” James said on Thursday, saying he never did get an apology, nor had expected one.

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12 Responses for “Flashgate: Internal Investigation Clears Bunnell Cop, Citing Another for “Honest Mistake””

  1. Mr. Wickersham says:

    My goodness, what sloppy work.

  2. Larry says:

    the key word here is “internal” investigation. Of course they found nothing wrong.

    Move it along people nothing to see here…

  3. The Piranha says:

    An internal investigation by Chief Jones? What a joke. If they were a legitimate department, they would have asked the FCSO or FDLE to conduct the investigation so it would have a chance of being fair and impartial. Why don’t they just go back to illegally towing cars without an apology to those victims also. The puppet and puppeteer, what a show.

  4. roco says:

    Are there only a few comments posted because of fear and retaliation??? If so things will never change..

  5. The Piranha says:

    Roco, if cops that work there made unflattering opinions and it was known by the puppet master, I assure you they would be looking for employment elsewhere. Just look at his track record. The only reason Captain Burke is back (now as a Lieutenant) after being found innocent of the allegations brought against him was because he fought to get his job back. Look how the mayor protected him from a fellow commissioner’s questions concerning other employment while trying to save Bunnell a nice chunk of change. Doesn’t sound like a democracy to me.

  6. PJ says:

    So what are you commentators saying that Cpl. Pina is not a good cop? just stop complaining when you can’t say anything that makes common sence.

    If FDLE did nothing then Bunnell PD had to conduct IA investigation. If Bunnell PD did nothing you all would complain and here they do an investigation and you all still complain, what BS…… stop complaining!!!

  7. The Piranha says:

    PJ, What I am saying so you are clear is; 1. I believe Pina is a good cop. He has a good heart and was thrust without much law enforcement experience into a supervisory position where initially he went through some growing pains but has since progressed nicely and is doing a very good job. 2. Captain Burke was fired, forced to be re-hired after an “EXTERNAL” investigation revealed he had no intent in any wrong doing but yet was demoted to Lieutenant (presumably because he should have been made Chief and that would have been to much of a threat to the puppet, aka current). 3. Commissioner Rogers called a meeting to review the puppeteers contract when on a Thursday he announced he was actively looking and possibly close to employment elsewhere. His contract had clauses within it that forced Bunnell to make a large cash payout if he was decided not to be retained by that weekend. At this meeting, the mayor started and ended the meeting in minutes and without any discussion of the puppeteer based on a technicality of what was to be discussed in the meeting. 4. The cops who work for Bunnell are a pretty good bunch of guys that at no fault of their own are without proper training and high ranking (above Lieutenant) leadership. They work under the scrutiny and threat of being fired for no reason are layed off due to fabricated budget restraints. It’s a broken record that will continue to operate this way without the proper resources, training and technology these cops and citizens deserve. That day will come (when some of the current commissioner’s are not re-elected) but not yet, not yet.

  8. PJ says:


    Lt. Burke is awesome he speaks up for those guys and yes Pina is a great cop. leadership is in place weither we like it or not. as far a rogers he was correct to bring it up to the board but it was a rookie commissioner mistake. rogers is getting better and is truly dedicated to the city. he just needs to rust Martinez and his staff. Like it or not! too!!

    You need to attend some meetings more often voice an opinion because your facts are misleading and your just not informed enough. I do agreewith you that careful oversite is always prudent anyway……….

  9. Larry says:

    A bunnell internal investigation is like asking the fox whether or not he did an acceptable job guarding the hen house.

    PJ, I find it fascintating that you defend Bunnell over and over after each article. Not sure where you fit in the administration but things will not change in this Town until the cop from Miami, the self proclaimed business man from new jersey, and the other puppets find their way out of the administration. It is a little perplexing that the mayor and good hard working people of Bunnell put up with this kind of stuff. It seems like the only ones who take part in Bunnell politics are those that have their grimy little hands in the cookie jar. I guess that is what we get when less than 20% of the population votes!

  10. PJ says:


    You have it all wrong. Who is the refered Businessman from New Jersey that you speak of? The Bunnell PD are hard working guys Lt. Burke is a good leader and follows orders well are moral seems pretty good of late.

  11. The Piranha says:

    PJ, maybe you have misunderstood me somewhat. To be perfectly clear, Burke got screwed by the puppeteer as he was still the chief at that time, let’s not use great on Pina just yet, I think the compliment I had given him will suffice until greatness makes its’ way into his career, Rogers is a good commissioner for the citizens of Bunnell (no tire dumping for this man) and his rookie mistake as you call it was only a mistake because the mayor appears to be in cahoots with the puppeteer. The meetings, I’ve been to many more than you could imagine and voiced my opinion many a time. It’s quite obvious (if you have been to these meetings) as to what goes on. Once Baxter runs again and is elected into office, the tide will turn to what is truly in the best interest of the citizens of Bunnell. I assure you my facts are dead on and the truth is a beautiful thing as you will soon find out…but not yet, not yet.

  12. R Lewis says:

    I read all this and jus shake my head. PJ is quick to defend the city and Martinez, the Piranha is right on the the money, PJ the tide will turn, and the truth will come out out. Until then we sit back and watch Martinez milk the city for all he can. He will fire or layoff any employee that knows to much, so stay on his good side until the next election.

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