Stopping short of conceding that there is a widespread problem at the Sheriff’s Operations Center absent further proof, the Flagler County administration this afternoon responded to Sheriff Rick Staly’s letter from the day before regarding concerns of a sick building and an increasing number of affected employees. But the relatively brief statement did little more than say: We’ll get back to you.
The statement, written with a hint of pique at the sheriff’s approach, says the county had been working on the issue with the sheriff, and that its efforts were progressing before the sheriff issued his letter. The county says it was at its recommendation that the sheriff got referred to an independent physician who could analyze the issue, while the county itself in mid-May had decided to hire an environmental expert of its own, with whom it will now schedule a workshop with the county commission. The sheriff will be invited to that workshop.
“We are as concerned as the Sheriff about the health and well-being of everyone who works in the Sheriff’s Operation Center, as well as any other Flagler County facility,” the county states. “Flagler County takes seriously any, and all, potentially harmful conditions at the Sheriff’s Operation Center and has done so from the time of the acquisition of the former hospital to the present.”
Nevertheless it was not County Administrator Craig Coffey who issued the statement, which was unsigned, but Julie Murphy, the county’s chief spokesperson–a breach in protocol that, while likely more clumsy than intentional on Coffey’s part, could be perceived as lacking respect for one of the county’s chief elected officials. (An elected official’s letter is not usually answered by the public information office.) On the other hand, the statement was presented as a place-holder: Coffey gave the five-page letter he received to Murphy today and asked her to formulate a response that sums up what the county had been working on. Coffey himself was preparing to take leave of the county for two days to attend the annual conference of the Florida County and City Managers Association, which started in Orlando today. Because of that, “A formal response to the Sheriff’s letter will be forthcoming sometime next week,” the statement concluded.
But the approach lacks the sort of urgency the sheriff and his employees have been asking for and may underscore the sheriff’s claim: that the county has not been on the ball. On top of that, the sheriff received the statement at 5:51 p.m., according to the email’s time-stamp, 40 minutes after it was received by local media.
Chief Mark Strobridge, who’s been the sheriff’s point man on the building matter, did not see much of substance in the statement other than that further testing at the operations center will be conducted in June.
In essence, the sheriff and the county are taking up positions, each side protecting its own by mildly, not bluntly, pointing fingers the other way while trying to project a committed response for employees’ sake. If the two agencies’ approach reflects a measure of posturing, both agencies are still attempting to preserve workable communication lines since in the end the sheriff is in this case almost entirely dependent on the county: the sheriff by law is a tenant and the county is the landlord, or at least the facilities manager, responsible for all facility-related issues. Any solution to the problem would have to be enacted by the county, at the county’s expense.
Meanwhile uncertainty about the breadth of the problem is dictating both sides’ approaches. On Tuesday, the sheriff spoke openly of the possibility–however remote–that the building may not be salvageable, and requested from the county that an alternate space be made available for affected employees, thus raising the stakes considerably.
“Flagler County has started exploring options to accommodate the sheriff’s request for alternative office space,” the county’s statement said at the end of its two pages today.
Staly issued two letters Tuesday: one to his staff, one to Coffey. The letters point to a turn-around in the sheriff’s handling of the potential of a sick-building syndrome. His administration had been guardedly skeptical about a widespread problem when three or four employees reported health problems last fall. The employees were assigned out of the building, though when some of them returned problems re-emerged, and more than two dozen employees subsequently reported health issues this spring, particularly in the last few weeks–coincident with the rainiest May since 2009, according to Bob Pickering, Flagler Emergency Management’s weather specialist. And that was before today’s deluge. (Mold and moisture in the building is believed to be a chief culprit of the problem.) The administration then pledged to employees that it would do what was necessary to ensure their safety while pressuring the county to act.
The sheriff’s letter suggested the county had been dragging its feet. The county disagrees. “It has been communicated to the Sheriff on many occasions that if there is a problem, we want to identify it and do what is necessary to correct the matter,” the statement says.
Strobridge doesn’t disagree with the statement, but doesn’t see the statement as reflecting current anxieties. “Take politics out of it, take everything else out of it, it is about people feeling safe coming to work, and he knows they do not,” Strobridge said of Staly.
The county’s statement summarizes the various steps the county took last year–at a cost of $29,000, not the $65,000 figure the sheriff listed in his letter, Murphy specified in the letter and in an interview, but it had not actually been a mistake by the sheriff: “apparently the county gave the 65K number in casual conversation without the benefit of research/confirmation,” Murphy later clarified in an email.
