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Sheriff Manfre Calls Ethics Case Against Him “Terrorism,” Vows to Fight To Supreme Court

| April 22, 2016

manfre terrorism ethics

Sheriff Jim Manfre this morning on WNZF, when he called the ethics case against him a form of ‘terrorism.’ (WNZF)

Calling the protracted ethics case against him “terrorism,” “nonsense” and politically motivated “slime” by two former colleagues, Flagler County Sheriff Jim Manfre this morning delivered his most detailed—and impassioned—defense of himself since the case against him began in 2014.

His voice even keeled but pitched to the unmistakable timbre of outrage, the sheriff delivered an uninterrupted, seven-minute soliloquy on WNZF’s Free For All Friday with David Ayres in which he pledged to take his case all the way to the Florida Supreme Court and lost his re-election race if necessary, if that’s what it takes to clear his name.

Though he twice was willing to settle the case, the sheriff now speaks of being wronged by the commission and set-up by his ex-Undersheriff Rick Staly and ex-Finance Director Linda Bolante. His long speech was part of a 20-minute discussion Ayres prompted when he repeated the suggestion made in a News-Journal editorial, and echoed across the community, that Manfre would do well to settle the case once and for all and focus on his re-election. Manfre had at one time decided to do just that, only to reverse course and opt to fight on.

On Friday, he spoke as the lawyer he is, as if he were making opening arguments in the next phase of his legal campaign, which now goes before a court of appeal. The case against him began when Bolante charged that he misused department vehicles for personal use (a charge since dropped by the ethics commission), that he did not properly disclose a gift when he stayed at Staly’s cabin in Pigeon Forge, and that he inappropriately charged meals and alcohol to a department credit card. In every case, Manfre says he did not violate either a law or a policy, but was given bad advice by Bolante (who is also suing the sheriff in circuit court for wrongful termination).

Audio: Manfre’s Re-Opening Arguments[sc_embed_player_template1 fileurl=”″]Problems hearing? Click here.

While the case against Manfre has been exhaustively, painfully reported at every twist, his appearance on WNZF this morning was especially notable on two counts: despite numerous statements and one particularly caustic and at times bitter news conference, he’d never spoken of the case at this length, combining his defense with a renewed sense of slash-and-burn attacks on his opponents, not least of them the ethics commission itself. He’s never used language as grave as he did today: “Myself or anyone succeeding me in the sheriff’s office or any political position,” Manfre said, “should not be subject to this kind of terrorism. It is—political terrorism.”  (He did not explain how the case amounted to “terrorism” ).

Taking on the ethics commission made his threat to appeal the case to the supreme court potentially more consequential than the case’s more immediate effects on his reelection, because Manfre is now saying that the ethics commission’s methods are at fault. He’s not the first politician or public official to say so: those targeted with ethics complaints often do, especially when, despite being cleared, they must defend themselves at their own expense. But politicians rarely press their case past the commission to a court of appeal, let alone to the supreme court.

Should he do so, it doesn’t mean the court will hear his case. Having himself at least twice shown willingness to settle the case considerably weakens his chances of catching the high court’s attention despite now framing his strategy in a fight to clear his name: he may have felt wrong all along, but he didn’t show it all along, and his changes of heart along the way mirror those of the commission’s zigzagging fines.

The full, unedited seven minutes of his soliloquy is transcribed below. The full 20-minute audio of the segment with Ayres and Brian McMillan, the Observer’s editor, is also included.

Sheriff Manfre: Yeah, it would be a smart political move to do what they’ve suggested and other people have suggested. [That is, to settle the case.] But there’s something fundamental here.

