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Back from a Limb, Ray Stevens “Distances” Himself from November’s Manfre Endorsement

| March 14, 2013

Republican Ray Stevens, left, went on a limb to endorse Jim Manfre in November's election, and now has some misgivings about the sheriff's management style. (© FlaglerLive)

Republican Ray Stevens, left, went on a limb to endorse Jim Manfre in November’s election, and now has some misgivings about the sheriff’s management style. (© FlaglerLive)

Jim Manfre beat Don Fleming in last November’s election by 332 votes out of almost 49,000 votes cast, a margin of less than 0.7 percent. Ray Stevens likely made the difference. The Republican and two-time sheriff candidate who’d come in second in a three-way primary in August went out on a limb and endorsed Manfre, a Democrat, for the general. He even campaigned with him, and became a member of Manfre’s transition team.

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On Thursday, Stevens said if he knew then what he now knows of Manfre’s handling of the sheriff’s office, he would not have endorsed him.

“There was never any discussion of wholesale firings involving career officers,” Stevens said in a statement, referring to the firings and forced resignations of two captains and David O’Brien, who was chief deputy. “In fact, if my memory serves, quite the opposite was promised. I now find myself disturbed with the turn of events in the Sheriff’s Department.”

In a follow-up interview, Stevens said he did not regret his endorsement based on what he knew and had been told at the time, “but I do regret the direction the agency has taken,” and wished Manfre would take a different track.

“He should be more sensitive to the needs of his personnel,” Stevens said. “I think he’s closed the door in respect to rehiring these people. I understand that there are some lawsuits, some of these individuals have consulted attorneys, and frankly if I were king, if the court ruled against me I would not fight it. But the tone and tenor of the department now is one where everybody is looking over their shoulders, and when is the other shoe going to drop.”

Responding to Stevens’s change of heart, Manfre was gracious toward Stevens, but stood his ground regarding the way he’s handled the transition and the first two months of his tenure. “I appreciate Ray’s support, I appreciate his part in the transition team, I respect his opinion and I wish him well in the future. That’s all I have to say,” Manfre said.

The sheriff said that during the transition he had spoken with his attorney, Sid Nowell, and that of the Florida Sheriffs’ Association to be on legal ground regarding what could and could not be done regarding personnel matters. “Everything we’ve done has been on advice of counsel,” he said, stressing that during the transition he’d not made blanket promises not to fire anyone. “I didn’t say anything during the transition, the idea was to get information first and then make decisions based on that information.”

The day Manfre took over for Fleming, he demoted a number of people—deputies and civilians—and eliminated the captains’ ranks, fired long-time majors Steve Clair and John Plummer, reorganized the agency’s command structure and management methods, and last week offered O’Brien the choice to be fired or forcibly resign. O’Brien resigned. Manfre said none of it was heavy handed. Rather, he said, it was needed.

“I think we have dramatically changed the atmosphere of the agency. When I walked in the door people were in survival mode. There was no leadership,” Manfre said, describing an organization lacking a chain of command because what leadership did exist was a “multi-headed monster,” with a variety of majors and captains assuming competing commanding roles to fill a vacuum at the center. Most of the agency’s personnel, he said, was grateful for the way Manfre’s team restored clearer, more direct lines of leadership and responsibility while witnessing a more engaged management team. (Manfre said he’d joined a bike patrol earlier this month for four hours—along with County Commissioner Charlie Ericksen, an avid and daily long-distance biker—and intended to continue doing so once a month).

Speaking of O’Brien specifically, he said: “They saw what I saw, the lack of energy coming from that position, the lack of participation in the daily routine of line deputies, and very excited about Lt. Bovnino being the acting commander, energizing the patrol division, and going out and taking part in the daily routine of the line deputies. That’s what they want to see, they want to see the people at the top engaged.”

