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In Bunnell, Scrapping for Police Chief’s Pay And a Taxpayer-Funded Christmas Party

| January 11, 2012

Bunnell City Manager Armando Martinez is having a tougher time with his commission over the next police chief. (© FlaglerLive)

Like most local governments these days, Bunnell replaced its Christmas party with a potluck a couple of weeks ago. Then some employees had an idea. Recycle the city’s scrap metal more aggressively, and use some of that money to pay for next year’s Christmas party. City Manager Armando Martinez brought up the idea to the city commission Monday evening, literally minutes before he was to ask commissioners if they were interested in bumping up the salary of the next police chief from $50,000 to $60,000. There was no mention of using scrap metal proceeds to help pay for that difference—which three commissioners immediately batted down anyway.

They didn’t quite reject the scrap metal-for-a-party idea, but facing a very divided commission, the mayor suggested her colleague think the idea over and bring it back to a subsequent meeting.

Scrap metal is selling for $13.50 a hundred pounds, or 13.5 cents a pound, Commissioner John Rogers said. “That could be a lot of money, depending on what’s laying around,” he said. He was unenthusiastic about using scrap as an incentive for a party fund. “I think you’re opening up a can of worms myself, with it.”

“I don’t have an issue with it as long as we don’t start tearing things up,” Mayor Catherine Robinson said to laughter, though she was pointing out precisely the sort of potential for abuse that the idea presented. Just last fall, a Bunnell city employee was fired because he was taking city scrap and selling it in St. Augustine, where the city usually sells its scrap, and pocketing the money. He reportedly bought a barbecue grill with some of the money.  “It does lend itself potentially to be a problem” Robinson continued. “But I also appreciate the fact that they’re trying to use a little bit of ingenuity to try to have a party. My thing is if we can have some kind of guidance and supervision, some way to handle that where it would go through a department head or some way of handling that, I wouldn’t be opposed to that money going to a party.”

Sid Nowell, the city attorney, stepped in: “My gut tells me there’s something wrong with this, because even though it’s scrap metal, it’s still public property,” he said. “I’m much more comfortable with there being a budget for a Christmas party and whatever magic Cissy works to get money to that budget.” Cissy Bertha is Bunnell’s finance director.

Jenny Crain-Brady, the vice mayor, enjoyed the potluck, she said, but wants more than that next year. “I think we do need to contribute to a Christmas party and do a little more than we did this year,” she said, “but I don’t believe identifying a source of revenue for it. If we already have that money, then maybe this time next year we say, OK, is there some miscellaneous funds that we could help fund it. But I don’t think there should be an incentive in trying to recycle more than what the policy already calls for.”

Elbert Tucker, the Bunnell city commissioner who’d most closely be associated with Scrooge by some of his colleagues—he is the panel’s most fiscally conservative member—then unholstered his latest story to make his point  with two words: “Davy Crocket.” (That’s the Tennessee frontiersman-politician whose stories are half lore, half brawn, and all-American.)

Robinson knew what was coming. “Go ahead,” she said.

“Davey Crockett was up for reelection and he was riding his circuit back to Washington,” Tucker said. “He came to a farmer who said, after a conversation, Davey asked him if he would not vote for him. And the farmer said, no, I will not. Of course Davy Crockett was wondering why. And he said because you spent funds that were not authorized by the constitution, and it was for a widow of a Revolutionary War veteran. So he promised the guy he wouldn’t do that again. The subject came up and he was reelected, he went back to Kansas, the same issue came up: Revolutionary War veteran dies, leaving a widow, and they were going to give the widow $20,000, which was a lot of money. The president was paid $25,000 during that time. He said every one of us here could donate one week’s worth of money and more than pay this widow’s living.” Crockett was serving in the House of Representatives at that time. Tucker didn’t suggest that he and his fellow-commissioners chip in the money for the Christmas party. He made his point: “So I don’t think we’re going to invite the taxpayers who are funding this Christmas party. I like potlucks. What difference does it make if it’s potluck. If you want to pay for the meat, get somebody to donate the money to pay for the meat. But I have a real problem having a party on taxpayers’ money. I don’t care what party it is.”

