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Speculate No More: Ex-Undersheriff Rick Staly Declares Run Against Ex-Boss Manfre

| September 2, 2015

staly manfre

Sheriff Jim Manfre, left, and then-Undersheriff Rick Staly, praying at Manfre’s inaugural in January 2013. (© FlaglerLive)

Reenacting a playbook he used 11 years ago in Orange County, where he ran against the man he’d served as undersheriff, Rick Staly today did what most of those who know him predicted he would do: he announced his run for Flagler County Sheriff against Jim Manfre, whom he served as undersheriff for two years until his retirement in April.

Staly joins a crowded field of candidates that includes Don Fleming, the former two-term sheriff Manfre defeated by a few hundred votes in 2012, and three lesser-known names (John Lamb, Gerald O’Gara and Mark Whisenant). All five are running as Republicans. Manfre is a Democrat perceived as weakened by ethics violations and unusual turn-over at the agency.

But such a split field amplifies the primary election outcome’s uncertainty despite the name recognition of two candidates as divided votes could then allow a lesser-known candidate to squeeze by. Staly’s challenge, beside his four opponents, will be to distinguish himself from the administration he served for two years as he speaks of bringing about “much needed change” to an agency he’d been brought on to change.

“With cars being stolen, homes and businesses burglarized, thefts and robberies increasing since I’ve retired, and with agency morale at its lowest and employees fearful of their jobs, I feel compelled to run for Sheriff,” Staly said in a press release drafted by Bob Weber, one of Manfre’s former public information officer. “Flagler County has had almost 16 years of the same two people as Sheriff with
both having major problems during their time in office. It’s time for a new Sheriff in town.”

When Staly resigned in March, he and Manfre painted the occasion as a retirement related to personal and family priorities. The two only had freindly words for each other, at least in public. Even then speculation was swirling over Staly’s intentions. A Republican, he had been openly critical of Manfre in statements to Florida Ethics Commission investigators, who were looking into several matters involving Manfre’s misuse of an agency credit card, his acceptance of a gift from Staly and his use of agency vehicles for out-of-state-travel.

The ethics commission found him in violation on all three counts. Manfre vowed to fight the findings, and the matter is ongoing. It was at Manfre’s news conference discussing those findings that the niceties between Manfre and Staly ended in earnest: Staly in comments to a News-Journal reporter that day had compared Manfre to a criminal, and Manfre at the news conference attacked Staly as disloyal and repeating a pattern of undermining the sheriffs he’s worked for.

Manfre did not return calls to his cell phones Wednesday afternoon. At 1:36 p.m., Manfre issued an emailed statement through Jim Troiano, his chief spokesman. “Rick has a history of running against the sheriff’s he served as undersheriff,” the statement read. “The last time he did this, he ran as a democrat against the incumbent Republican Orange County Sheriff Kevin Beary. Rick lost that election. Rick has flipped his party affiliation and is now running as a republican against the democratic sheriff that he served. Notwithstanding Rick’s sudden departure from the FCSO, the agency has moved forward and has continued to improve its operational efficiencies and service to the citizens of Flagler County.”

In 2004, Staly ran against Orange County Sheriff Kevin Beary. Beary beat Staly with 53 percent of the vote. A month after the election, Staly brought an ethics complaint against Beary, which eventually led to a $10,000 fine and $10,000 restitution cost against Beary, who’d inappropriately accepted $40,000 in consulting fees from a non-profit corporation Beary had himself created and subsidized with tax dollars.

“Manfre can say whatever he wants but he has a history of trying to rewrite history,” Staly said in an interview just after 2 p.m. “The accurate fact was that there was an unethical sheriff in Orange County. I ran against him in 2004. I’d been a Republican probably 90 percent or more of my life. I changed political party because I knew he could not be beaten on the Republican side because he already had another opponent. It was a hard thing to do but I became a Democrat so I could force him all the way to the general election.” Staly said he’d been bringing ethical matters to the sheriff’s attention for a long time before he resigned and decided to run. “If standing up against the most powerful sheriff in Fla for ethics violations is disloyal, then I plead guilty to that.”

John Pollinger, himself a candidate for sheriff in 2012 who joined Fleming as an adviser for the 2016 race, said there was nothing surprising about Staly’s entry into the race, as it was expected all along. “I don’t believe it’ll be a surprise to anybody,” Pollinger said. “The more the merrier.” Pollinger disputed Staly’s characterization of problems under Fleming’s tenure “other than what’s already been addressed and put to rest.” (Fleming paid a $500 fine subsequent to a Florida Ethics Commission finding that he’d inappropriately accepted a privileged access to the Hammock Beach Club.) Pollinger also tied Manfre’s current issues of morale and crime with Staly: “He was partially responsible for that during the time he was the undersheriff,” Pollinger said.

