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Craig Coffey’s $15,000 Raise Request: An Insult to Public Employees at Taxpayers’ Expense

| December 30, 2014

The deal-maker: Flagler County Administrator Craig Coffey. (© FlaglerLive)

The deal-maker: Flagler County Administrator Craig Coffey. (© FlaglerLive)

Local government officials often complain of how reviled they can be these days. It’s unfair, they say. I agree. Government as we know it has its aberrations. But it’s far from the corrupt, arrogant, dishonest and out of touch enterprise its detractors make it out to be. Particularly when compared to the depravations of private business (remember the financial meltdown of 2008?), which have the advantage of being mostly hidden from public scrutiny.

pierre tristam column flaglerlive Except when things happen as they did just before Christmas at the Flagler County Commission, where County Administrator Craig Coffey, who was already making $146,000 a year (not counting perks and benefits) submitted a request for a $15,000 raise. For himself.

And the commission actually went ahead and granted him almost half of it, with a pledge to do more in a few months. This in the same year when the commission told its employees, who have gone without raises for most of the past six years, that it couldn’t give them more than a 1 percent raise this year, unless you’re a sheriff’s deputy, in which case you got cheated of even that much. The 1 percent raise for most employees equates to the cost of a single months’ utility and phone bill. Compared to that, Craig Coffey was asking for the equivalent of a down payment on a Disney Vacation Club suite. If that’s not arrogant, out of touch, and a slap in the face of every employee in government, employees Coffey and his commission pretend to respect and shower with cheap praise and cheaper appreciation plaques, I don’t know what it.

But the insult wasn’t just Coffey’s Christmas tithing to himself. It was the way he and his administration went about it, conveniently right after the election and months after the budget was passed, and the way commissioners played along. That’s where the dishonesty and back-room greasing bubbled up. It’s what gives county employees and taxpayers every reason to distrust these self-serving profiteers. It’s what gives government a bad name.

Coffey and his excellent side-kick in Human Resources, Joe Mayer, wanted you and the commission to believe that it wasn’t Coffey who was asking for the raise. Oh, no. It was his “staff.” As if Coffey, who controls every item down to every comma that appears on the commission’s agenda, had nothing to do with this proposal, except of course the six pages of single-spaced accomplishments he wrote for himself to submit at the same meeting.

Put aside the inappropriateness of Coffey’s directors, whose salaries he controls, so blatantly brown-nosing for his. What was Coffey thinking, letting any employee lobby a contractual agreement that’s the exclusive purview of the five commissioners? (Here’s a hint: you pad my paycheck, I’ll pad yours.) Amazingly, usually savvier people like Commissioner Barbara Revels went along with the fiction, actually pretending to believe that some 300 rank and file employees, firefighters who make $15 an hour, bus drivers who make far less and cops who make less than starting teachers, had all lined up like at a rally for the North Korean leader and chanted their love for Coffey. There’s a word for lies like that. Maybe Coffey and friends wanted to mark its American centennial.

Then the Mayer-Coffey duo whipped out the sleaziest rationale of every raise request: it’ll bring Coffey in line with other counties. That’s a lie of course. It’ll mirror him with outliers, not with what your average county executive makes, or should make (the inflation of government executive salaries is no less scandalous than that in the private sector, if by different magnitudes, but that’s a Munch scream for another day). But let’s say Coffey was seeking just a 5 percent raise, which is what he ended up with anyway (when combined with the 1 percent he just got a few weeks ago). Even that suggests that he is somehow more valuable than rank and file employees. That he’s worth a fat raise and they’re not, and it would be a terrible injustice to this impoverished $146,000-a-year man with his own car allowance and most expenses paid on various junkets, to deny him an extra 15 grand, and to do so the very week when the Census Bureau revealed that Flagler County’s child poverty rate increased from 10 percent in 2007, the year Coffey was hired, to 14 percent today.

Commissioners even hinted that they had to give in to the veiled blackmail of compensating talent so as not to lose it. Really? Put it this way. Any government administrator could disappear tomorrow and the operation would still run itself, because government works on the back of its nameless rank-and-file grunts, not on the monograms of its paper-pushers. Take away the grunts for a single day, and the whole thing collapses. That alone tells you who’s more important, though our cult-of-leadership theorems do an excellent job of making the head guy seem indispensable—until he suddenly bails for a better job for himself anyway, which he almost always does.

I’m not saying Coffey isn’t a good administrator and a likable one. He obviously is, although his raise was pitched without so much as an airing of his last evaluation by the five commissioners, pro forma though those subjective grade school report cards are, let alone an evaluation of his monumental cash-for-clunker binge—the purchase of the old hospital for the sheriff’s HQ when a perfectly roomy and free 5 acres that belong to the county sit unused opposite the Government Services Building, and the purchase of the decrepit Plantation Bay utility, bailing out its ex-owner and developer, Mori Hosseini, without exacting a single concession from him. And speaking of his penchant for time shares, Coffey now wants to plunk down vacation chalets in the middle of the Princess Place Preserve, as if leaving the pristine undeveloped is somehow offensive to the modern ecology of government tampering. Still, those are policy issues he merely brokered to a commission gullible, rapacious or wasteful enough to go along. So he’s not to blame for doing very well what he does: making deals with other people’s money.

