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Quoting—and Misquoting—Jefferson, Sheriff Vows Agency Will Breathe Air of Integrity

| January 8, 2013

Flagler County Circuit Judge Dennis Craig administered the oath of office to Jim Manfre for his second go-around. (© FlaglerLive)

Flagler County Circuit Judge Dennis Craig administered the oath of office to Jim Manfre for his second go-around. (© FlaglerLive)

Even Sheriff Jim Manfre couldn’t resist the obvious: “It’s a little bit of a déjà vu moment for me,” he said. So it was: the big tent in front of the sheriff’s office building, the big crowd rimmed by squadrons of deputies, and of course the oath of office about to follow, administered this time by Circuit Judge Dennis Craig. Twelve years ago, it was the exact same scene, with many of the same deputies—some of whom had risen and fallen in rank in the interim, and as recently as a few hours earlier—but different faces in the crowd, and Circuit Judge Kim Hammond administering the oath to Manfre, who until midnight Monday had been a one-term sheriff.

At noon today Manfre began his second term after the eight-year interregnum of the Don Fleming years. Fleming wasn’t there Tuesday. But much of Manfre’s speech was as distinct a repudiation of the Fleming years as his speech in 2001 had been a repudiation of the McCarthy years (in 2001, Fleming had succeeded Robert McCarthy, who’d been in office 17 years). Back then the theme of Manfre’s pledge was to treat employees like family. This time around, the theme was integrity—a direct allusion to Fleming’s various lapses of judgment and ethics that embarrassed his last year, and included a fine from the state Ethics Commission.

“Integrity will be the foundation of all we do,” Manfre said.  “Our motto for this office will be accountability, integrity, respect, or the acronym AIR, literally it will be the organizational air we breathe.”

Manfre weaved his way to that point by way of a long, clever circle that embraced and recognized his family and his evolution, from 12 years ago until now, when his focus has shifted increasingly to the successes of his children rather than his own. His son Barrett, for example, had driven to school for the very first time today (he got applause for that), and his daughter Catherine has just started an MBA at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business.

Judge Dennis Craig. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

Judge Dennis Craig. Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

Manfre wasn’t showing off. He was taking listeners on the trip he took to the university, where, in one rotunda designed by Thomas Jefferson, he saw two quotes by Jefferson—the one from the Declaration of Independence about all men being created equal, and a second quote of his “I’d not read before,” Manfre said, “but it equally has had a profound effect on me, and it stated that ‘Without a firm attachment to unimpeachable integrity in our business and professional lives, we build on shifting sands, and there’s no future for any of us.’”

“Now, Jefferson was an imperfect man, as we all are,” Manfre continued, “but he helped create and hold a country to his ideals. Now I’m no Jefferson, only an admirer of him and his words and his actions, but I will strive as sheriff to uphold the highest ethical standards that Jefferson suggests in that quote.”

The quote is actually not Jefferson’s, but Colgate Darden Jr.’s, the man for whom the business school is named. Darden was a Democratic legislator and governor of Virginia, and president of the University of Virginia during the Truman and Eisenhower administrations. Manfre had used the quote as an opening salvo against Fleming in a column in the News-Journal in October (when News-Journal editors also did not catch the erroneous attribution to Jefferson). Manfre was on firmer ground when he quoted Truman’s buck-stops-here phrase and Emerson’s line about earning only the respect one dishes out.

He promised yearly ethical training for all employees, including himself, implementing a neighborhood policing philosophy (it did not get more specific than that), and creating a citizen’s advisory board to evaluate how the agency is adhering to its standards. “They will be my distant mirror on how we are doing inside the office,” Manfre said, “but ultimately the buck stops here, as Harry Truman said.” (The distant mirror image was historian Barbara Tuchman’s, who wrote of the horrific plagues, massacres and wars of the 14th century as the distant mirror to the horrors of the 20th. Manfre’s expectations for the advisory board and the realities they’ll be reflecting are presumably less calamitous.)