Only then did Robinson suggest that the commission mull the matter and bring it back. And only then did Martinez bring up the matter of the next police chief’s pay.

Arthur Jones, the current chief, is retiring in April. “I am formulating an advertisement to put in the Florida Police Chiefs to see what candidate we can get and to hire the most qualified candidate for the position,” Martinez said. “Currently the police chief makes $50,000 a year. When I was first hired I made $60,000. I reduced that because of some maneuvering that we did within the department. Does the commission want me to keep it at $50,000?”

Immediately, three no’s were voiced—from Tucker, Rogers and Crain-Brady. It was an unquestionable rebuff. Martinez didn’t press the matter. Earlier this week he posted the police chief’s position internally, to give Bunnell police personnel a chance to apply. But the requirements are such that only one—reserve officer Louis Vega, a friend of Martinez’s from their Miami days and a man Martinez said would not apply or would not get the job—could qualify. Among the requirements: 12 years of “progressively responsible experience” including five years in command in a department of comparable size and complexity, or larger or equivalent experience in overseeing departments or agencies or similar size.” Also, a bachelor’s degree and a requirement that the current police chief could not meet: “Completion of a recognized advanced law enforcement leadership or management training program (Master’s degree and/or graduation from FBI Academy preferred). Or, an equivalent combination of education, training, and experience which provides the required knowledge, skills and abilities.”

The matter of qualifications or scope of the police search has not yet been discussed by commissioners. Tucker wants it discussed. He’s not interested in looking too far for a new chief. He wouldn’t look further than Flagler, Volusia or St. Johns counties. “I don’t want somebody from far away,” Tucker said. “These people need to know where Bunnell is before we hire them.”

Martinez had wanted to increase the salary of the next police chief ion order to attract a higher caliber of applicants. Tucker didn’t buy the reasoning. “Why would you in an economy like we have right now with our budget concerns,” he said, citing the city’s loss of a $1.3 million contract it had with the state transportation department. The contract went to a firm from Virginia, costing the city dollars and 13 jobs. “That contract produced enough money to take up any shortfall that the city of Bunnell had in other areas of the budget. Now that we don’t have that why should we increase the salary for the police chief by $10,000?” Tucker asked. “Every time you hire somebody new you get a crapshoot. I mean, look at how Mr. Diamond turned out to be,” he said, referring to Richard Diamond, who served as city manager in 2006 and 2007. “He turned out to be a dictator in Bunnell. I’m sure they paid him more than the previous person in Bunnell. That didn’t do any good.”

Tucker added: “I need to have some input on our new chief. It might not be necessarily in agreement with what Armando wants. But I think I’d like to have some input, and the commission should have some input also.”

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20 Responses for “In Bunnell, Scrapping for Police Chief’s Pay And a Taxpayer-Funded Christmas Party”

  1. PJ says:

    Ok let’s look at this one for just a bit:

    The Party? A show a apprecation for their hard work and dedication to the city employees.

    The Bosses? The Mayor, Vice Mayor, Commissioners, City Manager, and Department Directors

    Employees? They are the employees those folks you see in the street and in the office and those that answer your calls.

    Party Cost? around $300-$350

    Who wants a party? and Christmas/New Years Party at that!

    Everyone except Rogers and Tucker. Ba hum bug. Sounds familiar?

    It’s like the last dollar Bunnell has or they have.

    Be kind to your employees they already appreciate their jobs and the fine city of Bunnell.

    They should be reconized for a job well done even if you Bosses have had to chip in rather than the taxpayer.

    Let me say this though;

    I bet if you ask any Bunnell resident would they mind paying for a holiday party for the employees you would get a resounding yes from most everyone.(except two)

    So I think the scrap metal was just a suggestion as not to burden any tax payer with the cost.

    Hmmm seems like a very fair way to pay for something by recycling junk from the side of the road rather that put in in the trash.

    Next: The Police Chief?

    You the Commission think you should have learned a lesson by now. You pay for what you get (Richard Diamond for example or Jim Landon) over paid dictatorships.

    If you want a Police Chief that is experienced what on earth do you think you will get for 50k? Actually what about 60K you are still way off.