As I’ve indicated, yeah, I was a prosecutor, I am a man of laws. I have never seen a more arbitrary process than this ethics commission. In my opinion, the whole thing is unconstitutional about how they go about it. We have seen a spate of ethics complaints bin this community. It’s being used as a political tool against people who oppose other people in our community, and particularly with me. This is an outrage that this has even gotten to this stage. And as I explained to people: this ethics commission is like a, is like, I decided we’re no longer going to go through the regular system when it comes to speed limits. We’ll decide when you are driving unlawfully, you’ll appear before the sheriff, who’ll then prosecute the case, and then I’ll decide how I’m going to fine you, and by the way, if you happen to be Republican and I’m a Democrat, I’m going to fine you more money, because that’s essentially what happened here. This is nonsense. If I did something wrong, and believe [me], I do things wrong, I make mistakes, like when we arrested this—Dakota Ward, the wrong person. I called him up personally and said, ‘I am sorry, we made a mistake.’ Our deputies make mistakes. I do, and I always own up to my mistakes.

I didn’t do anything wrong here. I was set up by two people, and they both should be ashamed of themselves to using the system for the wrong political purposes. Linda Bolante, who was, there are two people who I charged and trusted to give me advice. I’d not been in office for eight years. I’d been practicing law and doing development law. I came back to a system that I did not know how they were functioning, and asked their opinions about things. They’re not supposed to tell me things that get me in trouble for the wrong political purposes. Do you know Linda Bolante who was the complainant here did not even testify at the ethics commission, because her credibility was so damaged in a deposition. When she was asked, why did you not tell the sheriff—let me go back what happened. I walk in the door and I said to her, I’m going to sheriff’s conferences, in each of these instances I was going to sanctioned events. What is our procedure?

Manfre's Ethics:
The Documents

People say well, why don’t you remember from eight years ago. I don’t remember anything from eight years ago, and even if I did, I’m asking what the policy is that day. I hadn’t had a chance to review all the policies. We did eventually, and changed all these policies so no one, this would not happen again. What is the policy when I go away to the sheriffs’ conference in February? Put everything on your credit card, we’ll deduct it from your per diem, and if there’s a difference, we will let you know. And by the way this is done in multiple communities in the state. Daytona Shores has a policy that specifically says what I’ve just told you. There’s nothing illegal about that type of policy. So that’s what I did. We’re talking about $300, three days, three years ago.

That’s what we’re talking about here, and over a period of time, she did not keep track of what the reimbursements. That’s what she does, that’s what I paid her for, $93,000 a year, the former sheriff was paying her, and she did not tell me what was going on. Any time—it was four different times: February, May, July, and then twice in July. If I was doing something that was not within the policy, which there was no policy no matter what she says, there was no obvious policy in the agency, why don’t you just call me and tell me that? For $93,000. Sheriff, you’re not filling this form correctly. This is the way we do it here. When she was asked why didn’t you tell the sheriff, you know what her response was? He’s an attorney, should have known better. That is, that is clear evidence that she was setting that up. And any court of law, any real court of law or any prosecutor would never have gone down this road. And in fact when we first went to the [Florida Ethics Commission] advocate, they wanted to dismiss all the charges. They said, this is all nonsense, it’s going away. And then they were told for political reason, you’ve got to take something. So we said ok, just to get rid of this like everyone says settle it. I did try to settle this. We said OK, I’ll, you know, the car which, again turned out that they did find that it was OK for me to use the car, which everyone, every sheriff uses basically the same way, I said ok, I’ll do that. Next thing you know we go before the commission they say naaah, we’re not going to do that, and now it’s $7,500. And then it’s $19,000. Then it’s $6,000. Really? And the two things that they dismissed at the beginning, those are the two things that they found. This is ridiculous. This is just pulling things out of the air.

And the same thing with Mr. Staly [Manfre’s former undersheriff]. This is the third time he’s been involved in ethics. And for all his supporters out there, smell the roses with this guy. I was also bamboozled by his personality. He went after sheriff [Dennis] Barry when he was the Orange County undersheriff, for ethics charge. He was the one who approved Don Fleming’s membership at the Club at Hammock Beach., and he was the one who, my wife will tell you this, she came home, I kept on coming over and saying Rick wants to go to stupid cabin, you know, bothering me every single day about it. Why don’t we just do it. I’ve been to Pigeon Forge a bunch of times, I didn’t need to do up there. I was like just to keep him from bothering me I went up to this cabin for a couple of days. And one of the things that the News-Journal got wrong, the reason why I put down $44 is that’s what’s the instruction in the gift disclosure form said. If it’s a private residence, you value it at $44. I went to my attorney, said, do you agree with this? He said yes, it’s $44. That’s why I put it down.