Paul Bovino, who headed the department’s SWAT team, was among the captains demoted to lieutenant. Another was Lynn Catoggio. Both, Manfre said, responded by working hard, and both were rewarded with more authority: Catoggio is a watch commander, and Bovino was appointed acting chief deputy, an appointment likely to be made permanent before long. Reappointing or shifting higher brass instead of removing them from the agency would have been impossible, Manfre said.

Stevens had not sent his statement to Manfre, nor had he spoken to him in the last few weeks, their last conversation going back to January, after the sheriff’s inauguration. By then Stevens’s ideas (he’d provided several pages on the investigative division) were no longer being solicited. Stevens’s support of Manfre earned him a political beating from fellow-Republicans, who nevertheless took him back in the fold after the election: Stevens is a member of the Republican Executive Committee and is again involved with other Republicans such as the Ronald Reagan Assemblies.

Stevens isn’t questioning Manfre’s shake-ups: he said the agency was in dire need of better management. That was one of Stevens’s own campaign themes when he ran against Fleming during the primary. But Stevens repeatedly stressed that he wanted to “distance” himself from the firings, and warned that the approach could damage morale instead of lifting it.

Not to worry, Manfre said. “The overall morale is very high,” he said. “There are those people who are not happy with the way we’re going. I believe they’re a minority. My job is not to make everybody happy.”

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26 Responses for “Back from a Limb, Ray Stevens “Distances” Himself from November’s Manfre Endorsement”

  1. Robert Lewis says:

    You have to be kidding me. This is news worthy?

    To validate his opinions just gives me an ounce of self worth. It’s clear that he will try and be the candidate for the GOP in 4 years. After all 3 times is a charm.
    With the damage the Ronald Reagan group did to the Republican Party it’s a damn shame that he was accepted back.

    So much for party unity. This slime ball endorses a democrat and serves on the transition team. Now the election is over he is back to partisan politics with a way to keep his name in the headlines. The double standard of Ray Stevens and the Ronald Reagan Facist Club.

    Excuse me while I vomit and cut myself.

    I rather vote for Barney Fife for Sheriff then Ray Stevens.

    What a slime ball!

  2. Surt says:

    How about all you egotistical sheriffs just do your freaking job. Everyone is exhausted and discussed with all this bit*hing and complaining that one does things this way and the other does it the other way………
    NO ONE CARES….Just arrest the damn criminals and incarcerate them. That’s what you get payed for !!

  3. glad fly says:

    don fleming for sheriff.

  4. Jack says:

    Well I know to never vote for Stevens because by the sound of his pitch here he supports more of the same old. Entitlement is no reason to keep a 29 year veteran on the payroll. If memory serves me, David O Brien was too tired to work and going to go home to get sleep. For the $100,000 he was being paid he should have been available and worked when ever called upon! I want a leader,for Sheriff, that has high standards.

  5. Reality Check says:

    3 years and 8 months Jim, that’s what you have left, an ambulance chasing immigration attorney has no business running a law enforcement agency. For Manfre it was nothing more than the money, once booted out the first time he tried real-estate, when that dried up he went back to the attorney business. Oh and who did he work for Sid Nowell, wow isn’t he now the sheriffs dept. attorney? Interesting how all those who supported Manfre are now seeing a financial gain.

  6. Dennis says:

    I have to agree with Mr. Stevens. What Manfre has done can only hurt morale. Firing veteran officers only makes the future look grim for others with hopes of advancement. The dedications these men showed to the profession and the agency should account for something. They deserved better!

    It’s hard to understand what made Manfre think he could walk into a law enforcement agency and lead it. He’s never been a cop and doesn’t know the first thing about being one. In law enforcement leadership comes with rank. With each promotion comes a larger role and more responsibility. You have to have the respect of the troops to be an effective leader. Additionally, you learn what works and what doesn’t. Manfre was asked by a reporter about his lack of law enforcement experience during the campaign. His answer was he was sheriff for 4 years, that’s law enforcement experience. I have to disagree. That may be adminisrative experience, but it’s not law enforcement experience. No doubt he’s a well educated and experienced lawyer, but that does not qualify him him to run a law enforcement agency.