“As a second round of precautionary measures,” the county’s statement continued, “the County engaged an environmental engineer earlier this month out of an abundance of caution to address new issued raised by employees at the Sheriff’s Operation Center. This was done working with the Sheriff’s Office more than a week before he chose to issue a letter.”
Staly in his letter said the engineer was hired at his insistence and that of County Commission Chairman Greg Hansen. “I have been in conversations with the county manager and I have said we have to support the sheriff,” Hansen said this afternoon. “I have told him that time and time and time again,” noting that he’s been pushing for the engineer for three months. “In my view he was hanging out to dry,” Hansen said of Staly.
The county today held a kick-off meeting with Zdenek Hejzlar, a senior managing consultant with ESi, or Engineering Systems Inc, with more than 27 years of experience in premises and occupational safety and various aspects of the environmental and toxic health fields, the county states. “Hejzlar will perform a broader and more scientific scope of analysis to address the evolving set of concerns raised” and will meet with commissioners in a workshop “sooner rather than later,” Murphy said.
Sheriff’s employees affected by the building would not be part of the workshop, Murphy said, “but if they wanted to ask questions they’d get their three minutes like everybody else.” The workshop is intended to be educational about plans moving forward.
None of those arrangements had been discussed with commissioners previously, and at least the workshop, if not Wednesday’s meeting with Hejzlar, appear to be in direct response to the sheriff’s letter.
“Despite whatever everybody else has been saying about it,” Strobridge said, “the sheriff has been working on this for quite some time and feels like there has not been quite enough fast movement.”
There was never respect for our constitutional officials (the elected one’s) by the FCBOCC and their Administrator since 2000.
Mr. Staly better be aware that they witch hunt them as they did to former Sheriff Manfre and currently former SOE Weeks. Do not dare uncover their frauds or they get the big wigs in Tallahassee also, after you.
Sheriff Staly be aware that the FCBOCC and their administrator will witch hunt you like they did to Sheriff Manfre and currently to former SOE Weeks if you uncover wrong doing. They will get the big wigs in Tallahassee also against you.
Robert Lewis says
Are you kidding me? The Sheriff issued a call for help and the County Administrator goes on vacation? Who the heck voted for this disased cesspool of a building? Vote them out and Vote out Coffee
Flagler resident says
FIRE CRAIG COFFEY!!!!!!
Coffey will try to shift responsibility and isn’t putting his name on this intentionally trying to avoid responsibility. As has been said before, he doens’t need a mouth piece; mouth pieces are put in place to hide and cover up and twist the facts. When Julie Murphy is put on the stand under oath the truth will come out. The same will hold true for Mike Dixon, Richard Gordon, Heidi Petito, Joe Mayer and many others. They are not going to risk criminal charges to save Coffey’s ass. Coffey doesn’t care and never has cared about employees safety. It can be confirmed from former staff that when employees complained about going in the old courthouse and old post office they were told to do it anyway, and when they refused, they were told to find someone else that would. The drop ceilings with a funnel of vinyl with a drain out the window was the solution on the 2nd floor. There were people in that building sick all the time. There were people in that building who came down with cancers; many of them dying! Craig Coffey has been avoiding this issues for months and John Ruffalo and others have confirmation. It was Coffey who told David Sullivan he was NOT going to meet with individuals who wanted to discuss the Old Bunnell Hospital (now Sheriff’s Operation’s Center) issues. Why would Craig Coffey give these individuals his chosen middle finger and go on his way with no regard for the issues that were evident. Coffey likes to hire his fans for study’s and tests so he can get the results he expects. This explains why he is upset that Staly isn’t playing his game. Craig Coffey misled the commissioners into buying this sick building and now he must be held personally responsible. He used his position to break the public’s trust and should be prosecuted and face being held accountable. The FBI has enough information to bury bodies on this issue and I am expecting that they will care enough about these people’s lives to immediately take action and do something about this travesty and make Coffey face the facts and tell the truth without using a spokes person. The BOCC now has the blood on their hands. This board may not be all the ones that are responsible for the purchase, but this board is responsible that for the fact that materials have been provided to them, they have met with concerned individuals, they have communicated by emails and have been well aware of the problems and have not instructed their employee, Craig Coffey to do a damn thing about it. Instead they allow Craig Coffey to do what he wants, how he wants, what he wants and where he wants. When the FBI knock on the door, the rats are going to jump ship and squeal like we have never heard before! Shame on you BOCC and Craig Coffey. This should seal the fate of Nate McLaughlin NOT being reelected. He has been a commissioner for far too long and has failed us miserably.
The purchase of this old building smells of under-the-table bribery.
