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State Report Details Disturbing Patterns at Bunnell PD and Favors For Comm. Jimmy Flynt

| August 15, 2010

bunnell commissioner jimmy flynt

Commissioner 'I Run This Town,' with a direct line to his business. (© FlaglerLive)

In mid-June John Murray, the second-highest ranked police officer of the Bunnell Police Department, and his wife Lisa, also a Bunnell Police officer, were arrested on felony charges of official misconduct (in Lisa’s case) and official misconduct, tampering with evidence, cocaine possession and grand theft in John’s case. The charges resulted from a State Attorney’s investigation began on March 2.

That investigation did not focus only on the Murrays. The State Attorney’s office broadened the investigation to include Bunnell City Commissioner John “Jimmy” Flynt and his Bunnell business, Saxon’s Wrecker; conduct and procedures in the entire Bunnell Police Department; and involvement of the Bunnell City administration in facilitating allegations of favoritism for Flynt and his business. Investigators examined allegations about three city managers’ favoritism toward Flynt, including the current city manager, Armando Martinez, and former managers Sid Crosby and Richard Diamond. Investigators questioned Flynt (under oath), Crosby and Diamond, but not Martinez.

Earlier this week, the State Attorney’s Office released the 35-page, 16,000-word report of the investigation. While the report does not explicitly point to outright criminal activity beyond the Murrays’ alleged actions, it documents a succession of misconduct, intimidation, false arrests—what the investigation sums up as “improper towing and seizure practices”—and “a complete lack of organization within the BPD property and evidence facility.”


Read the Full State Attorney’s Report:



Bunnell City Manager Armando Martinez said in an interview Sunday evening that he had told Bunnell Police Chief “to pull all those cases. We’re looking at them one by one,” and that the city had strict anti-profiling policies in place. If there were problems, they’d be addressed through complaints to the city or the police department. Martinez said no such complaints have been filed.

The investigation also points to a long pattern of favoritism toward Flynt. The favoritism involved not just throwing wrecking calls to Flynt’s towing company out of the normal rotation of three towers in Bunnell, but also granting him free rein of the city’s tire-dump, at taxpayers’ expense and outside of tire-disposal regulations. The dumping favor, permitted by three managers, including Martinez (according to Flynt), included a clicker of Flynt’s own to open and close the gate to the city’s public works department yard where the dumpsters are located.

Flynt says he never knew that towing calls were directed to him as a favor. And he says he was doing the city a favor by, as a courtesy, disposing of tires allegedly dumped “illegally” on his property in the city dumpster. Flynt has a close relationship with Waste Pro, the waste-management company under contract by Bunnell.

What is clear from the investigation is that in every single case where individuals testified to being arrested and having their vehicles towed against their will and without being asked if they have a wrecker preference, Flynt’s Saxon’s wrecker did the towing. (Vehicle owners have the option of requesting a particular tower, though the Bunnell Police Department seldom gave owners that option. In most circumstances vehicle owners must also be afforded the opportunity to have their vehicle driven away by someone else, to avoid towing charges. Numerous vehicle owners told investigators they were never given that opportunity.

In one case, Jennifer Cauldwell told investigators that she was stopped for driving on a suspended license as she was driving through Bunnell with a black woman in the car and her three children. Cauldwell herself is white. The detail is notable because several people reported to investigators thaty they felt they were arrested for having someone of another race in their car. Cauldwell, who was pregnant, was given a ticket. Her car was towed (out of rotation, by Flynt’s Saxon’s Towing). She was never given an opportunity to call someone else to drive away the car, and had to pay $950 to retrieve it–$350 to the Bunnell Police Department, and $600 to Flynt’s company.

The State Attorney’s office launched the investigation in March when a Bunnell business owner Donald Kokenge filed a battery complaint against the commissioner following an altercation involving the men. Flynt was attempting to collect on a $165 debt from a towing charge against Kokenge. It was during that by-now familiar incident in Bunnell that Flynt angrily told Kokenge that he was a city commissioner and “I run this town.” Kokenge reported that Flynt used a police radio to summon Lisa Murray to the scene, where Murray proceeded to threaten Kokenge to pay up or face arrest. Flynt was never charged, but the investigation into favoritism spawned from that incident.

