The Bunnell City Commission on Monday approved a $120,000 contract with the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office to outsource investigations of its most violent crimes to the agency one of its commissioners calls “big brother.”
The contract, which kicks in on April 1, represents the addition of a detective to the sheriff’s staff, to be assigned to Bunnell. The sheriff now has policing contracts with the Flagler County School Board, Palm Coast and Bunnell. For Bunnell, both Bunnell’s police chief and Sheriff Rick Staly speak of the outsourcing as temporary, until Bunnell can rebuild its own department to the point of having its own major crimes unit.
“It became clear to the Bunnell Police Department during some recent events, namely some shootings in the south end of town, that we were lacking the necessary resources to properly investigate those shootings, which ultimately resulted in a homicide,” Bunnell Chief Dave Brannon told the commission on Monday.
Brannon’s predecessor, Interim Chief Brannon Snead, had started talks with Staly in the wake of the shooting death of 16-year-old Noah Smith in mid-January on a street in Bunnell. There was confusion in the initial days as to who was the lead investigator in the case–Bunnell or the Sheriff’s Office, with the two agencies sending conflicting signals. (It was the Sheriff’s Office.)
Dave Brannon said the major case detective will assist with homicides and “a variety of other cases of significance until we can get our staffing to where it needs to be so we can handle these on our own.” The crimes to be investigated, according to the contract, include homicides, rape, robberies, aggravated batteries, home invasions, drive by shootings, kidnappings, endangered missing persons, aggravated child or elderly exploitation, and domestic violence resulting in serious injuries.
The detective will be entirely under the Sheriff’s Office’s authority, including for disciplinary issues. Conversely, the sheriff indemnifies Bunnell from any liabilities arising from legal actions brought up by the detective. The contract runs through Oct. 1, the beginning of the next fiscal year, but automatically renews on each successive fiscal year’s start unless severed by either side by the previous July 1, while the following year’s costs must be agreed upon by May 15.
The $120,000 cost includes a salary of $58,500, benefits of $34,400, and budgeted equipment and overtime totaling $27,250.
“What you’re doing tonight will just enhance the service level to your community until chief Brandon can rebuild your police department and take it over,” Staly, who attended Monday’s commission meeting, told commissioners. “And of course we’ll always be there to support you even after that occurs, but we are a bigger agency, we do have significant resources in our investigative services division, including Commissioner Gordon’s daughter–who does a phenomenal job, by the way.” (Commissioner Tonya Gordon is a sheriff’s deputy.)
“I know that once this contract goes into effect, we’re going to look at some cold cases that you have that we’ve done a preliminary review and we think we can we can make some great headway and hopefully solve them,” Staly said. Former Bunnell Commissioner Daisy Henry had alluded to cold cases in her brief remarks to the commission. Staly has pledged that Smith’s murder will be solved. But Bunnell also has other notable cold cases, among them the murder of Bunnell resident John Stubbs in November 2015. He was found dead, soaking in blood, at his doorstep on East Drain Street.
“You know, we joke around and call them big brother,” Commissioner John Rogers said of the Sheriff’s Office. “But they’re always backing our guys up and our girls up and they’re always there to lend a hand. If you pass by State Road 100 or U.S. 1, you’ll see one of our units will have a car pulled over and one of their units will be backing them up or vice versa. I just want to thank the sheriff for that relationship. It’s not always been like that, as you recall.”
“No, it really hasn’t been that way always and we appreciate the support that you’ve given the city of Bunnell on many levels,” Robinson said.
Under Sheriff Don Fleming, more than a decade ago, former Bunnell Commissioner Elbert Tucker attempted to cede all policing operations to the Sheriff’s Office, arguing, figures in hand, that it would be financially more beneficial to Bunnell, and would provide better security. Fleming made a presentation to the commission. But a majority of commissioners weren’t on board and the proposal devolved into political theater, blindsiding Fleming and leaving a bad taste, institutionally, in the Sheriff’s Office’s memory. Staly has in his years as sheriff has insisted that any such arrangement must be initiated by a majority of commissioners (who a few years ago, again at Tucker’s initiative, did agree to close the city’s fire department and have the county take over.)
If the new contract is to be perceived as the sheriff’s foot in the door in Bunnell, the sheriff and Brannon were quick to not–if without too much stress–that the arrangement is temporary.
Who the detective assigned to Bunnell will be is not yet determined. It could be a detective transferred from the current corps of detectives, it could be a promoted individual, or it could be the detective hired for the purpose, though that’s unlikely: while the agency will make a new hire, it’s more likely that the person assigned to Bunnell will have had prior experience there. The agency is not lacking in Bunnell Police Department alumni. “Under our union contract, we are required to post that information and we are in the process of doing that,” a sheriff’s spokesperson said of the position.
Bunnell’s Agreement with the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office:
The Geode says
Until they prove me wrong, it’s still just a bunch of “blah-blah-blah” while we watch this once quiet-peaceful town turn into a law-less “crapbox” (self-edit)
Why does it take a contract with the FCSO to get them to do their job. The are funded by the taxpayers and yet the taxpayers get no service without an additional contract? I think there should be a forensic audit of the FCSO!
It is high time that Bunnell acknowledges its limited law enforcement manpower, equipment and technological resources when it comes to conducting violent crime investigations. In reality, Bunnell still lacks sufficient resources to fund all necessary aspects of a law enforcement agency at all, and it is to the detriment of the citizens of Bunnell that the previous effort to cede the city’s law enforcement function entirely to the Flagler Co. Sheriff’s Office years ago was met with such resistance from city commissioners. Their bad decision has NOT made Bunnell safer over the years, and now in 2022 crime is still a serious problem in this small town. Maybe one day the commissioners will suddenly have an epiphany and agree to do the right thing for all who live there instead of fighting to hold onto political power at the expense of their community’s safety.
Concerned Citizen says
I’m glad to see people questioning the right for FCSO to charge for additional services.
With the coverage the Sheriff charges for Palm Coast and now the “contract” with Bunnell Staly has quite the gig going.
Both Palm Coast and Bunnell are in the Sheriff’s jurisdiction. The Sheriff’s Dept is required by Law to furinish the services he is charging handsomely for. So if a city doesn’t have the funds to support a “contract” are they then denied those services?
I also don’t remember this issue coming up for public discussion. Flagler Live seems to be the first we are hearing of yet another quiet deal that will affect tax payers.