The People employed by all branches of the government are always looking for an early out with a big. $$$$$ settlement. Seems like this could be a concerted effort. Look at the % of LEO, Firemen, etc who get over 100% of excessive salaries based on straight pay, OT, etc when they walkout the door? Even the Parkland do nothing Deputy grits over $9,000. Per month. Two NYC LEO’s build a million $$$ house in PC and nobody wonders why? Disability enhances salary until Medicare and SS kicks in?
Move Dunn and Coffey’s offices into the building and see how fast it gets fixed and/or razed.
I’m sorry but if the county is working on anything, its always has been in SLOW MO . Thank you Sheriff for pushing the start button on the counties wake up clock.
Wow! Talk about throwing the Sheriff under the bus. It was kind of a heartless response. Covering themselves.
Just the facts says
Who, other than Coffey, didn’t see this coming?
PC Citizen says
Coffey’s going to be coughing soon ! Coughing up 1.3 Million back to the Sheriff Dept, and fight LAWSUITS from sick employees.
We vote the county commissioners to office and they hire Coffey the administrator. We can’t vote Coffey out but we can demand to the commissioners to get rid of him as they are to represent us and our wishes! All the waste of our hard earned taxes and then they fail us in our services as of course is no $$ left. All about greed and graft!
Charles "Bub" Robson says
Our men & women of FCSO deserve nothing less then a safe & healthy place to work. This is 2018, not back in 1978 when I worked for FCSO in a run down FCSO/County jail facility. Lets get a first class facility for our men & women who do work most folks would never do.
The county purchased the building and paid three times more than the appraised value. The owners at the time was a county commissioner and a bank president. I’m sure Coffey was involved for his cut of the profits. SOMEONE has to be held accountable.
This should be referred to state authorities for further investigation and charges if appropriate. The county purchase of this building reeks of corruption. See the story ‘Lawsuit and Ethics Charge Cite Flagler Commissioner Revels Ties to Business Associate in County’s Old Hospital Buy” linked in the sideline to this article.
It won’t get any better until the BOCC gives Coffey his walking papers and steps up and does their job without being led around by the nose by an Administrator. Coffey should be criminally charged and not be given a golden parachute or be entitled to retirement benefits for breaking the public’s trust. He knew this building never should have been purchased yet he advocated for it. As a result some people personally benefitted and others are paying the price with their illnesses. A forensic audit should be called on the county and Coffey’s personal finances. You can run Craig but you can’t hide….man up big boy. You brought this on yourself being deceptive. You get scared don’t you when you can’t call in your own people who will do and say what you want. We want the truth and know we won’t get it with you calling the Shots. Thank you Sheriff Staly for calling in outsiders to investigate. State and federal officials need to get on board and these people affected need treatment and unbiased representation.
Where are state representatives in seeing that we receive the medical care and that the handling of this fiascio orchastrated by Craig Coffey is handled appropriately so others won’t be subject to what we are going through?
Knows Jack says
Nate, voted yes to purchase the building. Revels voted yes and paid ethics violations of $7000 because of her conflict of interest. This issue was wrong from the start. But we tax payers are going to pay for the fix!
Should have just added on to the old facility next to the jail. What a mess.
John Dolan esq. says
The Art of the Debacle by Craig Coffey. He wants to be fired so he can sue the County for a big payoff.
Bernie 2020 says
I never understood why this building and the property wasn’t torn up and redone. It was falling apart when the hospital was open in the 90s It sat empty and exposed to the elements for years with no true maintance.
Ben Hogarth says
Let’s all settle down with the wild accusations and let me shed some light on this issue – from someone who used to be on the “inside.”
“Adaptive reuse” of industrial buildings – including hospitals – is always a risky venture and hardly ever something that ends with a positive risk/reward cost benefit. The County (particularly administration) opted for this solution because it was low-hanging fruit at the time. It solved various issues including the concern with spending more money for a new facility that simply wasn’t a priority for administration. It was the kind of solution you come up with when you simply don’t care.
There were employees at the time of the decision who knew the challenges of using that structure for ANY reuse. There were problems with infestation and by all rights, it probably should have been condemned not necessarily due to structural integrity, but because of its historical use. An old hospital with old infrastructure, developed within old building codes would have certainly had far less protections and policies that would make the atmosphere and environment truly “safe” for reuse. You simply do not revert industrial sites to commercial or residential – it’s never that simple.
That’s why planners and city/county managers typically steer far and clear away from such an adaptive reuse! It’s never worth the risk! Yet here we are, Flagler County flies a different course.