    The public should look for someone who’s had law enforcement experience to vote for, for such an important and vital position. We now have an inexperienced man walking around with a gun and a badge. Having no formal training, ie: police academy, field training program, how is he qualified to even take law enforcement action?

  7. HJ says:

    Yes, Sheriff Manfre what you did was wrong !
    You fired 2 senior commanders Major Steve Clair and Major John Pummer before you were even in the door, two dedicated officers who have given many years of service to the people of Flagler County!
    All the while meeting with them before you took over and telling them something different.
    Shame on you ! And now people are looking over their backs because they too fear that they will be next in line to be fired ….or demoted or have their pay cut.. If they say anything or oppose you in any way…
    Do you honestly think they are going to have high moral working for you, when others have seen the way you are already starting out with running this agency ? I think not !
    I think citizens are starting to see the way you are and it’s not in a good way!
    There are a lot of us who are extremely disappointed already !!!
    Remember you did not win this election by a very large number ….

  8. h&h says:

    I voted for Stevens in the last ellection and got stabbed in the back when went to the other side.. He’s nothing but a turncoat like Crist and other peoplpe with no back bone and no morals.. I wouldn’t vote for this flip flopper for dog catcher or crossing guard.. He’s just no good..

  9. Gomer Pyle says...... says:

    Shame, shame, shame.. on you Mr. Stevens…Manfre even had you buffaloed…the department is going backwards as if in a tornado in reverse…
    It really saddens me to see what power hungry can do to people and dictate their lives. Did you know we have a God for that?
    Less than 4 months ago the department was running smooth,,,wonder why?

  10. HJ says:

    Steve Clair for Sheriff !!!!

  11. confidential says:

    Good performance and policies of Sheriff Manfre, well done!
    As for incoming lawsuits I doubt it, as pay should be equitable with responsibility and output of work as we labor in a Right to Work (for less) state and Flagler is small compared with adjacent counties population. Should not be “who’s y/daddy” but instead output of work and affordability as per revenue. We are not laboring in Almighty Compensations NY city here.
    As Captain and Lieutenant the named above made a whopping over $85,200 and 83,500 pay “and in 2010”, probably much more by now. Was their pay reduced to the reality common sense of what the jobless tax payers of this county can afford? To Mr. Stevens, that helped us to re-elect Sheriff Manfre and that I am profoundly appreciative for that, I would advise to look close at the 2010 public salaries link above keeping in mind that Flagler has the highest unemployment rate in Florida and maybe only about 98,300 residents now versus Volusia county 5 times more, at over 496.000 and St Johns county over 202,000 residents.

  12. Alan says:

    Where do these CLOWNS come from and why do the citizens of this once great nation continue to elect these losers. Its past stupidity at this point. Its suicide by ignorance ! Who ever voted for ANY of these CLOWNS, go directly into your bedroom look in the mirror and SLAP yourself 10 times hard in the face while repeating…I will never again vote for any LOSER for sheriff.

  13. HJ says:

    Sheriff Manfre says not to worry…the overall morale is very high…..REALLY?? Some of us hear very differently……maybe some of the people there are at the FCSO are afraid to say otherwise or they could be demoted or pay cut OR fired…like Respectable Major’s Steve Clair and John Plummer, who were’nt even given a chance…..they were fired for no good reason what so ever……they gave years of service to the citizens of Flagler County and were wrongly terminated…….but the writing is on the wall……I think a lot of other people are beginning to see this as well….remember you didn’t win the election by much…only 322 votes……..sure is a lot of problems and turmoil already…..and how long have you been in charge? 2 months……..Hmmmmmm………

  14. Girl says:

    Overall moral is HIGH – who, the cronies and people he (Manfre) gave the jobs to, their Moral – what about the people who are still there- heard it’s like walking on egg shells – whose next… that is not a good work environment or very productive.