The investigation—led by Jim Parker, who wrote the report—led to documentation of complaints filed with Bunnell Police Chief Arthur Jones by John Rogers, owner of John’s Towing in Bunnell, that calls were being thrown to Flynt out of rotation as well as “unrelated complaints by other active law enforcement officers, of improper behavior, favoritism and misconduct by Cpl. Lisa Murray and her husband, Lt. John Murray.”   Rogers complained that wrecker calls to him slowed down in October 2008, that the situation was briefly corrected after he’d complained verbally, but that the diversions had started up again later. Rogers told the investigator that “Flynt had a police radio that he used to monitor the towing calls and none of the other wreckers had one.”

Flynt confirmed to FlaglerLive in June that he had a police radio, but that he had turned it over that June to the police department. Bunnell Mayor Catherine Robinson also said she had a police radio.

Parker’s report then systematically documents the investigation’s findings from March through June—documentation that unravels disturbing patterns of disappearing and reappearing evidence within the police department, and of numerous arrests of individuals going through Bunnell, often without charges  ever being filed, that resulted in cars towed against the individuals’ wishes and with no apparent justification other than to enable the city to collect a $350 “administrative fee” and towers to collect much larger fees.

Martinez, the city manager, says the city is looking into those cases (where charges were never filed), but that merely because arrest reports didn’t make it to the State Attorney’s office didn’t necessarily mean that the reports weren’t generated. Martinez said part of the problem may have been John Murray, who did not convey the reports to the State Attorney’s office.

The Murrays were not the only issue in the police department.

Parker, the investigator, describes an incident in March when he was requesting copies of all reports produced after four traffic operations conducted by the department. The reports were important because they documented who got towing calls. Parker was in the office of John Murray, who was in charge of Bunnell’s police evidence. The office was “in obvious disarray,” with evidence strewn all around. The investigator had asked for one particular report. “Lt. Murray was unable to locate the report and advised me that Sgt. David Barbee had completed it,” Parker’s investigation reads. “I requested Sgt. Barbee to be called in to obtain the missing packet. Sgt. Barbee responded to the BPD and searched his office. He said he knew one was completed but also could not locate it. I then asked Lt. Murray and Sgt. Barbee which of them had the operational packet. Both pointed at each other and did not seem to know where it was. I asked if it mysteriously disappeared or inadvertently destroyed because it was the source of the wrecker complaint and public records request. Neither Murray nor Barbee had a response and Chief Jones apologized for the confusion.” (Contacted Sunday evening, Jones said he had not had time to fully read the report and would address it Monday.)

The investigation drew up a list of 29 individuals who were stopped by the Bunnell Police Department and had their vehicles towed. Several would not cooperate for fear of retribution. Many did cooperate. Dennis Williams of Palm Coast was among them. He was stopped in October 2008. He’s black. His story is emblematic of the pattern of improper, possibly racially motivated arrests, intimidation and shakedowns that fill the report.

“Mr. Williams said he was stopped by BPD officers as he pulled into the Citco at US-I and SR 100,” the report state. “He said he thought he was stopped because he had a white female in the car. He said he was told he was stopped for running a stop sign and no seat belt but was only issued a ticket for the seat belt. Mr. Williams said he was drinking a cup of beer but the officers ignored the beer and searched his car. He said they located a small piece of metal pipe in the back seat and said it was drug paraphernalia and needed to tow his car. Mr. Williams said his car was in the parking space at the Citco and he couldn’t understand why they needed to tow it. Mr. Williams said his friend’s girlfriend was with him and she could have driven but said they towed it anyway. He said the officers told him they had a right to tow his car because they found drug paraphernalia. Mr. Williams said he was taken to the BPD while the officer wrote him a seat belt ticket. He said the officer was writing another report and said it was for the drug paraphernalia but he was eventually released and told to walk home. Mr. Williams said he later tried to obtain his car and discovered that he had to pay $350.00 to the BPD. He said he met with Chief Jones but was denied a waiver of the administrative fee.”

Flynt’s towing company charged him $700 to retrieve his car. “Williams,” the report continues, “said he was out of work and did not have the money to pay the fees so Saxon’s Wrecker eventually sold his car at auction. Mr. Williams said he paid $3500.00 for his car and that’s all the transportation he had. He said he was very upset about losing his car over a seat belt ticket but and didn’t know what else to do. (sic.)” He was never charged with having “drug paraphernalia” or any other crime.

The report also notes that one driver was arrested for having no tag light, another for “sticking to the white line.” A third driver called a friend to give her a ride after her car was towed, and his car was towed. In every case, the vehicles ended up being towed by Flynt’s company.