As Manfre spoke, a large contingent of officers and deputies framed the large tent filled with civilians, many of them local politicians. It had been a rough 24 hours for many at the sheriff’s office, where Manfre’s lieutenants spent the second half of Monday revealing to the ranks who had been demoted, shifted or fired, and how the agency was to be reorganized. Conversations with some of the shifted and demoted during the ceremony revealed more fortitude and professionalism than resentment, and s sense, for veterans, of having been through similar transitions before: it’s part of the job, they said, and it’s in continuing to do their job that they’re interested in.

The event, featuring Marybeth Oxnam singing “God Bless America,” an invocation by Father Albert Esposito (Catholic and Julliard-trained violinist), and the Flagler Youth Orchestra’s string quartet, finally crested with lavish amounts of barbecue, beans and coleslaw from Woody’s, the local restaurant. Swearing-ins are typically far less lavish affairs: county commissioners, city commissioners and school board members just take the oath in their meeting rooms before family and friends, a few hors-d’oeuvres and sugary drinks are served, and the whole thing is over swiftly, with speeches going no further than pro-forma thank-yous. Fleming held his swearing-ins at the courthouse.

But Manfre had favored the more ceremonial approach in 2001 (when half as many guests showed up, though the county had a bit more than half as many residents) as he did today. It was difficult at first to figure out who was paying for it all—the tent, the food, the manpower—with members of Manfre’s entourage not entirely sure, though “private donations” was the recurring idea.

It was, and it wasn’t, and to some extent it’s still not entirely clear.

“The taxpayers did not pay for this at all. It’s strictly donations,” Rick Staly, the undersheriff, said. The tent, he said, cost about $1,000, and the food, he estimated—but wasn’t certain—about $800. (Woody’s cost for 250 guests was actually $2,000; there were at least 200 guests). Staly said the money was coming from the sheriff’s office’s “Five Star Fund,” one of two non-profit funds established within the sheriff’s office to pay for such things as banquets and award ceremonies for the rank and file, fed by private (but not secret) donations. Staly said both he and the sheriff were to contribute to the fund to defray some of today’s costs.

Still, if specific people other than the sheriff and the undersheriff contributed money to make today’s ceremony possible, those names are not known, though in such cases the donations are little different from political contributions, or gifts, similar to one such that got the former sheriff in trouble—a key detail in light of the new sheriff’s focus on accountability and integrity.

Manfre himself alluded to some of his missteps when he was first sheriff, and said it was rare in life to get to do something over. “But with the eye of experience,” he said, “that’s what I intend to do. This is what I’m committed to as your sheriff—a better sheriff’s office, a better relationship with all government entities, and our citizens of our counties, and a better and safer life for our beautiful community.”

To some, it may have appeared as if the clouds were gathering over the sheriff's office during the swearing in. In fact, the clouds largely dissipated soon after, though skies were nowhere near entirely blue. (© FlaglerLive)

To some, it may have appeared as if the clouds were gathering over the sheriff’s office during the swearing in. In fact, the clouds largely dissipated soon after, though skies were nowhere near entirely blue. (© FlaglerLive)

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15 Responses for “Quoting—and Misquoting—Jefferson, Sheriff Vows Agency Will Breathe Air of Integrity”

  1. As a voter I say... says:

    Still a lot more fat to cut…..including David O’Brien’s pay since his rank has been reduced and he’s OVER PAID! No one under any Flagler County elected officials should be paid over $70,000 annually. Some Deputies deserve some of O’Brien’s pay and that of others who are being OVER PAID. You yourself Jim stated while campaigning how top heavy the Flemming administration was…so I expect to see more positions reduced and salaries cut. I wish Jim much success, and look forward to see how he will improve after learning from mistakes made during his first administration, and learning from the mistakes of others.

    • Girl says:

      Different top/talking head – same old same old – He Manfre put his people in with High salaries more postions on top/ just different names and ranks – people come on now get with the program – he created postions that never were there – call it what you want – he likes control – hopefully we the citizens won’t get creamed in the downfall. The people he either demoted or fired were long time LE – he brings people in from other coutnies and states… come/on – do they know Flagler County – think not. Hope we the citizens do not suffer.