Pollinger said he “took exception” to Staly claims that he’d not necessarily been planning to run, even as he was still the undersheriff. “I sat down and had lunch with him last year, and I’m sure it was to find out my intentions if I was running,” Pollinger said of a lunch in August 2014 at Hooligan’s in Ormond Beach. Staly told him he was planning on a run, and would precede his decision with some internal polling first. “He told me face to face that’s what he was going to do.”

Staly’s version of events is slightly different: “I had a lunch with John Pollinger and I’d asked him if he was running for sheriff,” Staly said, “he said no, I said I don’t know what I’m going to do, but if I were to decide to run, I’d hope you join my team. I never told him I was in fact running, because at that point quite frankly my mind was not made up.”

Staly’s four-page news release devotes almost three pages to endorsements and testimonies of supporters, including the endorsement of Jack Bisland, whom Manfre had brought in in 2013 as head of investigations in what turned out to be a brief and unhappy tenure: Bisland was among the first to leave Manfre’s administration, disenchanted. Oddly, the release announcement was accompanied by Staly’s official portrait as undersheriff at the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office, and he purposely tied his announcement to Tuesday’s Florida Cabinet meeting, where he received the governor’s Heroism Medal for surviving a line-of-duty shooting incident in 1978.

The release also summarizes Staly’s four decades in law enforcement, most of that time in Orange County (though the Orange County Sheriff’s Office is not mentioned by name) and his brief time as head of a private security company in Flagler.

Staly said that as far as having been part of the administration he now claims needs a change, “Manfre made it very clear to me that I did not have the authority to hire and fire. Only he could do that. He doesn’t listen well to guidance, hence why he’s in the trouble he’s in with the ethics violations. So I can give advice, but I’m not the sheriff, and those decisions were made by him.” He said he was able to accomplish certain things “with one hand handcuffed,” in an agency Staly now says was not supportive of its sheriff. “Was I there? Yes. I’m not the one calling all the shots. I can make recommendations. Sometimes they get listened to, and sometimes they don’t. And I’ll stand on my record.”

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34 Responses for “Speculate No More: Ex-Undersheriff Rick Staly Declares Run Against Ex-Boss Manfre”

  1. rick says:

    This blowhard is a fraud! He swindled the voters into paying for his shoulder surgery then jumped ship after he and Manfre ran amok

  2. 30 Year Veteran Officer says:

    So Staly wants to be Sheriff? Well Rick you need to answer a few questions. This article said you ran for Sheriff of Orange County as a Democrat and today you are a Republican, what will you be tomorrow? I always wondered why a Democrat Sheriff, Manfre, hired a Republican UnderSheriff, you, but I see now you have always been a Democrat. Perhaps it will come out soon that you and Manfre had a side deal of some sort regarding your party allegiance? Did you only become a Republican because you moved into Flagler which is a mostly Republican County?You said you wanted to spend more time with your family when you retired, so did you lie about that and how does your family feel now? The Flagler County Sheriff’s Office did not go down hill after you left, it has only been a few months ago. It started it’s slide when you became the number 2 man in the agency.

    It is time for new blood. Time to choose either O’Gara, Lamb or Whisenant. Time for me to check these three out as we don’t need Manfre, Fleming or Staly anymore!

    • Buddy Negron says:

      He’s already explained all that “30 year”. It’s even in one of the news articles. He’s a lifelong Republican who ran as a Dem is Orange County. Big deal! As sheriff, you don’t legislate laws, write them, or enact them. You enforce them. When someone calls 911 we don’t ask their party affiliation and base our response on that. What’s the difference. Quit trying to Slime the ONLY qualified candidate for Flagler county Sheriff, Rick Staly. The proof is in facts and evidence. You claim to have been an LEO, but clearly are subjective and personal in your assessments. And really, OGara, never been a cop. Whisenant, never been a cop. And Lamb? That’s the biggest joke. A carpet bagging failed Deputy Chief demoted and spanked down to Lt.? C’mon man. Seriously. You’re a dreamer 30-year and live in your own little fantasy land. Put Staly’s creds and experience up against any of them and he wins hands down. Amateur hour in Flagler county Florida is over!!

      • Ray Thorne says:

        Buddy Negron, This is very disrespectful to the other hopeful candidates. Obviously Staly knows who you are and thats quite concerning that he lets you go on like this. You’ve been out of control here and clearly do not have any facts…only put downs.

      • Ray Thorne says:

        why Staly hasn’t shut you down yet is a mystery to me….but go on.

  3. Samuel L. Bronkowitz says:

    Vote status/quo for 2016.