“I will fight this to the end whether I win or lose the sheriff’s office, whether the public accepts that or not, this is my fundamental right.”

All of that testimony came out. And still, this ethics commission decided to levy a fine that is 10, 15 times the value of the benefit that I got. Now, you have Don Fleming, who for five years had a membership which I was a member, which cost me $20,000 a year to be a member there, for five years he had that membership, almost $45,000 in benefit, $20,000 spent in food and beverage. He got a $4,000 discount. And got a $500 fine? Really? Come on. This is nonsense. This is slime. This is a political tax because I’m a Democrat. If I was Republican this would have never gotten even the time of day and I would have never seen this.

Now, the News-Journal, which I will go talk to them, I have a right to defend myself. And by the way a lot of people who get hit with these ethics charges, one sheriff told me he’s had 40 different ethics complaints. Now, I happen to have some money so I can defend myself. It’s cost me close to $40,000 to do this. Most people can’t do that. Ethics commission comes in, I’ve got to throw up my hands because it’s going to cost me $10,000 or $20,000. I will defend myself to the end, regardless of the cost, because this is a fundamental issue. The ethics commission should not be the court of star chamber. Myself or anyone succeeding me in the sheriff’s office or any political position should not be subject to this kind of terrorism. It is—political terrorism. And I will fight this to the end whether I win or lose the sheriff’s office, whether the public accepts that or not, this is my fundamental right, and this is something that will follow me for ever. I’m an attorney. I have to deal with this as well as an attorney. No one gets to send me, mark up my reputation without me fighting for it. And anyone who doesn’t believe that’s my right, you are wrong.

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30 Responses for “Sheriff Manfre Calls Ethics Case Against Him “Terrorism,” Vows to Fight To Supreme Court”

  1. K says:

    Good Lord, he’s lost his mind.

  2. Concerned Citizen says:

    Well Sheriff Manfre. Here we go again. You got caught doing wrong so you deflect the blame on everyone else. Not once in this whole mess that YOU created by the way have you owned up to anything. I suppose one shouldn’t expect less this day and age. How sad though.

    We don’t buy the poor pitiful me routine you are trying to sell. You got caught violating laws and policy’s that a lot of ordinary citizens would go to prison for. But you aren’t an ordinary citizen you’re a Sheriff of a county and you were sadly elected a second time to protect and serve. Not spend and violate. You have abused every aspect of your office violated the oath you took and show no signs of remorse or correcting your actions.

    You have brought shame and dishonor to the Office you old and the agency you head. From the mass firing and demoting of long time officers with experience to the hiring of the practically kids that are out there now you show you cannot manage. I guess we should not have expected more with no law enforcement background.

    Every day we read about some incident involving FCSO. A faltering communications system jeopardizing the women and men that protect us to false arrest and the hiring of an unqualified Manfre supporter. Yet where does the Sheriff stand? He gets his Chief Spokesperson to say problems? What problems. A real Sheriff would probably have not let things go this far but if had would man up and say hold on we need to fix this.

    The citizens of this county need better. We need a Sheriff and a Sheriff’s Department that will do actual police work. I have said it before and will say it again. Leadership starts from the top and works down. LEAD by example. This agency should be audited and investigated by an outside agency. After all you tout ethics and you claim to be accredited. Accredited by whom and how did you pass?

    Citizens of Flagler County do your civic duty and get out and VOTE this year. When you go to the polls remember these articles and the information you have. Let’s all get together and make a change. We don’t need a 4 term Sheriff who will keep doing the same things over again. YOU can make that happen !!!

  3. Robert Lewis says:

    Mr. Manfre got one thing right, “I am an attorney”. He’s certainly no Sheriff!
    Mr. Manfre claims there is a conspiracy, sounds a lot like Hillary Clinton.