If the Sheriff’s Office were wise, it would file an immediate records request (if it has not already done so) for anything relating to the history of the facility and it’s acquisition and refurbishments by the County. I can tell you that there were more than reservations at the time of acquisition about the challenges with its adaptive reuse. And here we are – vindicated by dozens of Sheriff staff members who have fallen ill.
Don’t worry though – the County team will always find a way to reconcile fact and fiction in its own little narrative. Ignore it and carry on with investigating the problems and causes.
But let’s also be realistic in stating that no PhD and certainly no physician can prove without a shadow of a doubt what the actual issue with this building is. I concur that a “burn off” of any aerated particles may help with lingering concerns related to the building repairs, but if the health risks are far more serious and involve dioxins and other extremely toxic and dangerous compounds involved with the buildings previous use – I don’t know that there is a way to solve that problem without starting completely anew.
Educate yourself Flagler. Don’t just wildly accuse, speculate, and point blaming fingers. Investigate and try to understand how these decisions were made, who made them, and why they are all wrong.
Oh and tell the County that if its solution is to move other staff and/or departments into the building after some “magical” cleaning mitigation – don’t buy it. The building should have been torn down years ago – don’t double down on the mistake. I personally would never have imagined the issues with this building to be so dramatic, but in reading all of this and hearing the stories, I’m not surprised the least.
Now I will just sit back and see how many people support their law enforcement with nice twitter and Facebook posts, and then those who show up to future county meetings to truly support their law enforcement by demanding answers.
Need New Leadership says
And the finger pointing has started.
I would like to correct a few things for the record:
1. In the Sheriff’s own words, “A simple google search” will explain the phases and procedures to properly test for mold / mycotoxins within a building. While air quality testing is widely used, it is not very accurate when it is the only method used. The air quality will change quickly depending on anything from the HVAC turning on or off; someone walking through the testing area, temperature, etc… While a false positive test result is not common, a false negative is very common. If the air quality is in question, and “Active Mold Growth” is found (as was found by H2H – see the full report using a “Simple Search” right here on FlaglerLive – see page 33 where H2H classified “Ann’s Supply” and “Jennifer’s Supply” as Condition 3: Actual Fungal Growth) it is prudent to further investigate by conducting swab / tape testing (which by my search only indicates 2 small areas that were tape tested in the Sheriff’s Office) and more “invasive testing to check within wall cavities. Yes, a simple google search explained this. I have been unable to find more in depth testing / results that the county has ordered.
2. In the statement above from the county, they stated that “A Phase I Environmental Site assessment was completed in 2013 by Universal Engineering Sciences before the building was purchased…Both demonstrated a clear site/building with only minor remediation…” Not entirely true. Yes, Universal Engineering Sciences did do a series of surveys. It is a 78 page report available to you right here on FlagerLive. I will skip to what I feel is pertinent, but feel free to read the entire report since I doubt the Sheriff or County Administrator did (Staly, don’t worry I am referring to your predecessor here. I will get to you later.) “Section 4.1 MOLD OBSERVATIONS – UES performed visual mold observations within the two buildings. The former hospital building was not conditioned and has not been maintained. There were many broken windows and open holes where air conditioning units had been removed. There were many areas of water intrusion around the windows, door, air conditioner ports, etc. Visual mold was present throughout the structure mainly on the interior of the exterior walls and concentrated around penetrations to the exterior of the building. The exterior of the building was finished with an exterior insulation finish system (EIFS). This system was observed to have many damaged areas where moisture could penetrate behind the system and potentially cause mold related issues.” Now, that tells me that mold was present throughout the interior and “Potentially” between the EIFS and exterior block wall, but it was only a visual inspection. SO, the entire block could have been permeated with mold during the over 10 years the building was vacant. As Sheriff Staly asked on Tuesday, was the entire building “Hot Baked”? I doubt it.
3. Strobridge said, “Despite whatever everybody else has been saying about it, the Sheriff has been working on this for quite some time and feels like there has not been quite enough fast movement.” While I cannot discredit this statement since I do not personally know Strobridge or the Sheriff, a few things come to mind. First is, bullshit. Then I ask myself, How long has this ACTUALLY been going on? 7 months, a year, 2 years? What has the Sheriff actually done? I think not much. He stated himself just the other day in his famous Letter to County Commissioner Coffey, “I recently asked my staff to research”. How recently Sheriff? What have you ACTUALLY done, other than attend a few meetings and discuss things with Commissioners. I know one thing that you did, you ordered the most severely affected employees of yours BACK into the building.