    Starting pay should be 65K with incentive goals worth about 10k in add on pay should retenion and safety training goals be met.

    Rogers and Tucker are not fans of the Bunnell PD so pay less and watch it fall apart. Go a head give thesr two commissioners a reason to get rid of the PD.

    Martinez needs to set the standard of pay not the Board of commissioners. Tell them the facts so you can attract quality not just a retired guy looking to finish off a few more years (I’m talking about Chief Jones here) but we may get a younger retired hi ranking cop that would make an excellent Chief.

    What does the commission really know about Police work (nothing) and what it takes to manage it?

    Wake up Rogers and Tucker before you become a do nothing board because of your narrow mined pathway.

    Listen to your Staff they are the most professional group Bunnell has ever had. Your pay standard is the lowest and you may not keep them for any length of time if you can’t be compettive in pay ranking.

    You can always take the “oh well” attitude and get for staff just as in your city past is the type that put the city in it’s mess.

    Heck you guys just started getting computers before that you were using an abacus and sticky notes and memograph machines………………………. thanks Armando Martinez you are not a good manager but a great manager!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Kip Durocher says:

    “The contract went to a firm from Virginia, costing the city dollars and 13 jobs.”

    These are the jobs Governor Zero is squawking about “creating.”
    Only he created them for friends of his in Virginia.
    Governor Zero outsources Florida jobs.

    Why did he not tell the truth in his little speech?

    • Govforthepeople says:

      Voters of Bunnell its real simple get rid of these commissioners that support Martinez, take your city government back. Show up at the meetings be vocal. If city staff is that good why do you need him it’s a waste of over 100k plus a year. He has already showed you his hand.

  3. bunnell resident says:

    It looks like martinez is getting the pot nice and sweet so he can slip another one of his buddies in as police chief. He will want the commission to pay for his house in palm coast that is being foreclosed on before it is over. If the city commision wants to trim fat from its budget, they should start with martinez salary. He is the highest paid of all the prior city managers, and he has the least amount of experience. Wake up commission.

  4. Bunnellcitizen says:

    It is time for tucker to go he is obviously against city employees and police officers.

  5. Really????? says:

    The city of Bunnell is now scrapping metal for a department heads salary? I wonder if those brainiacs on the city commission are regretting turning down the sheriff’s office offer to take over police services? Instead of going through the garbage collecting beer cans they could have saved $250,000 and not had to worry. I thought Mr. Martinez’s brilliant idea of buying a garbage truck was going to make the city all kinds of money? Where are the proceeds from that? I wonder when you’ll see Martinez with his gloves on sifting through the recycling bin for those cans? Keep making those brilliant decisions Bunnell you’re headed down the right path!!!!!!!! And yes that’s sarcasm

  6. More Amazed Every Day says:

    Really, they are worried about how they are going to fund a Christmas party next year?????? Seems like they really need to learn what their priorities should be!

  7. Thinking says:

    I agree with Tucker all the way on this one. Besides why not give a local deputy the chance to move up and gain valuable experience right here. If I recall, the qualifications to be County Sheriff are to be a Flagler resident and have a GED, and complete law academy within set amount of time? It’s obvious these police chief qualifications were written to fit his friend, Vega.

  8. bunnell resident says:

    Make sure you keep your door closed going to your laundry room at your home, you may be helping pay for the chiefs salary or next years xmas party.

  9. Bunnell Voter says:

    The only thing you care about is your job in Bunnell. 
    Wake up Get your facts straight you are always coming to his defense even when you are wrong.
    You city employees think that us citizens are dumb and stupid. We know what’s going on here. Of the commission had a back bone it would have been stopped.  Do you think Elden Knight or Mayor Holland would of ever put up with this crap?
    The biggest scandal this city has been in is under the Martinez reign of terror. He is all about himself. He is milking this city and has been for  way to  long. Ask any lawman in Flagler about our law enforcement under his and Jones watch. Let’s all of us dumb stupid Bunnell  folks on the next election vote for the people that will send Martinez packing.  Send him somewhere beside Flagler,  btw PJ maybe you can join him on a narrow  path. Until then stay on his good side.