  4. steve miller says:


  5. Bc. says:

    What a black eye the guy is to Flagler co.

  6. r&r says:

    He’s NUTS.

  7. Dennis says:

    Terrorism, really! This guy is an attorney and that’s it. He has no idea of what an honorable LEADER is. Blame everybody else for his flaws. What happened to common sense Sheriff. Driving your county issue car to Virginia was proof enough that you had no ethics whats ever. Your excuse was that you where on call 24 hours a day. Yet you are not certified, as a law enforcement officer by any state in this country, much less this county. So, who the hell would need you?

    News flash Mr. Attorney, ignorance is not an excuse. Go back to practicing what ever law it is you were practicing and leave the law enforcement to the professionals that are left. Hopefully, the next sheriff will hire back the experience you discarded for pure political purposes. What a disgrace!

  8. Alex Teeds says:

    What a disgraceful fool. I dont know if I should be laughing at this joke of a man and politician (yes, politician, NOT Officer), or if I should just feel deep pity for someone so stupid. Just get lost already Manfre, the whole county is tired of you and your good ole boys.

  9. anonymous says:

    what a total idiot this guy is… him..troiano… and who ever else rides on his train of worthlessness…. man up and pay the fine….. there are no leaders at this agency… they are guys with titles that say commander , but there are no true leaders… they don’t lead they dictate by the things of ways and manners that they were accustomed to, the is not Flagler county 1993 when there was no law enforcement presence … you have to change with the times and adjust and assimilate to todays police practices… this is one messed up organization .. they run everyone away with the BS… and they protect the ones they deem fit as their guy… theres only one other place i would compare this place to and that would be Waldo, fl, however that agency was disbanded due to unethical speed enforcement practices and embezzlement… I can’t think of a agency that he is claiming in which a sheriff has stated he gets ethical complaints all the time, that BS… i d think he realizes he is no longer the popular vote and even if a democrat where he was used to being the only guy in town,,,things are about to change… maybe he can run for Grand Haven chief of security..

  10. Learned your lesson? says:

    History repeats itsself. Staly undermined Orange County Sheriff and Manfre took the bait, brought him in as undersheriff and bingo….now he wants Manfres job. It is up to us voters to educate ourselves and send Staley packing. How could we ever trust this man as Sheriff? He was so big headed and egatistical and proved his inability to be loyal.

  11. Me says:

    Sure wish there was a LIKE button here, LOL.. Please escort him out of office and look forward to a new sheriff..

  12. jillian ricardo says:

    This towns ethics commission is a joke, they let off the head of public works
    Capela without a problem after countless issues in his deals and handling contract interests etc.
    why bother pursuing Manfre when they don’t seem to care about anything to begin with

  13. Veteran says:

    He can kiss being sheriff goodbye.

  14. Anonymous says:

    You keep spending your money Jim. Maybe sooner or later they will be believe you…. But all I know is that I trust Linda Bolante’s ethics over yours. As far as what you got with Staley is Karma.

  15. Sea Dog says:

    What a”WUSSIE”…..Man up you baby. Pay the fine and do the damn job you are PAID to do. Get out there on the street and arrest some of these hoodlums running around Palm Coast……

  16. I feel bad says:

    I feel bad for Manfre. After all I am a baker and I bake a mean muffin. But if I ran for sheriff I would have no idea what was expected of me. Put me in any kitchen no matter what oven they use and I’ll make you smile. On the same hand Manfre is an attorney. How in the world can he be expected to know the rules for being a police officer. We should all feel bad for him and sadly vote him out of office to release him from all these unfair rules.

  17. OldSeaDog says:

    Can we vote twice (JUST THIS NEXT TIME) in the upcoming election for Sheriff ?

