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Bunnell’s Insurer Offers Ex-Cop $100,000 to Settle Whistle-Blower Suit; He May Not Take It

| April 16, 2012

Ex-Bunnell cop Frank Gamarra, testifying last February in Flagler County Circuit Court in the trial of ex-colleagues John Murray and Lisa Murray. (© FlaglerLive)

Frank Gamarra was a Bunnell Police Department cop from October 2008 to August 2010, and was twice named Officer of the Year along the way.

In 2010, he cooperated extensively with a State Attorney’s Office investigation of the department and some of its cops’ relationship with then-City Commissioner Jimmy Flynt, whose wrecker business the report showed benefited of favoritism. The investigation uncovered a pattern of shoddy police work, including poor record and evidence-keeping, and illegal fees imposed by the city on people whose cars were seized at cop stops. Shortly after the state attorney ended its investigation, Gamarra was laid off. He says he was fired as a result of speaking out. The city says it was purely a budgetary decision. But when, in early 2011, the city sought to hire officers again, Gamarra was turned down.

Last June 6 he sued, saying his termination was a violation of the Whistle-Blower’s Act. On April 4, he and the city, through its insurer–Preferred Governmental Insurance Trust, with Brown and Brown as the city’s underwriter–held a mediation session. Gamarra initially wanted $250,000. The insurer offered $100,000. Gamarra appeared ready to accept the settlement.

“I’m happy to be out of debt,” he said last week. “I’ll be debt-free after this, and hopefully my wife and I can move on. It’s been a rough two years.” Gamarra said he had to move three times, had to sell a home and a car and contend with his wife’s and son’s illnesses and a foreclosure. “This was never about money for me, it was about getting a clean slate and moving on.”

But there was word this week that Gamarra may not accept the $100,000 offer after all, and seek to go to trial. (He was in court testifying in a related case in February, when, John Murray and Lisa Murray, the two ex-Bunnell cops who, according to the state attorney’s report, had shown favoritism to Flynt, were on trial on various charges. Both ex-cops pleaded out to lesser charges before the end of the trial, and avoided jail time.) The Bunnell City Commission is meeting behind closed doors to discuss the Gamarra case Tuesday morning at 9 1.m. The commission may hold closed-door sessions to discuss pending or ongoing litigation, though minutes and recordings are kept and made public once the litigation is over.

City officials, including City Manager Armando Martinez, said last week that the settlement offer was not an admission of guilt. It was what the insurer wanted. “That’s not something that the city of Bunnell has any control over,” Martinez said. “We wanted to go to court. It’s the insurance carrier.” He added: “The city has done nothing wrong.”

“My position is that the city of Bunnell, I continue to reiterate that the motivation for Gamarra to be let go was strictly budgetary.” Martinez said that at the time, the city was laying off other employees, including, he said, a distant relative of Flynt’s.

It was not the city’s decision to settle, Martinez stressed. “What I’ve been telling the attorney is we’ve ready to fight,” he said. “We stand behind the reason behind our decision.”

If that’s the case, and Gamarra–who could not be reached Monday–is, in fact, unhappy with the settlement, then it’s the first thing the two sides agree on: to go to court.

Sid Nowell, Bunnell’s attorney, said last week that while the city is not absolutely bound by the insurer’s settlement offer, it carries a lot of weight, and is usually respected. But commissioners could well decide to go against the offer and press on, though that ends up being costly.

Arthur Jones, the outgoing Bunnell police chief who officially made the decision to lay off Gamarra, spoke in almost identical terms as Martinez. “There was no malice there intended at all,” Jones said of the layoff. “What happened at the time was the most appropriate thing to do.”

Last week Gamarra was reluctant to speak about the case, disclosing none of its substance, including what amounts had been offered or what he had accepted. He said it would all be available once the settlement papers were finalized. “I’m very skeptical of what they may try to do,” he said. But word of the settlement had quickly circulated among Bunnell city officials.

Following the 9 a.m. closed-door session, the Bunnell City Commission was to convene an emergency meeting to discuss the sale of two Caterpillar tractors, and to appoint a city representative to a countywide task force discussing the renewal of the half-cent sales tax that benefits county and city governments. That meeting was cancelled this morning.