But that’s the least he should be. Commissioner Charlie Ericksen, that master of understatement, put it best when he said that if Coffey wasn’t good, he shouldn’t be sitting in the administrator’s chair. (Ericksen and George Hanns, by the way, voted against the raise.) And it’s not even a question of whether Coffey is worth an extra $15,000. It’s a question of timing and context.

After years of denying employees what they deserve, to come out with such a Marie Antoinette deal for himself before giving other employees their due shows that there is something fundamentally wrong with Coffey and his adoring top staff. They don’t get it. They’re like aristocrats of old, sitting in the balcony section and spitting on the rabble below. And three county commissioners—Frank Meeker, Nate McLaughlin and Barbara Revels—not only spat right along, but cleared their throats to come back and spew some more in a few months.

Way to earn your employees’ respect in the new year.

Pierre Tristam is FlaglerLive’s editor. Reach him by email here. A version of this piece aired on WNZF

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32 Responses for “Craig Coffey’s $15,000 Raise Request: An Insult to Public Employees at Taxpayers’ Expense”

  1. Kendall says:

    Well said.

  2. Enlightened says:

    Boy, am I glad I retired. This county is so back woods. These commissioners have no respect for their employees. What a slap in the face! If I were them I would file a lawsuit against them. The Sheriff’s employees are having their pay raises withheld due to lawsuits. I thought that is what insurance is for. If you people sit around and do nothing you deserve what you get! Or should I say not get.

  3. Uncle Buck says:

    Raise ? What’s that ? In over 45 years of working at different jobs , I have NEVER seen an increase in my pay…EVER !!! So these county varmints think they deserve $15,000 on top of their $146,000 yearly pay ?

    I have HAD IT with this county government and their GREEDY, THIEVING ways !!!!

  4. tulip says:

    McLaughlin and Meeker have “obligations” as to the way they vote. Revels seems to have joined them.

  5. Rich says:

    like pigs at the trough

  6. The Real Bunnell Resident says:

    Pierre: One of the few times that I agree with you! Usually I have to hold back the puke when I read your liberal dribble but today Sir, I salute you, admire you, and worship the keyboard you write with! The real expense to the county is denying market wages to the rank and file employees who are continually voting with their feet by accepting employment in neighboring counties. I would propose a law eliminating targeted employee pay raises for county employees including Coffey. Quite frankly, the Plantation Bay Utility deal should have got him fired. George Hanns proved once again with his no vote why he gets perpetually re elected. Any yes vote for Coffey’s pay raise indicates unfitness for office.

  7. orphan says:

    I am so disappointed with Barbara Revels!

    For so many years she has been the back-bone of what I thought was everything pro-Flagler.

    Now I just don’t know.


  8. Jimmy says:

    Another Legend in his own Mind.

  9. Dantel says:

    It’s called voting. Exercise your right to get rid of these greedy “public servants”. I’d suggest that their employers -us- decide such “merit increases” via a public referendum, certainly the taxpayer has better fiscal discipline when it’s our money being tapped. How much do other public workers actually make – I bet they’re working harder than this GQ model in his shiny toy hard hat.

  10. Rick Gardner says:

    Well as in almost everything you get what you pay for and if you want cheap then you’ll get cheap. If Coffey isn’t worth it then they should dismiss him. If he’s doing a good job then you would want to keep that individual.

  11. Lin says:

    Agree Pierre and for the same reasons.

    I don’t think the 3 commissioners that voted for this along with Coffey care whether they represent the citizens of Flagler county or not. I have no respect.

  12. Joe says:

    ….And the beat goes on…. and the beat goes on….

  13. liberal says:

    Wow Uncle Buck! How are you surviving on $1.45 hr? Though if you NEVER got a raise, maybe the employer was NOT the problem. How much does Landon in Palm Coast earn? Anybody know?

    • Uncle Buck says:

      I’m NOT surviving. I live in the woods around Flagler .Cleaning dead animals off the streets for a few bucks. But at least I’m not a “sucking government entitlement gruber” .

  14. plausible impossible says:

    No one is indispensable. If Coffey should drop dead tomorrow or even in the next minute, Flagler will still chug along without skipping a beat, and for the better. That is the reality — sad or otherwise. God turned his back and washed his hands off this ungrateful human race and we’re still chugging along, some may even say we are continually bettering our forebearers. Why America constantly feels the need to promote a class base society while denying that America is a class base society shows how confused they’ve become with the constant repetition of newspeak.

  15. tulip says:

    @ JOE Yes, the beat goes on, and we will continue to see things similar to what has been going on for the next 4 years and then the people will vote them in again.