  18. Democracy is important says:

    Please hear me out. I am 92 years old and very fit. I walk 2 miles every week and I eat broccoli every other holiday. Much like Mr. Manfre I feel the calling to public office. My great great grandfather collected taxes before the revolutionary war and I am very proud of that fact…May god rest his soul. I have finally decided to challenge the encoumbant tax collector for the position to honor my great great grandfather. I have always paid property taxes so I have a background in the area. Just like manfre, I will be unaware of what is expected of me if I should win this high paying position. But I am certain that the current employees in the tax collectors office will help me know everything I need to know once I win….right? No way you’re expecting me to understand what I’d is expected before I take office. That is crazy. Manfre I’m on your side!!

  19. Country says:

    You need to worry about the case against the fine and get your house in order..

  20. RT says:

    Run him out of Palm Coast like he was run out of Babylon N.Y.

  21. Anonymous says:

    First off there was a policy on ethics that discussed these issues when Manfre took office. It’s his fault if he signed off on it and didn’t read it. All Sheriff’s are required to read the existing policies and sign off on them. Secondly, He fired MANY people with experience that should not of been fired. Every time a new Sheriff comes to town in this agency someone gets fired. You NEVER see it happen at other Law Enforcement Agencies. You have to ask why do these Sheriff’s get away with it? It happen with Fleming bringing in his friends and campaign buddies. It happen with Manfre and it will happen with the next Sheriff. Whatever happen to just giving it time and making yourself know how things operate? That is called good managing.

    It has been my experience that most of the employees in this agency do not know how to respect their Sheriff. Under Fleming they cried about this and that. Under Manfre the same thing. It will continue with the next Sheriff. This agency needs some ads kicking sheriff to be a leader and lay down the law with its employees. Half of them don’t read or know policy and don’t care. Hench, the mistake with arresting the wrong person. It is very sad to see the unprofessionalism this agency maintains. Other agencies in the state are shaking their heads and laughing at us. Is this how we want our County portrayed?

    Please people vote for someone who has common sense and law enforcement background. Not from another state. Not someone from another County who had issues. Be smart and research your choices so that you can made the correct choice.

  22. Retired law enforcement says:

    When I listened to the interview I was saying to myself when is he going to blame Dick Cheney, Haliburton, Trump, the Trilateral Committee, the CIA, Martians and. Of course the BOOGEYMAN!

  23. PC Aviator says:

    Jim: There are several flaws in your argument.
    1. Ignorance is not a defense. You claim you knew nothing about this credit card nonsense and Linda Bolante should have kept you informed if you made an error in spending. The initial alcohol expenditures on the credit card were exposed in September/October 2013, in response to a Public Records Request from your then-terminated lieutenant, now hired again, Deputy Greg Weston. You had numerous meetings with your chosen Rick Staly and Linda Bolante regarding the misuse of credit cards. Yet, in May 2014, your wife and you purchased Chardonnay and Kahlua on the agency credit card AND Cornelia signed the receipt allowing the expenditure to be charged tot he room which was secured only by an FCSO credit card.

    Ignorance may be your best defense as you it suits you.

    2. Report of a Gift: Your heart wrenching story of being “begged” by Rick Staly to go stay at his cabin brings a tear to my eyes. Basically, Staly bullied you into driving 1000 miles round trip to stay in his cabin which he rents for $300+ per night. It is not a “private residence” as you claim. It is a business. Return to your Introduction to Law 101, Jim. This cabin provides revenue for your chosen Undersheriff. It is a business and must be reported as such. You claim you asked your attorney who advised you to claim this as $44/night. Don Fleming claimed he asked his attorney if he had to claim the amenities card for Ocean Hammock and was told he did not. So…your attorney’s advice is acceptable as a defense however, Sheriff Fleming should have known better?

    3. Linda Bolante: As Chief Financial Officer for FCSO, Linda has demonstrated her vast knowledge as she maintained a $20million budget, flawlessly, since Sheriff McCarthy’s tenure. She was your CFO during your first debacle and you maintained her as your CFO when you returned to wreak havoc in January 2013. Perhaps she should have been terminated or at least demoted on your first night along with the other inept members you fired or demoted. You CHOSE to keep Linda as your CFO. There were never any issues until she would not cover or lie for you.