Flynt’s tire-dumping is a sub-plot to the investigation, and one apparently prompted by a report from Flynt’s fellow city commissioner, Elbert Tucker who, when asked by the investigator if he knew of any instances of favoritism, noted the allegation of Flynt’s tire-dumping. The investigator said he “understood the Public Works dumpster, designated for tires, had a fee associated with that specific dumpster.” Parker, the investigator, continued in his report: “I said typically consumers are charged a disposal fee when they purchase tires. If the business owner is collecting that fee then disposing of the tires at the expense of another, the City of Bunnell, then it may be theft depending on what could be proved. I told Mr. Tucker that I would investigate further and thanked him for his call and his commitment to the City of Bunnell.”

The investigation led to former Bunnell Public Works Director Eric Crandall, who told the investigator that what started as a one-time thing, allegedly with former city manager Richard Diamond’s permission, turned into routine dumping that continued through current City Manager Armando Martinez’s administration. “Don’t worry about it,” Crandall said Martinez told him when he raised the issue with him. “It’s no big deal.”

“Totally not true,” Martinez said Sunday evening. “I’ve never said that to him.” Crandall was fired for misconduct in 2009 following an internal investigation.

Flynt, however, confirmed to investigators not only that he was dumping tires without paying at the city’s public works dumping cite, but that he had always sought permission from Sid Crosby and Richard Diamond, two previous city managers, and Martinez, the current manager and former police chief. According to the investigator’s report, “Flynt speculated that people throw away their tires and put them near his dumpster on the outside of the fence after hours” at Flynt’s wrecker business. “Flynt stated he throws these ‘illegally’ dumped tires over the fence of his business and as a courtesy occasionally runs them out to Public Works to ‘properly’ dispose of the tires.” The report adds, “Mr. Flynt also stated he was doing the City a favor by taking the time to transport the ‘illegally’ dumped tires to the dumpster.”

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17 Responses for “State Report Details Disturbing Patterns at Bunnell PD and Favors For Comm. Jimmy Flynt”

  1. County Worker says:

    I hope this scum bag gets what he deserves.

  2. starfyre says:

    he will be forgiven

  3. Marie says:

    Sounds like it’s time for Bunnell to bring in the FCSO and do away with their Police Dept and Fire all of those involved, including the Murrays, Flynt & Martinez, and no longer allow Saxons to provide towing service for the city/county.

  4. Anon says:

    The town manager states in referring to the cases
    “We’re looking at them one by one,” and that the city had strict anti-profiling policies in place. If there were problems, they’d be addressed through complaints to the city or the police department. Martinez said no such complaints have been filed.”

    Yeah, sure.
    Let the police investigate the police.
    Why doesn’t he also let the mice guard the cheese?

    Show me a citizen that has the short sightedness to complain to the police about the police and I’ll show you a citizen who is the brunt of a campaign of harassment. I would wager that most of these folks who were harassed, profiled, illegally towed etc., are poor people.

    Mr. Flynt was no doubt doing the city a favor by disposing of tires that was left on his property and in turn the city was returning the favor by way of its corruptive and collusive business practices.

    How come there have been no criminal charges filed?
    Oh I forgot the town manager says he is waiting for a complaint.

    I wonder if this scam was pulled on anyone driving a Mercedes or Lexus and who resides in the high rent / ownership areas of Hammock Beach

  5. elaygee says:

    Bunnell is a cesspool of corruption and should be taken over by the State of Florida.

  6. Winston says:

    do not think for a second that many current bunnell police employees are not rejoicing in this, it is refreshing
    for them to see this all get aired out, and ask yourselves, hmmm, did the higher ups not know about this. not all cops are bad and the good ones like to see corrupt cops and politicians go down.

  7. kurt says:

    The investigation—led by Jim Parker, who wrote the report—led to documentation of complaints filed with Bunnell Police Chief Arthur Jones by John Rogers, owner of John’s Towing in Bunnell, that calls were being thrown to Flynt out of rotation as well as “unrelated complaints by other active law enforcement officers, of improper behavior, favoritism and misconduct by Cpl. Lisa Murray and her husband, Lt. John Murray.”

  8. Kevin says:

    Wow…As Clint said, “Hang ’em High!”

  9. Ralph Belcher says:

    Will Flynt continue his air of arrogance and remain in office? I’ll bet my kids’ milk money that the guy tries to remain in office. The Court of Public Opinion is not an indictment in itself; Flynt will remain innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. With that said, there is something terribly rotten in Bunnell, and anyone can plainly smell it eminating from roll-up garage doors of the greasy little service stalls at Saxon’s Auto Repair and Towing. It will be interesting to find out who will stand deliver – and use the powers given by the citizens of Bunnel to take care of this stinking carcass.