  15. Dudley Doright says:

    What I really get a kick out of is the fact that the Republican Party and the Ronald Regan Assembly have let him back in the fold. I thought that to be a member of the RRA you had to be vetted…pure Republican. If you crossed party lines you were done as a republican. It is obvious that Stevens voted for Manfre as he supported him in the general election. So much for the Republican pure bloods.

  16. Freddy says:

    In the meantime two of his lieutenants are applying for work with other agencies.

  17. In the know says:

    Manfre was an ass the first time he was elected and a bigger ass now. The man has no law enforcement knowledge whatso ever. He’s a control freak. The county was brain dead in electing this man again. And Stevens, we all know what a slimball he is as well. He’s nothing more then a trouble maker. The county had a chance to pick a Sheriif with experience and had good moral character and they re-elected little man syndrom. John Pollinger was the best choice and Stevens took care of that as well. I believe Manfre had something to do with that. People do not learn from the past. Manfre is garbage and nothing more. He cost the county big dollars before with lawsuits and it’s about to start again. All he wants are puppets to follow him.

  18. Milt says:

    Like I keep saying; we keep electing losers. The same old cronies every four years, We beat ourselves up by electing the same old garbage time and time again. Until we realize there are many qualified individuals out there without the baggage. I wish the City could have their own Police Dept since we are being short changed by the distractions of this agency time and time again. And, I wish Stevens would ride off into the sunset because someone should whisper in his ear that he is finished in this County.

  19. Jerry M says:

    With regards to manfre looking for a job, he also wanted to be the director of economic development too. He has failed at all his personal endeavors. Now he will fail with his public office endeavor.

  20. PJ says:

    Stevens for President oooppps

    I mean Mayor hic up, Sheriff I mean NOT!!!!!! Hic-up, Happy St. Patty’s Day yea….Hic up……..

    Why am I even reading this? Here is why the don’t look at the accident kids thing, don’t look but we all look……PJ

    Stevens please go away, please????

  21. deana carmen says:

    Freddy says:

    March 15, 2013 at 5:40 pm

    In the meantime two of his lieutenants are applying for work with other agencies.


  22. RNYPD says:

    I don’t even know what to say about this. Go away, you have done enough to destroy this county.

  23. soccermom says:

    Manfre is running the FCSO in the ground. His statement when he became sheriff in January was that he did not care about moral. It is very clear to me and other people that he still doesn’t care about moral. He has fired 2 majors for no reason at all. People keep bring up about their pay. Has anyone added up what all the new staff are making?? Peanuts to what Major Clair and Major Plummer were making. He also added a PR firm. Manfre is firing and demoting while hurting their families who look forawrd to the money coming in to support their families. Police officers serve and protect each and every day not knowing if they will return home. They deserve more than they get. Manfre needs to get off his high horse and listen to the Flagler County residents. Enough is enough. Manfre is not a certified LEO, but an attorney. I feel bad for the officers who have to watch their backs because of their boss. I love his statement where he says his job is not to make everyone happy. It’s not all about pleasing Manfre’s ego!! Lord help us. We do need it!

  24. unconfidential says:

    Well things are NOT going smoothly inside the department, moral is very low. And as for the sheriff’s A.I.R. POLICIES/ PROCEDURES well let’s just say that the employees started their own…….D.A.M…….deputies against manfre. Enough said!

  25. FL informed voter says:

    Every sheriff has the right to fire a command staff person without cause. Most sheriffs do this to bring their own team of leadership people in and run the department the way they want to. The command staff all know this going into that role. The President brings his own advisers/staff also, it’s the same principle. I’m not saying if I agree or disagree; I have no say. Just wanted to point that out to all the people crying that 29 year people were fired. If you were the boss, you’d want your own people also. Quit bitching about it. Manfre won, he brought his people in. If you don’t like it, say so at the ballot box next election. Until then, it’s his show.

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