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John Pollinger, Steve Clair and Randy Burke Among 25 Candidates for Bunnell Police Chief

| October 31, 2013

He's back: John Pollinger is among the 25 applicants for Bunnell Police Chief. (© FlaglerLive)

He’s back: John Pollinger is among the 25 applicants for Bunnell Police Chief. (© FlaglerLive)

The list of 25 applicants for Bunnell Police Chief is rich in familiar names, including the current interim chief, a former candidate for Flagler County sheriff, and two of the highest-ranked and longest-serving individuals fired from the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office earlier this year.

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John Pollinger, who came in third in a three-way Republican primary for sheriff in 2012, is applying. So is Steve Clair, the former sheriff’s major fired the first day that Jim Manfre became sheriff in January. Clair made it to the final three candidates for Flagler Beach police captain (the top position there) this month, but was outlasted by Matt Doughney, who was named captain on Oct. 15. Lynn Catoggio, who’d risen to captain under former Sheriff Don Fleming before being demoted by Manfre, then re-promoted, then fired last month, is also applying for the chief’s job.

Manfre made it clear that he opposed Clair’s appointment in Flagler Beach, and exerted as much influence as he could with Flagler Beach City Manager Bruce Campbell to ward off that appointment, though the final three candidates were all considered strong contenders regardless. Manfre’s influence with Bunnell’s new city manager is untested.

Pollinger appears willing to return to the public arena after a bruising election campaign that featured his own party attempting to discredit him, then trying to boot him off the primary ballot. Pollinger ended up losing to Ray Stevens and Don Fleming. Fleming lost to Manfre.

“Life has other plans for me I guess,” Pollinger said after the primary. Today, he said: “I still want to be a cop, that’s why I ran for sheriff.” Pollinger was certified to be a cop in Florida in August. A three-month stint aside for another individual, Pollinger is the only two applicants who has been a police chief in his career, but it’s not always about the person with the most qualifications and the highest rank, he said. “It has to be a good fit for the applicant and a good fit for the town. It’s the philosophy overall of what the community wants and what the governing body wants.”

The city is no longer taking applications. City Manager Lawrence Williams is in no hurry to nominate a chief. He’s frozen the position until Dec. 1, by which time he said he’ll announce his decision. The city manager—not the city commission—chooses the police chief. The position was last held by Jeff Hoffman, who became the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office’s head of the patrol division on Oct. 7 after barely a year as chief.

Randy Burke (© FlaglerLive)

Randy Burke (© FlaglerLive)

Lt. Randy Burke, who’s been with the department for two decades, is currently its acting chief. Burke was passed over for the chief’s job when he applied in 2012. He’s applying again, although the job description required a college degree, which Burke does not hold. The job description was written before Williams took over. Burke and others have interpreted the specification of a college degree as intending to keep Burke from getting the job, though Williams has publicly stated that he was very satisfied with the job Burke was doing as interim.

Burke is also the only candidate who happens to live in Bunnell, has deep roots in the city, and equally deep civic commitments in the city beyond the job, coaching and mentoring youths (and occasionally bringing them in for a civic lesson by way of a Bunnell City Commission meeting). Burke will nevertheless face tough competition.

Four candidates are from Flagler County, 10 from elsewhere in Florida. The rest are from other states. Here are the candidates and their current or last jobs held:

Robert Bentivegna, Woodstock, Ga., a senior detective with the Dunwoody Police Department since 2009.

Jeffrey Brown, Mohave County, Nevada, deputy director of the county jail since February 2007.

Randy Burke, Bunnell, acting police chief of the Bunnell Department, where he’s served more than 20 years.

Robert Campbell, since 2009 has been the Team leader of Operations for the joint operation tasking center (JOTC) of the United Nations Mission in Haiti, established in response to the 2010 earthquake.

Lynne Catoggio, Palm Coast, rose to rank of captain at the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office, was fired in September in Sheriff Manfre’s latest “reorganization.”

Ronald Chapman, Apopka, traffic captain at the Orange County Sheriff’s Office since 2012.