  4. Samuel Adams says:

    Will we have to worry about innocent homes being busted down by the “SWEAT” team because they chose the wrong house. How many innocent pets most be killed by these lethal ninja wanna-a-be’s……I don’t like any of the choices !!!!! I vote for We the People policing ourselves. I’d feel much safer.

  5. DwFerg says:

    LOOKS LIKE THE 2016 Election season will be exciting both nationally and locally. Imagine all the money that will get invested to “serve “. The sheriff’s job must be quite rewarding for the same people seeking re-election as well as, attracting several newcomers vying to lead law enforcement in Flagler. Wish, with the demise of red light cameras, there were more visible police patrols on local roads as the speeds and reckless lane changing seems to be on the rise with a third of our population that are seasonal residents not yet even back in town ! Crimes must be punished accordingly to make the community a place where criminals will avoid…it is shameful that economic development is enhanced by building added jail capacity, and jobs are added in law enforcement and government..

  6. Anonymous says:

    “40” years in law enforcement, stay retired!

  7. Liar in truth says:

    These are the facts. Staly told me and multiple others over a year and a half ago that he was going to run for sheriff. Do you really believe that he met with Pollinger to see “if” he ran would Pollinger support him? Staly is simply not telling the truth or Pollinger is lying, Staly used Flagler county and the tax payers to pay for his medical expenses and costly surgeries to he could sit at home and recover while collecting a huge salary. He told many that he was going to do this!! Multiple people somehow knew Staly was running for sheriff last year and posted that on this website. Please wake up people. Now….Staly releases a statement that crime is on the rise since he left in March??? Are you serious? Staly personally fired many career law enforcement officers employed by the FCSO for no reason other than the fact that he wants to be sheriff and removing competition is his motif. Staly created these “problems that need fixing” so that he could offer solutions. LOSER!

  8. Old mondex says:

    Same old same old !!! Just like our president ,,,WE NEED A CHANGE !!!!! I’m not going to sling the mud
    Like I normally would ,,but it comes with age ,,,,,,,WISDOM & NKOWLEDGE,,,I’m told ,,,,,I don’t believe Manfre stands a chance this time around ,,,the citizens I believe really had enough ,,and there saying Fleming is taking a poke at it again ? If Staly, gets elected maybe ,Manfre will be his undersheriff,,,,LOL..
    One question, : wonder if Jeff Hoffman is going to take a crack at it ? Heck he’s Been around enough in all the department ‘s ,,if he does get elected ( God help us ) And poor old Jim …he’s not even going to get a chance to try out the new desk in the newly re-modeled building ,,,,AKA : the old hospital

    • Flagler Resident says:

      Having the privileged of meeting Mr. Steve Clair sometime ago I couldn’t agree more he would make an excellent Sheriff and breathe new life into a department in desperate need of effective leadership.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Why on earth would we want Manfre’s Undersheriff? I mean seriously? He, Manfre, Fleming and Pollinger are all part of the problem! It’s like we lives in old scholl USSR, “Here’s the new boss, same as the old boss!” Let pick someone who is not part of this band of clowns.

    • Dan Skipper says:

      This is the guy that left because Manfre was digging a hole, violating laws, and wouldn’t listen, take advice, or change. He even testified against the guy for the state. What else should he do. He’s got my vote. Staly is my guy! The only guy really.

  10. The truth says:


  11. Jim says:

    Finally the self-proclaimed hero announces he’s running for Sheriff after getting his second wife to nominate him for a medal for being a superstar. NO REAL L.E.O. EVER goes looking for accreditation and or medals only ones with BIG EGOS!!!! This man DESTROYED the F.C.S.O. as MUCH as MANFRE IF NOT MORE!

  12. Jim says:

    Finally the self-proclaimed hero announces he’s running for Sheriff after getting his second wife to nominate him for a medal for being a superstar. NO REAL L.E.O. EVER goes looking for accreditation and or medals only ones with BIG EGOS!!!! This man DESTROYED the F.C.S.O. as MUCH as MANFRE IF NOT MORE! I can’t stop laughing….FIRST Staly gets Fleming the membership for Hammock Beach… then dimes him out to Manfre during Manfre’s campaign … then he tells Manfre to be his guest and get away for the weekend and “Stay at my place”!!!! THEN HE DIMES HIM OUT!!!!! ANYONE see a pattern here. THIS EGO MANIAC IS RUTHLESS…. NO WAY SHOULD HE EVEER BE CONSIDERED A LEADER!!!

  13. jbeagles says:

    Looking at the field of those running, John Lamb looks very interesting! The sheriff’s office needs a huge kick in the ass and a major overhaul! Get rid of the old and bring in someone new with LEO experience. Whoever does get elected has a huge undertaking in getting things right and it’s going to take more than one and possbily more terms to do it. People need to get educated and pay attention!!!!!!