  10. PJ says:


    I don’t think they sift through garbage cans for metal. As far as the city wanting to do their own trash it’s been their plan for years, four or more city managers ago.

    I also don’t believe it was the point of making money as is was to keep cost in line. I have a business in Bunnell and i have not seen the price go up since 2010 April long before they put this excellent service in place.

    I never recycled so much, before it just went in the garbage truck.

    you are really misinformed my friend.

    Bunnell Voter:

    I know many of the city employees, it’s too bad you don’t respect the people that serve you. Go and speak your mind at the board meetings oh that’s right you don’t go do you???????

  11. The Piranha says:

    Sounds like most people are onto the dictator and his calculated moves. I’m sure there are many FCSO deputies that would qualify for the position but none that are willing to play the puppet. Why save $280,000 a year for better trained cops, detectives to investigate crimes and a narcotics team. Most of the Bunnell cops are good but would be better off and prefer serving for FCSO. Of course, don’t let the puppeteer know that or you’ll soon be looking for a job. Why not wait to have that party for a more appropriate time like when Bunnell hires a new city manager.

  12. bunnell resident says:

    I just noticed the picture of martinez at the beginning of this story. Surely he cant be waiting for his ship to come in, it already has several years ago.

  13. Thinking says:

    To bunnell resident: Naw, he’s thinking about jumping!

  14. WTF says:

    This guy needs to catch the next boat back to Cuba. He has turned this city into a huge joke! All administration needs to be fired! Why don’t the big wigs take a pay cut in order to fund next years party? None of them earn their pay anyways. Tucker is the only one with any damn sense!

  15. groundhogdayparty says:

    This morning, I commit to you, the Citizens of Bunnell that I will personally pay for a Groundhog Day party, a Cinco de Mayo party, a Father’s Day party, a Back to School party, a Colombus Day party, a Christmas, Hannukah AND a New Year’s party IF Armando Martinez is sent packing! I like Tucker’s analogy and it’s probably even more ‘real’ if we compare the 20,000 the war widow’s husband earned to the 20,00 or better we have paid for that Cuban’s daily flotilla up here from Brevard County. Tucker is again correct about. The Police Chief, the fox has been guarding the henhouse for too damn long. Donnie Brock, Joe Sisti, Charles Terrell, Horace. Giddens….none. of those names would make it to the Commission if Armando does the ‘screening’ of applicants. If u are not a cronie of Martinez, u need not apply. Poor Rookie Rogers, too Christian when he backs the Day of Prayer but a bah humbug Scrooge if he doesn’t want the City to pay for a arty supposedly intended to celebrate Christ’s b’day. Y’all. Let me know if I ned to sharpen my pencil and get out my checkbooks for the parties!!!!!!!!

  16. themonticito says:

    What a bunch of bigots!

    You people say you live in Bunnell? You should be ashamed of yourselves.
    The man is Cuban, “SO WHAT.”

    Have your negative bigoting ways heard at the City Commission meeting.

    Go, let’s hear your big mouths say something that will change Bunnell once and for all.

    You get public comment to say it at the meeting.

    The Commission would like to hear your great achievements and Nobel prize winning advice.

    Let’s never change the perception of this great city as some red neck bigoted society with crime and drugs. It would be asking too much from people like you to help the change.

    The red neck thing is funny and a part of American culture but let’s face it when will you Bunnellionians wake up.
    You are not the quaint little Florida town anymore.

    You need leadership. You have that in Martinez he has what seems to be good staff. If he leaves the city will continue to operate in the correct direction.

    But there is no reason to be so disrespectful and make us look like trailer park trash bigots.

    Hey fellow Bunnelllonians lets set the record straight.

    We ARE the Flagler County seat.

    We ARE the Five points of Flagler County.(the center)

    We ARE the second largest city in Florida behind Jacksonville.

    And what the heck we ARE the best tater growers too…………….Unite Bunnell-Unite for the greater good!

  17. Deborah Burke via Facebook says:

    We all know who should be the next chief in Bunnell.

  18. Lawrence says:

    Awesome stuff. You guys better check out this site on recycling.
    Lots of cool facts and tips on recycling!

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