Flagler County Administrator Jerry Cameron today fired Matt Dunn, the county’s tourism director suspended six and a half months and $36,000 ago–the amount he’s been paid since he’s been on suspension–when he became the subject of a criminal investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
The inquiry started at the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office, which almost immediately turned it over to FDLE, citing a potential for “corruption.”
Cameron initially announced the firing in a 180-word press release that strained to describe the firing as more of a separation, saying the county “severed” Dunn’s employment, and did not do so for any disciplinary reasons. The announcement appears calibrated to avoid as much as possible any legal, retaliatory action on the part of Dunn, who’d made clear he was not interested in resigning and had retained an attorney to represent him. (Dunn sold his house in the Hammock on July 3, according to property appraiser records, days after it went on the market.)
“He had no interest in resigning,” Cameron said in an interview this afternoon. The county’s labor attorney contacted Dunn’s attorney and notified him by phone of the decision to fire Dunn. “If I’m not mistaken, he didn’t answer, we left him a message and we sent him a letter,” Cameron said.
A savvy sports events coordinator, the Flagler County Chamber of Commerce hired Dunn in 2014 when the county’s tourism bureau was still a wing of the chamber. The relationship soured as then-County Administrator Craig Coffey successfully maneuvered to swallow the tourism bureau into county government. Coffey gave Dunn a wide berth and generous raises and successfully pushed to increase the tourism tax at Dunn’s behest, substantially increasing tourism tax revenue to nearly $3 million in the last fiscal year, compared to $2 million when Dunn started.
Dunn methods, and Coffey’s turned eyes, had raised some questions of potential conflicts of interest a few years ago when FlaglerLive revealed that Dunn had maintained his own sports-event consulting firm even as he worked for Flagler County, even after getting a 17 percent raise. Coffey defended him, saying his company was just a “placeholder.”
Cameron didn’t hedge about the firing during the interview, though he qualified the decision somewhat. “Yes, we clearly told him that his relationship with the county would be terminated as of today,” Cameron said, when asked if he had, in fact, fired him. “We’re not firing for any kind of misconduct or malfeasance.”
Cameron had been privy to the reportedly copious documentation turned over to FDLE–much of it prepared by one or more tourism department employees–that had led to Dunn’s suspension. But he would not speak of that documentation today, saying he did not want to interfer with the state investigation. A few weeks ago, when asked where the Dunn matter stood, Cameron intimated that he was ready to fire him, but not before calling him in for a meeting at county offices. That meeting never took place.
“It did not because once I reviewed all the stuff for the conversation, I didn’t feel I needed to have that conversation,” Cameron said. “It was real simple in looking at it and looking at the direction the TDC is going now,” he continued, referring to the Tourist Development Council, the county advisory board that oversees the tourism bureau and the $3 million tourism tax revenue. “I didn’t feel like his history and his skill set matched up with the new direction. Nothing against him, it’s just that they’re looking for a completely different sort of direction than the strategic plan the agency is taking.”
That strategic plan, or goal-setting document, is turning away from Dunn’s focus on sports marketing. “He was primarily sports marketing, and that’s not the direction we are taking this, we’re taking this in the direction more of lifestyle, leisure, events, that are not sports events particularly, so it’s just a different skill set,” Cameron said. “Culture is going to be a big part of it too, we’re looking at some art stuff, craft stuff, leisure stuff. It’s nothing against Matt, I just don’t think he’s the best bet for that position.”
Amy Lukasik, who’d essentially been Dunn’s deputy, has been interim director of the tourism bureau. Cameron intends to name her director. “Yes, she is the one that brought in the strategic planning consultant, worked with him, he’s given her very high marks on how to best position Flagler with its existing resources to move forward.” Cameron said he’ll soon be recommending Lukasik for the permanent top job, but the county commission will have to ratify the decision. That’s usually a formality.
“Amy has proven herself to them, I see no reason why that would not be accepted,” Cameron said. “she’s done a terrific job while being one staff member short and a lot of things to do, particularly forming a strategic plan and those sorts of things.”
As for the criminal investigation, Cameron demurred, as he has previously. “I do not know, FDLE will not discuss it with me, I tried to get a timeline, they say it’s an open case under investigation and they won’t discuss it,” he said.