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16 Responses for “Bunnell’s Insurer Offers Ex-Cop $100,000 to Settle Whistle-Blower Suit; He May Not Take It”

  1. inside information says:

    I hope gamarra cleans the cities clock. Its pretty funny he gets let go after the investigation was over with. Just like the employee at the maintenance dept. that dropped a quarter on flynt dumping his tires in the cities dumpster, he also found his way to the unemployment line also. But i am sure he was let go because of budget cuts also. Go figure………….

  2. Flagler Citizen says:

    His termination in 2010 may have been for budgetary reasons, although highly skeptical of that. I would like to hear the reason why, in 2011 when the City was hiring officers, that he was not re-hired.

  3. B. Claire says:

    You go Mr. Gamarra…wish I could be on your jury!

  4. Sam I Am says:

    Yeah, the City needs to be exposed for what it is. I understand the Fire Marshal was let go for “budgetary reasons” after a run in with his Director over implementing state fire standards. I am sure there are other employees too but not all decided to sue the City.

  5. says:

    Hey, they are ’bout to give him 100k for his inside info, you should hold out ;-)

  6. ric says:

    Kudos . inside info. This smells like a cover your ass situation

  7. It has been my experience that insurance companies make non binding recommendations. The insured makes the final call. Without knowing whether Bunnell has met its deductible, if any it is hard to predict whether Bunnell has a dog in this hunt.
    I was shocked to hear that the substantive amounts offered were disclosed outside of a formal Mediation. That is hardly ever done.

  8. Bill Hazz says:

    Something is definitely “fishy” in Bunnell. First you don’t lay off an officer who was “Officer of the Year” two years out of a possible three years. So, let’s say you really had to lay him off . . . then later, as you are hiring again, you don’t bring him back? ? ? ? ?

    Don’t settle, go for the Bunnell throat. This seems like a very stupid administration.

  9. nichole says:

    Go Frank, You were an amazing cop with so much ahead of you! I know you can win this and it will only be to clear your name. I am proud of you for standing up for what is right even when it is not the norm. You are an outstanding person!!! Good luck in life and your future, always do whats right even when it isnt the popular thing to do.

  10. Blah says:

    One of the officers hired had more experience in the state of Florida so of course they would chose him no cover up here

    • HadEnough says:

      Which one? The one who was hired a week before Gamarra’s lay off, that failed field training? Or the one after that, who also failed field training? How about the one after that who had no experience at all, but at least he passed field training? Maybe not that one. How about the one after that who has been through four or five agencies before landing in Bunnell. I’m sure his experience in the Department of Agricultural and in the Duval County School Board is much better that being a former NYPD Narcotics Officer…How about the last one who only has three years of experience in Crescent City? Good facts “Blah” I’m sure all these people are more experience then a former NYPD officer, with three years of Florida leo experience and prior military.

  11. says:

    If they settle @ 100k that’s pretty close to 3 cops for a year. Maybe we should vote for someone who will spend our $ correctly and tell the Damn truth for just once in thier life. This ills me more and more

  12. Honest Abe says:

    Bill, I agree with your assessment 100%. Since they are talking settlement already, It’s quite likely those in the know are aware of all the wrongdoings. They hired a cop one week after letting him go. A trial would bring a whole lot of light to what really goes on behind closed doors in that place where recordings and minutes are never made available. I wouldn’t accept less than a letter of apology, accrued time, back pay and the value of that job because with the current administration, he could never work there. Doesn’t the other “laid off” Sergeant (Barbee) also have a lawsuit pending?

  13. Ralph Belcher says:

    Please, Bunnell Officials,

    If it walks like a duck, looks, like a duck, and quacks like a duck…

    You may be doing the community a disservice by firing Gamara and the other fellow both involved in the investigation… some of us are going to be left paying for those increased insurance premiums for such recklessness. Another black eye for Bunnell. Stiff upper lip, fellow residents. We’ll let the voting box right the ship.

  14. meh says:

    i hope this guy gets every penny he’s asking for. city of bunnell, shame on you and your corrupt city affiliates… they should stick flynt with the bill and have the scumbag, married cop couple do car washes to earn the money.

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