Lynn Cattogio, a long-time veteran of the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office until late last year, was one of four names to make a list of recommendations to be Bunnell’s next police chief.
If appointed, Catoggio would be the first woman to lead a police agency in Flagler County’s history.
Several other local names were surprisingly absent from the list, including that of Acting Chief Randy Burke, Steve Clair, who had also spent the majority of his career at the sheriff’s office and had just fallen short of getting the chief’s job in Flagler Beach, and John Pollinger, the former police chief of a small town in new Jersey who ran for Flagler sheriff in 2012.
Bunnell City Manager Larry Williams on Thursday received the short-list from the Florida Police Chiefs Association’s so-called STARS program, an acronym for Selection, Training, Assessment, Recruitment and Support. The Stars program helps cities through the search and qualification process by pre-screening applicants, matching their applications with the job description, and in some cases verifying the applicants’ information.
The three other names are Ronald Chapman, a traffic captain at the Orange County Sheriff’s Office since 2012; Harry Brent Coates, an adjunct faculty member at the University of North Florida who spent the bulk of his career rising from trooper to major with the Florida Highway Patrol, from 1983 to 2011; and Thomas Foster, who retired in 2012 from the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, where he was captain of special operations in the street crime section.
Twenty-seven people applied.
“As a result of our resume review,” The Stars program’s Cassie Fields wrote Williams, “we identified five candidates that appeared to initially meet the minimum requirements. However, after contacting the top five candidates to verify they are still interested in the position, one of the candidates informed us that he was not Florida Law Enforcement Certified and did not possess a Florida driver’s license. Accordingly we can only offer you four qualified candidates from the pool of applicants given to us.”
Williams will have a conference call with the members of the Stars program on Tuesday. He said he’ll go over how the members rated the candidates and chose the finalists. Williams will also be asking them how to deal with candidates who don’t have a degree, such as Burke.
Next—days after that phone conference—Williams will interview the candidates with a panel he’s chosen. The members of the panel are Flagler County Under-Sheriff Rick Staly, Lloyd Freckleton, a member of the Daytona State College Board of Trustees, and Keith Chandler, a former police chief in Melbourne. Based on the result of those interviews, Williams will either settle on a final choice, or he will choose none of the four, and approach the city commission to ask that the job description be re-written.
For now, however, Williams said he will stick by the job description—and that interviews must be based on candidates who fit the job description. “Job specifications are designed for a reason,” he said, though he had no hand in that job description.
Cattogio was among the numerous individuals Flagler County Sheriff Jim Manfre fired or laid off in his first year on the job as he reorganized the department. Cattogio appeared at first to have escaped Manfre’s scythe. The sheriff at one point even praised her for adapting to the changes (she had been demoted from captain, a rank Manfre eliminated). But in September, he fired her in a further reorganization. Clair was fired on Manfre’s first day on the job last January. Both had been allies of former Sheriff Don Fleming, though Manfre fired ostensible allies of his, too, as was the case with David O’Brien, his one-time chief deputy.
The chief’s position in Bunnell came open when Jeff Hoffman left it to become Manfre’s chief deputy, after O’Brien’s firing and an interim move. Hoffman was on the job in Bunnell 18 months. His departure was part of an exodus that affected many of the city’s top positions, including that of the city manager, the city clerk, the finance director and the city attorney, as a political shift on the city commission set off a chain reaction of moves, some pre-emptive, some resentful: Ex-City Manager Armando Martinez’s aside, none of the departures were involuntary.
“Our team was in complete agreement on these candidates,” Fields said of the four names short-listed. “After you select your next Chief of Police we look forward to providing support services such as leadership training and mentoring to help ensure the future Chief selected succeeds in their new position.”
The list may put Williams in an awkward position. Williams, named city manager in September, has made no secret of favoring Burke for police chief. Burke had applied for the chief’s position in 2012 but was passed over for Hoffman—and was passed over as early as in the writing of the job description: written by Martinez, it required a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, which Burke does not possess, though the previous job description for the job—when Martinez hired the late Arthur Jones—had not specified the BA requirement. Burke saw the distinction as a way to keep him out of the running.
“I believe that Randy Burke has community support” Williams said in an interview Friday afternoon, shortly after speaking with Burke to let him know he had not made the cut. “I think Randy is a fair person, he’s been here a while, he knows the community. He seems like a loyal person, he’s honest, he’s got integrity. The only thing he doesn’t have, he doesn’t have the degree.”
He alone will be responsible for choosing the next police chief: the city commission is not involved, at least not officially. And nothing stops Williams from overriding the Stars recommendations in the end.