  2. Jim Neuenfeldt says:

    A lawyer quoting Jefferson, getting it wrong and talking about ethics……
    Now don’t that beat all……..
    Next thing you know he’ll run for office oh wait he already did that….

  3. BrunoTar says:

    Let no man turn aside, ever so slightly, from the broad path of
    honour, on the plausible pretence that he is justified by the
    goodness of his end. All good ends can be worked out by good means.

    — Charles Dickens (1812-1870) English Novelist


    “No one under any Flagler County elected officials should be paid over $70,000 annually”. What!!!!!
    If you think thats a lot of money for what these people do you are seriously mistaken. Look what we pay newly elected Commisioner Meeker or for that matter City manger Landon.

  5. johnny taxpayer says:

    I see Manfre appears to be sporting a fire arm on his belt in the above picture. I seem to recall in 2004 campaign, a big deal was made over the fact that Manfre had previously promised to become a certified LEO but never had, has he since? If not why the gun?

  6. Robert Lewis says:

    Fun facts from 2004:

    “The others are David Obrien, a 22 year veteran with the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office who does not even have an Associates Degree and who was only recently promoted to Captain from deputy. How sad is it that in 22 years he went 20 years without holding so much as a Sgt. position. Great leadership skills there!”

    “Then there is Rober Weber, a 2.5 year deputy who retired as a Lt. from a small agency in NY, attended the F.B.I. Academy and was given a Detective and then Sgt. position under Manfre. Sounds pretty good huh? Not, really if you factor in Weber organized and runs the Political Action Committee “Deputies For Manfre”. Sounds like an election pay-back to me.”

    “The reason Maronski left is because he was fed up. One man can only witness so many lies and cover-ups before his conscience takes over.”

    Same name’s, same problems, no change for Flagler.

  7. Reality Check says:

    Same old Manfre, no law enforcement skills what so ever yet he is Sherriff, no he is a politician with a badge and a Napoleon complex. You wait and watch the civil law suits start, this guy is an egomaniac just waiting to be unleashed again. Kill off the positions and go to a Chief of Police, a position earned thru dedication, education and moving up thru the ranks. How can one come in on their first day and fire and hire positions that you have not even reviewed? would it not be more suitable to go in look at records and financial statements, make personal observations and then launch a strategic plan to fix the situation. Not if you’re an egomaniac, you pull the trigger than figure out what to say later; this guy will try to be on any media outlet he can find, pathetic

  8. Ed says:

    Well maybe the taxpayers should be aware of Fleming last course of action as Sheriff. He ordered a brand new armored vehicle for the swat team. That’s well over a 100 thousand dollars of taxpayer money then left the issue for Manfre to deal with. Is it any wonder that deputies on the street are on food stamps to support their families. How does Fleming and that old administration sleep at night. Good for Manfre, I support the change this could not go on any more. I hope the taxpayers enjoy that armored vehicle that’s going to collect dust is a garage some where.

    • Ray Thorne says:

      There are fire trucks that collect dust as well. But if needed, better that we have them than not. I remember 1998. Be prepared.

    • John Boy says:

      There are no FCSO Deputies that are on food stamps. The NJ published salaries for FC employees and the average Deputy was making well over $40,000, The lowest was around $38,000. and many where making well over $70,000. Do not mix food stamps with donuts.

  9. Jeannie says:

    So who exactly paid for his swearing in party. Give names. Where are the ethics he is talking about. Oh yeah, he has not taken the class yet. I forgot.

  10. JoJo says:

    Sad commentary but the way our society is going I’m sure it will be put to good use sooner or later although I hope – never!

  11. RNYPD says:

    Wow! Who saw that coming?

  12. OOPS! says:

    Yup, didn’t learn the first time, that putting your hand in fire HURTS! Just had to do it again…..
    So? How ya like your sheriff now? All you voters that absolutely LOVE him…How would YOU like to be at the end of this stingray? What an embarrassment to Flagler County let alone the WHOLE FCSO…They all must be walking around on egg shells let alone thin ice..We’d be better off with NO sheriff, than the one elected……PLEASE……2017 HURRY and get here!
    We need a pro running police department, NOT a punch the clock business owner..The “bad guys” know !!!

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