Steve Clair. (© FlaglerLive)

Steve Clair. (© FlaglerLive)

Steve Clair, Ormond Beach, rose to rank of major at the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office, where he was fired on Sheriff Manfre’s first day.

Brent Coates, an adjunct faculty member at the University of North Florida and briefly police chief in St. Albans, W.Va., in 2011, but spent the bulk of his career rising from trooper to major with the Florida Highway Patrol, from 1983 to 2011.

Gary Darby, Mesa, Ariz., was a security officer until May, and previously a parole agent with the California Department of Corrections.

Kevin Costello, Tillson, N.Y., has been running his own security and investigation company since 2008.

James Fish, Shelby, N.C., not currently working, last worked as a security officer in 2008.

Thomas Foster, Orlando, retired in 2012 from the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, where he was captain of special operations, street crime section.

Robert Girod Sr., Fort Wayne, Ind., a lawyer, private investigator and head of his own consultancy.

Gregory Gonthier, Miami, counter-intelligence agent with the Coast Guard since 2009.

Paul Grohowski, lieutenant in the Port St. Lucie Police Department, where he’s worked since 2002.

Andrew B. Johnson, Gulf Breeze, Fla., law enforcement consultant for the Department of Transportation since Jan. 2009.

Donnie Lucas, Jesup, Ga., the assistant police chief and director of emergency services for the Fort Stewart Police Department.

David Lyndon, Palm Coast, a private investigator.

Paul Meyers, Celebration, Fla., not currently working, was a lieutenant with the Florida Division of Insurance Fraud from 2010 to 2013, and previously a state attorney’s investigator in the 16th judicial circuit (Key West).

Andres Obregon, Lady Lake, Fla., a police officer with the Howey-in-the-Hills Police Department since 2008.

John Pollinger, Palm Coast, candidate for Flagler County Sheriff in 2012, served 32 years in the Middletown, N.J., Police Department, including almost eight as chief.

Frederick Smith, Phoenix, Arizona, a police officer with the City of Maricopa Police Department since 2008.

Larry Stebleton, Bernalillo, New Mexico, has headed the office of professional standards at the New Mexico Department of Corrections since 2012.

Larry M. Thomas, Orlando, self-employed pilot examiner on contract with the Federal Aviation Administration in Orlando. Was a guard at the Putnam County jail for three months in 2010.

David Townsend Smith, Cumming, Ga., not currently working, was a colonel with the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office from 2001 to 2012.

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31 Responses for “John Pollinger, Steve Clair and Randy Burke Among 25 Candidates for Bunnell Police Chief”

  1. dogman says:

    Your best choice is Lynn, totaly……………………………………….

    • Lets be honest says:

      Lynne Catoggo is definitely NOT the person for the job. I was directly under her supervision for years and my personal experience is that she is no team player. She looks out for herself and steps on people in her way. Favoritism and paybacks are the words that I would say define her. I live in Bunnell and no matter who you pick please don’t pick Lynne Catoggo.

      • Girl says:

        Let’s be Honest….

        You worked under her – maybe she was too good of a supervisor and you did not like it. Paybacks I guess that is what you are doing? ….

  2. Common Sense says:

    Randy Burke is the man for the job

  3. HJ says:

    Go Steve Clair !!!!!

  4. Soccer mom says:

    Steve Clair is my choice. He has the experience needed to run the department. It won’t be an easy job, but I know with his qualifications Steve Clair will lead the Bunnell Police Department in the right direction. Steve Clair you have my vote.

  5. Louie says:

    All I’ll say is this. There seems to be some very qualified candidates. If Burke gets the job it will be the beginning of the end for that department. Williams is being buffaloed by Burke. It’s what he does best. I’m being kind using the word buffaloed.

  6. Marissa says:

    “Manfre made it clear that he opposed Clair’s appointment in Flagler Beach, and exerted as much influence as he could with Flagler Beach City Manager Bruce Campbell to ward off that appointment, though the final three candidates were all considered strong contenders regardless….”

    I find this disturbing that Manfre would exert and try to influence an appointment. This little man paranoia syndrome needs to go.

  7. Mike says:

    Manfre opposes, who cares what Manfre thinks, he has enough problems running huis dept.