    Smells of pure B.S. politics to me, full of ‘tit for tat’ yet not one word about what the responsibility of Sheriff means beyond getting elected.. Pretty sick all around. Time for a hired police chief and to hell with having to vote between Republican and Democrat Sheriffs who really don’t have to answer to anyone!…. Wipe the slate clean – real clean- and let’s amend the charter to do away with partisan elected Sheriffs who aren’t required by law to know didly squat…

  15. Dan Skipper says:

    That’s not what people tell me Jim. Many of the employees like Staly. I think it sounds like you have a personal issue with him.

    • Ray Thorne says:

      Think about it…when asking employees about someone who could be their potential boss do you think you’ll get a negative response? They’ll tell you the same about each candidate.

      • Dan Skipper says:

        Oh really? Ask the employees what they think of Manfre or Fleming. They’ll tell you! Lol. Oh, except Manfre has threatened any employees who even communicate with other candidates camps, or speak negatively about him, will lose their jobs. Manfre is a bully. But yes, inside FCSO Staly is very well respected.

  16. Buddy Negron says:

    I agree Dan. This guy is upset and doesn’t have his facts right. Staly had nothing to do with fleming’s ethics issues or Hammock Beach. And recommended and gave Manfre the correct daily rates for the cabin. Indeed correct, it was Manfre who messed that up intentionally too because he was defrauding the county. Staly had non tension of leaving until Manfre, who’s the real ego maniac, wouldn’t listen to reason, take advice, and Staly knew trouble was coming for Manfre because of his lack of good judgement and poor decision making. It had nothing to do with the shoulder surgery. Staly is the ONLY qualified and viable candidate in the bunch and has my support and vote too.

    • 30 Year Law Enforcement Officer says:

      Buddy, sorry but I disagree with you about Staly. The #2 man at a Sheriff’s Office runs the day-to-day operations. He didn’t get it done. He was a hench-man for Manfre now wants to distance himself? As a life-long conservative Republican, I tell you it bothers me immensely that Staly ran for Sheriff in Orange County as a DEMOCRAT! I hope all my conservative friends take note that Staly might be a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

  17. biker says:

    Enough with the popularity contests. We need a nationwide search for a proven LE leader. A leader with a real confirmable track record. The county is growing as is crime. Reclassification or under reporting by the SO is rampant. Someone has to be brought in to clean up this mess.

    • Ray Thorne says:

      This isn’t a police chief job where candidates can come from anywhere…this is a local elected position and anyone wishing to run must live within the county.

      • Dan Skipper says:

        Agreed Ray, except John Lamb doesn’t live in Flagler county and never has. Hasn’t ever worked here either. He’s running for his own personal reasons. Not for Flagler residents or the SO.

        • Ray Thorne says:

          Mr Lamb made the comment that Jacksonville is much closer than New York or New Jersey where most candidates come from…..that comment is indicative to his lack of knowledge of the residents this area and the voter base…he’s young enough, maybe he can reside here a few years first and then consider a run.

          • 30 Year Law Enforcement Officer says:

            So Ray, Do you want New Yorker Manfre to stay, New Jersey Fleming to come back, Democrat South Carolina Wisenant, New Yorker O’Gara, or Democratic Orange County Staly?

            • Ray Thorne says:

              I’ll only say that who we support individually, is a choice we all are free to make. I’m sure we can agree that who we don’t want (ever again) is the current Sheriff. I also think we shouldn’t brand the candidates by where they are from… I’m a NYer here over 20 years …this is my home and I know the ins and outs of our entire county but if I were to run for local office someday I guess I’d be branded a NYer and whatever knowledge I have wouldn’t matter because a person from somewhere within the state who has no knowledge of our town would take preference? That makes little sense. And if you’re a member of FCSO then perhaps you were one of the majority of deputies who jumped on the Manfre bandwagon when he resided here for just a minute to get McCarthy out? How’d that work out?

  18. Army Vet says:

    Manfre, Flemming, and Staly all 3 are a joke. I am starting to wonder if there is anyone that is capable of running for Sheriff or President that has the People in mind instead of their own wallet or agenda!!

  19. MarieS says:

    How about this:

    Palm Coast residents agree to payer higher taxes and get our own Police Dept. Enough with the Sheriff’s office & their politics.
    Crime is terrible. Gangs, drugs, break ins etc. Rampant..

    The Sheriff’s Dept can’t handle it and usually act like you’re bothering them when you call.

    Enough with the politics. WHo wants to serve?

    We need new blood. No more of these old politicians. We need a Law Enforcement leader with some energy.

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