  10. They should fire everyone in BPD and start over with other people. I’m sure they can fine someone who knows what they are doing–and again maybe not—

  11. Itchey says:

    I am very disappointed that the other commisioners of the City of Bunnel have not contacted the Govenors Office and asked him to initiate a formal complaint, and investigation into criminal malfeasance of office, and Public Corruption on the part of Jimmy Flynt.

    What makes him so special?
    Why does the rest of Bunnel Commision not take their responsibilities seriously and allow this to continue?
    Are there other things a State Investigation would find that they do not want out?

  12. starfyre says:

    ive told you all-he wil be forgiven

    dont you get it?

    he did no wrong in the eyes of the lord—he is already forgiven–those taking his money away are the evil ones

  13. Anonymous says:

    My son was stopped in Flagler Beach and his car was searched. He was arrested and his car was towed for “drug paraphernalia.” The police officer found a wooden pipe; there were no drugs in the pipe or car. The young officer who stopped him wanted to let him go, but another officer insisted that he be arrested.
    I had to spend approximately $2,000 (around $300 to retrieve the car) to keep him from having an arrest record and drug charge. As everyone knows, an arrest and drug charge is almost a death sentence, especially for a black male. He would have been unable to get any type of decent job. Plus he would have been put in a position to explain his “drug charge” every time he applied for a job.
    For any young man, this type of arrest can literally ruin their lives. I strongly feel that some officers are fully aware of that fact and target certain types of young men for searches and arrest.
    In fact, it is rumored that a high ranking public official told some black men to keep their young sons off the streets at night in Flagler Country.
    Needless to say, I was happy when my son left Flagler Country to live elsewhere.

  14. Anonymous says:

    My son was stopped in Flagler Beach and his car was searched. He was arrested and his car was towed for “drug paraphernalia.” The police officer found a wooden pipe; there were no drugs in the pipe or car. The young officer who stopped him wanted to let him go, but another officer insisted that he be arrested.
    I had to spend approximately $2,000 (around $300 to retrieve the car) to keep him from having an arrest record and drug charge. As everyone knows, an arrest and drug charge is almost a death sentence, especially for a black male. He would have been unable to get any type of decent job. Plus he would have been put in a position to explain his “drug charge” every time he applied for a job.
    For any young man, this type of arrest can literally ruin their lives. I strongly feel that some officers are fully aware of that fact and target certain types of young men for searches and arrest.
    In fact, it is rumored that a high ranking public official told some black men to keep their young sons off the streets at night in Flagler County.
    Needless to say, I was happy when my son left Flagler County to live elsewhere.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Clean house, this is a disgrace for this time and age. Don’t you think it is a conflict of interest, to own a towing company and be in charge of the police department, if you don’t you should. And why is it such a high cost
    to have your car towed,

    1. Have a public committee select the towing services.
    2. Monitor the rotations list
    3. question why it cost so much to have car towed
    4. All radios are recorded , make it a policy for dispatch to contact on call tow or friend or relative
    5. Last by not least clean up the mess in BPD. Its a disgrace.

  16. Joe says:

    This police scandal is got to be a close second to “Serpico” and it would make a good sequel to “Godfather IV”

    I just started to read the entire report and already I’m puking with disgust. This scheme was nothing less than a crime syndicate involving 2 repugnant cops and filthy politicians.

    What happened to the victims is appalling and unconcsionable to say the least. It goes to show that terrorism comes in different form.

  17. John says:

    Cynthia K Woods-Paolino

    Wow, this is crazy. I was just there on Saturday morning and had to pay this man over $400 to get my truck back. I was thinking of writing the newspaper about it and the next day, here it is. He also made a comment to me about being give a lift by a BLACK man after his driver told him he saw a black man give me a ride. This man does not even use a register, he pulled out his WALLET to give me change. He charged me this: Mileage $73 (I was on Belle Terre near the Parkway), towing $125.00, Labor $100, Storage $25 (8 hours), Gate Fee? $50.00, another tow two blocks away to tire store $45.00 and said he would WAIVE the Admin FEE? $125.00 plus had the nerve to tell us to ask for him if we needed to towing service again and he would give us a good deal!!!!!! Think this guy gets favoritism or pays taxes or follows the law? I think not! I did not see his driver or him that night and he continued to tell me that I should be lucky I was not arrested at my house for leaving the scene of an accident! What acccident, I blew out my tires on a local road and got a ride back to my house 3 miles down the road!

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