    4. Don Fleming: Are you seriously comparing his use of personal money to your abuse of tax dollars? Really, Jim. I know as an attorney you are used to muddying the water….throw whatever you can and see what will stick. It was Staly who assisted in orchestrating this entire ethical report against Fleming. Staly also helped move your mistakes into the public arena as he distanced himself, all the while positioning himself to run against you.

    It was Jimmy Williams, your former supporter who you quickly shunned after election, who filed the ethic’s complaint against Fleming. It was also Jimmy Williams who met with you at Halifax Plantation on the day the complaint was filed. It was Jimmy who left the lunch meeting with you at Halifax Plantation and went to the Halifax Publix Plaza to “anonymously” tip off the News Journal on the ethics complaint against Don Fleming.

    Jim, it is perplexing to many as to how you sleep at night with the web of narcissistic lies you spew. Answer this for our inquiring minds: what do we have to do to get Jim and Cornelia Manfre out of Flagler County? Do you have to be threatened indictment as was done in the Town of Babylon?

  24. RT says:

    “It shows that the sheriff has embarrassed this community, those he has pledged to protect and serve, and he’s embarrassed the sheriff’s office by the finding that he in fact has violated the code of ethics. It’s been recently reported that Florida has one of the highest rates of corruption of any state, and it’s been reported that the ethics code needs to be tightened in order to prevent corruption, and one of the basic ways that public officials are corrupted is by accepting gifts from organizations for no other reason than the fact that they are public officials. So he’s violated a basic public trust by accepting this gift, then he violated the law by not reporting it. The ethics code is a law and he’s violated the law. It’s that simple. He’s the top law enforcement official in our community, and he’s now been charged with violating the law, so his credibility as a top law enforcement officer has now been injured. It’s now broken.”

    The above is what Manfre said (on this site) when interviewed about Fleming (who IMO was a great Sheriff) having a lousy membership card. When he thought the system was working for him, he praised the Ethics Commission. Now that he’s been caught with his pants down suddenly they’re “terrorists”. Everyone is out to get him lol. Does he meet Baker Act criteria yet?

  25. confidential says:

    Second time around that “We The People” elect Manfre for sheriff and the powers that be in read state Florida start the witch hunt allover again!
    He was set up a big ill intended trap and took the bait …what can I say. His predecessor Fleming was given a free Hammock Beach membership that he used well for over a year and this Florida Ethics commission gave him a “bad boy slap in the wrist and told him to give it back and a few hundred dollars fine”. This E. commission is bias, politically charged and right out party prejudiced! EC is hacking our elected Democrat constitutional officials in a very unfair manner while Republican past constitutional officials that made much higher and costly violations have been let go with flying colors. DOJ is needed to investigate around here.

  26. Steveo says:

    One more thing. Manfre is lying when he says he paid $20k for a membership at Ocean Hammock. He and his wife, Cornelia did own a condo there but quickly fell behind on Condo Assoc. Dues and the condo was foreclosed on.

  27. Charles "Bub" Robson says:

    This is what happens when a non law enforcement officer is elected sheriff.

  28. Maybe we should have another ethics class says:

    Everyone is forgetting about the accident he had in Virginia when he was taking his kid to look at colleges. He was again in his agency vehicle, which im sure had county gas in it when he left, and involved in a crash. It wasn’t reported and then a certain shop that starts with the letter C and operates in the city of Bunnell fixed his car for free. Hmmm is that ethical? Someone should pull the pull the report if there is one. the damn republicans probably made him do that to! Little Jimmy needs to go.

  29. DP says:

    Just another prime example how dysfunctional Flagler County is. The bigger picture shows we need not keep reelecting the same old BS over and over again. That’s to include the previous and current sheriff’s. They apparently cant see the writing on the wall how detrimental, and degrading, they are making this county look. Manfre get out, your doing no good, your nothing but politician. Time for some fresh blood, someone who cant be bought. Who that is will never know, sure shouldn’t be Manfred, or that matters Fleming either.

  30. tom says:

    We have not had a good sheriff since M r. McCarthy.

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