There was no severance package for Dunn. “He’s been on paid administrative leave for months, we consider that as sufficient,” Cameron said.
Maybe Dunn did some shady things and maybe he didn’t. However EVERYONE knows it was multiple internal folks who benefited by getting him out of the way turned him in.
Karen E Joyce says
I have only the highest regard for Matt Dunn and his family. I have known him since he moved here in 2013, to a home in my neighborhood. I followed his success in Flager County, bringing tourism to new heights. And increasing the revenue to,Flsgler thru tourist events.
Personally, he is kind, polite, charming, and a real entrepreneur. I am sorry to see him leave Flagler, County. Karen
Joe Schmuck the rag picker says
Hmmmmm…….🤔……..Something is wrong with this picture!! I don’t know this Dunn guy but what BS for any county employee to be treated this way without being convicted of a crime! Sounds like Cammeron and Amy are the ones that needs to be investigated???
This is how our county Administrator conducts himself professionally? This seems like a set up to me!!
Sounds like a set up to me too. Matt Dunn is NOT CORRUPT
Bill Nelson says
Just like Coffey, Good bye, so long, good riddance
Jane Gentile-Youd says
Hiring Jerry Cameron is the very best ‘thing’ that has happened to Flagler County Administration since we moved here almost 18 years ago. Jerry could be golfing, traveling or just living it up anywhere at this point in his life but he has taken on trying to trying to straighten out the total ‘zoo’ that Coffey let. He is a true civil servant and dedicated American and I cannot thank him enough for his heart felt efforts.
One has to wonder about the number of people whom had leadership responsibilities in this county whom have been released from their job due to illegal dealings, corruption and incompetence makes one think about the wide spread incompetence that is still resident throughout the county. Maybe we should just fire all county leaders, lawyers and department heads and start over. Its becoming an embarrassment to the tax payers and voters.
Concerned Citizen says
Per a News Journal article a month ago. Isn’t this the same guy involved in a power struggle with another director…interesting.
“The investigation by state officials stems from reports of public corruption that surfaced April 2.
Jarrod Shupe, the county’s IT director, reported Dunn to the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office after county officials conducted an internal review that “yielded enough evidence” to warrant his suspension, an investigative report states. County officials seized Dunn’s computers and electronic devices and shut down his office.”
He was just cleared of any wrongdoing by the FDLE. That didn’t stop this good mans name from being dragged through the mud for the kangaroo court of public opinion.
The people that trumped up these charges should be fired and ashamed of themselves and I’m glad Matt’s name is being cleared.
Totally agree. Corruption everywhere. From D. C. to the smaller municipality in the country. Tax payers almost always get the bill and no benefits from these crooks doing wrong.
Only My Thoughts says
There seems to be corruption in everywhere we turn these days. Doesn’t seem as though there are many left who can be trusted anymore. So very sad to say the least.
Concerned citizen says
It will be interesting to see if the investigation is dropped now that he is gone. With the exception of Kimberly Weeks this County doesn’t like to hold wrong doers responsible for criminal actions. Otherwise half the BOCC would be investigated.
I’m guessing he was one of the last hold overs for the Coffey regime and they started an FDLE investigation to use as leverage to fight union stuff.
This county knows no ethical conduct and dirty politics is the name of the game.
They let a real crook go and keep witch hunting honest former SOE Kim Weeks wasting hundreds of thousands of tax payers dollars on outside Tallahassee lawyer former Florida ethic commission member Herron against her…what a shame! Also still litigating on our pockets citizen McDonald and others just to keep them silent. Trying to set an example against those that dare to uncover or speak against the BOCC or administrators while violating the anti SLAPP Florida statute. http://conlinpa.com/2015/08/15/new-florida-anti-slapp-law-has-a-broad-scope-pertaining-to-lawsuits-filed-by-any-person
IMHO Amy should have gotten the job back in the day as she is a smart professional well-traveled with meaningful vision. But, Coffey hired Dunn as he was a good-ole-fishing boy who would live up to the “leadership standard” of lies & scandal and kept “the law” of quid pro quo. Honestly, I’m surprised Amy is still hanging around here as her talent would easily be snatched up by bigger towns if she so chose.