  16. Initialjoe says:

    If he showed any care for the county employees he might’ve been allowed to get away with the whole thing…but since he could care less than he won’t get away with it. This commission is awful to allow sleaze like that to continue…except for Commissioner Hans. I watched him try to deny Coffey the raise. Good for him.

  17. Lena Marshall says:

    Wo, sounds like Pierre has hard spot for MR Coffey these days. Funny I dont see you writing about the padded salaries of jacob Olivio or Mr. Landon of the City of Palm Coast.
    I wonder why Mr. Coffey offended you so well.
    New article for Pierre, “all tax dollars for raises of many other Flagler County Officials” and what about the Sherriff when are you going to write about his behavior, come Pierre share the wealth.

    • pc employed says:

      The city of PC employees are better taken care of than the county. No one wants to work for them, everyone is trying to get on with the city. That could be one reason.

      • pc employed says:

        Also, why question the salary of our Jacob Oliva? He runs the whole county school system….
        6 elementary schools
        2 middle
        2 HS
        Busses ..the list goes on
        Plus, the teachers here in this area are paid on par with other counties in the state.

        It’s different for Coffey whose employees are not given raises! How would you like your boss to give himself a raise, meanwhile your still trying to live on wages from 6 years ago?

  18. annomymous says:

    Fire him for even suggesting it, I think all these city officials should get 10% decreases each month until they start creating jobs , and cleaning the section 8 drug dealers out of our town

  19. The Truther says:

    These commissioners are patsies to this so called County Executive Craig Coffey. The tax payers of this county have to get rid of all of them….let’s all ban together and have him run out of town.

  20. confidential says:

    There you are all the one’s that voted these two bozo’s to the FCBOCC last November!! A 15,000 rise for giving away our hard earned tax dollars to the wealthy like Mori Hosseini, an the local triad Chiumento, Page and Co. in overpriced derelict utilities and hospital! Sickening!

  21. Face Reality says:

    ALMOST SPEECHLESS… I have family that work for the county s.o.. they haven’t had raises in going on 6 years, and guy feels that he needs more from his original 140k+ salary.. no wonder why good deputies are jumping ship and going to other agencies… no money for Deputies, but always find a way to pay others

    • Anonymous says:

      No money for deputies or any other county employees. Only Mr Coffey gets the big raise. Shame on him for asking & accepting it. What an insult to taypayers and county employees.

  22. confidential says:

    Raises for these unethical barons wasters of our tax dollars when we enjoy the second highest unemployment rate in Florida for same reason crime and break ins on the rise, increasing amount of homeless reside in our surrounding woods and the poor is denied Medicaid because Florida can’t afford it as needs to coat heavier with our taxes the pockets of its wealthy? And look at our decaying infrastructure also not properly rebuilt or maintained! Stop giving away to special interest or you buddies our hard earned taxes and provide us instead with the services we are supposed to be paying for. Crooks!

  23. confidential says:

    We need to get together and go picket these bozos at the FCBOCC!! C’mon set a date and time! This salary and raise for a guy that administers 20% of this county because the rest is PC!

  24. Jason says:

    A raise? At 146,000 a year, he’s already grossly overpaid.

  25. Sam Schnardt says:

    It is amazing, get fired from a County on the west side of Florida, come to Flagler County and become grossly overpaid.

  26. Wishful thinking says:

    Too bad the 28 folks who have commented on this absurd increase did not voice their opinions in person before the commission at the public hearing. I did and reminded the commissioners about the 2 fiasco purchases under Coffey – delapidated hospital purchase and paying 200% of the appraised value of the disgracefully maintained P Bay Water Utility. The public hearing was so phony with only 2 commissioners voting NO – Hanns and Ericksen. They tried but were one vote short of denying this undeserved outlandish pay increase . Let us always remember the old saying ” What goes around comes around ” ..just hope that day comes sooner rather than later. Shame on Coffey and poor Joe Mayer who was the gofer

  27. tulip says:

    @ WISHFUL I don’t blame people for not getting up and saying something because 99% of the time it does no good, as these commissioners are going to do what’s best in their own interests.

    Hanns supposedly is not running again so he doesn’t care if he goes against the establishment and, depending on the order in which commissioners vote, if 3 of them have already voted one way then the others can vote the way they think the people want them to because they already know the majority wins. Or they generally have a good idea how their fellow peers are going to vote. Makes the ones that voted the way the people want look like the good guys, even though they might’ve voted a different way in secret.

  28. David B. says:

    Every time I hear about government local or national, I always hear that little voice in my head that our Great Ex President Ronald Reagan said. Are we better off than we were at this time a year ago. Will I think Mr. Coffey should really look at where this County is right now. Look at the basic such as the economy, law enforcement, job opportunity modernization of government. If you ask my this county has not shown any progress. Mr. Coffey should take a cut in pay until he can show that this County is moving forward.

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