  8. ohrin says:


  9. chaserogers says:

    Steve Clair is the man for the job. It is disgraceful what manfre has put him through, from being fired on the first day for supporting the opposing party, to then manfre making the decision in the fb police captain choice. But unfortunately with the media these days we dont here the bad things about manfre and his scams…

  10. Charles Gardner says:

    Can’t go wrong with a guy from Maricopa, Arizona!

  11. Enlightened says:

    Steve Clair is honestly the best man for the job. I have had the pleasure of working with him for over 9 years. He truly cares about the community and the people. He is a man of integrity and honesty. Please hire him. He was not treated fairly. This man deserves a chance.

  12. EYEONFLAGLER says:

    Your best choice is Lynn,
    Lets do it Bunnell!!

  13. A.S.F. says:

    It certainly would be ironic if Pollinger got the job and proved to be good at it. What a spit in the eye it would be for the dirty tricks political squad that opposed him in the last election!

  14. Really says:

    Pollinger is good choice. He almost won the rebulican vote for Sheriff and has good relationship with other law enforcement in the area. 32 years LEO experience.

  15. Johnny Taxpayer says:

    Lt. Burke has known the Chief’s job requires a Bachelors degree now for at least two years, if not longer. What exactly has he done to ensure he meets those requirements???

  16. Shoregal says:

    John Pollinger!!!!

  17. Robert Lewis says:

    I wish John Pollinger was Sheriff!
    I certainly hope that he gets appointed to the Chief’s position.

  18. Kurt says:

    Plenty of qualified candidates, but Hoffman is a tough act to follow…he really is. Regardless of how the media portrays the next Chief of Police, the citizens of Bunnell lost the best to ever work there. Hopefully he becomes Sheriff someday. They should just let FCSO absorb them.

  19. m&m says:

    Pollenger, now there’s a real dead beat..

  20. Gia says:

    The man has not a college degree but is in the dpt for over 2 decades & now is acting chef. He is from the city since ever. What the hell is wrong with these dumb city gov.?

  21. Need Honesty and Integrety says:

    I think Steve Clair would be the best Chief, I personally have experienced lack of proper processing of charges as requested and attitude that is not professional by acting Chief Burke. I think that Clair has the education and experience as well as being familiar with this county for years. He has my vote.

  22. livesinpalmcoast says:


  23. The Truth says:

    As a former police officer I have seen them come and go here in Flagler. I do know the Bunnell P.D. very well. Randy Burke would be the worst pick by far. He’s does not know how to treat people. He’s a sheep in wolves clothing. Go to old town hall and look real good at his records, if they have not been purged, and they very well could be. Please do not discredit the men and woman of the Bunnell P.D. by picking Randy Burke, because eventually his colors will shine through.
    On the other hand I have known John Pollinger for over 40 years. I worked in the neighboring town next to Middletown, N.J.. Flagler County made a really big mistake in not electing him Sheriff. Manfre already has made a mess of the S.O. He’s a typical lawyer. John Pollinger on the other hand would be an outstanding Chief of Police for Bunnell. John is a man of the highest caliber and a good and honest cop. He knows how to treat his men with respect to get the job done. I do know that after knowinhg John Pollinger for over 40 years he is the best candidate for the job. Of all the cops I know in my life John is by far the Best.. I would trust my life to John Pollinger.

  24. D. F. A. says:

    Good luck John, I hope the city gives you a chance. Knowing you personally, I know the citizens of Bunnell will get to know you and want to keep you around for years. It will be the perfect match.

  25. bunnell boy says:

    Clair is the best man for the job. Who cares what Manfre thinks, i would think he would be too busy with the FCSO loaner cars on his trips to virginia!

  26. Art says:

    Judging from what I have read Randy Burke was passed over for the position of police chief because he did not posses a Bachelors Degree. The truth be told, judging from his resume, Pollinger has no college degree. If this requirement is to be waved the appointment should go to Randy Burke who has served the community for twenty years, lest this whole process should evolve into strictly a political appointment.

  27. carol ann says:

    NOT Pollinger! The Truth: I heard the opposite about him from other officers who worked with him up north. A.S.F.: letting the facts out is not dirty tricks.

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