1. The County is holding a workshop and has invited the Sheriff to attend. They state that affected employees are not invited to attend, “but if they wanted to ask questions they’d get their 3 minutes like everybody else”. Are you serious? I understand not having the entire Sheriff’s office in attendance, but what about one or two of the most affected persons? Detective Conrad is on FMLA. Why wouldn’t the county WANT to hear what she has to say. Nobody has followed her symptoms closer that she has (or any of the affected persons). Sheriff, why don’t you put that on your list of things to do to help your employees, let their voice be heard – not for a 3 minute soundbite.
2. Sheriff, It is now your turn. You stated that “Time is of the essence when it comes to the health and welfare of my team.” Time to “man-up”! I would start with moving the most severely affected personnel Off-Site effective immediately. You do not need the Counties blessing to do that. YOU are the Sheriff, YOU can move your personnel anywhere. I understand the political posturing that may require you to use phrases like “significant disruption to serving the community” but lets be realistic, is it more disruptive to have your team out on FMLA or working from a different office? Is the health of your team worth waiting for an answer from the County Administrator? I ask you this, how “Disruptive” do you think these medical issues are to not only your employees, but to their families as well. It is time Sir, to do the right thing. I would be willing to bet there are available offices for the 10-15 most affected people at the State Attorney’s Office, the Courthouse, or the GSB. Temporarily move them until the County actually “does the right thing” and figures out what the problem is with the building that they put you in.
To the Board of County Commissioners – Wake up! Get moving on this. Why isn’t James E. Blythe going to be in attendance at your workshop? Who is he? He is the Florida Mold Assessor / EPA AHERA Asbestos Inspector that signed the report from Universal Engineering Sciences, Inc. He knows first hand where he saw issues in the building in question. Who better to have involved in discussing the previous status of the building. Do you have reports that We the People have not seen indicating that the old hospital was properly remediated prior to moving the Sheriff into the building? Has anyone asked Faith Alkatib (the County Engineer) if she still has the pictures that she was provided DURING renovation showing old rotten wood simply being covered over by new building materials? If she lost her copies, I have some that I will give you, but I will require a signature as proof of delivery.
Wake Up Public. It is time that we start to hold these people’s feet to the fire. Get vocal or nothing will change.
Lets support our Sheriff Staly and his dedicated law enforcement officers as they just finally were able to send to jail the elderly homeowner that used his house as a Public Nuisance with drug dealers and prostitution traffic for over 2 years: http://www.news-journalonline.com/news/20180530/2-face-drug-charges-in-palm-coast
This county Commissioners and Coffey are good for nothing in comparison and Sheriff Staly is right taking a stand for his employees health affected. Have Coffey and the FCBOCC move their offices to the putrid building that they fraudulently bought and wasted 5 millions of our hard earned taxes to patch up! Out with them all.
Our county law enforcement deserves better and respect while risking their lives day in and day out to protect us!.
Staly correct. FCBOCC and Coffey Crooks. We need to support our law enforcement because they just achieved this two birds in jail in our block: http://www.news-journalonline.com/news/20180530/2-face-drug-charges-in-palm-coast
Ben Hogarth and Need New Leadership thank you both for your factual and timely analysis. Anyone with half a brain knows that complete mold remediation on such a massive scale is simply not possible/feasible. Many of us saw this horrific problem on the horizon years ago.
We need completely NEW management for Flagler county and also for Palm Coast. . . until that happens these kinds of lame brained decisions will continue. VOTE! VOTE! VOTE! to clean house on both levels!
Meanwhile. . . Sheriff, move your people our of “serious” harms way immediately . . . and implement an immediate law suit against the county, if necessary. They are currently scrambling to cover their asses, because that is all they really care about!
Just like everything else in this county…..avoid responding and hope that it will all go away. This is what happens when Coffey has a problem with the city of Palm Coast or any other. He is hoping people will tne out before he faces the music. This man has been a disaster to Desoto County as well as here in Flagler County. He has been here longer than County Administrator’s normally are positioned in such a role and as a result is far too comfortable. Our County Commission is not serving us when they turn their head the other way and can see that the people they are representing are not best served. A lot of information has been uncovered here in these comments that warrants an investigation. It sounds to me this was just pure neglect. The people spoke before the purchase was made, they elected officials were warned and for what ever reason did the deal anyway therefore there should be personal consequences. This is a serious issues and the lives of many may be impacted for years to come and some people’s lives may be even cut short due to out right arrogance , neglect and ignorance. I now am concerned for the lives and safety of those that tore down the wings of the old hospital as they were not provided any protective gear and those units too were full of contaminants. This county administrator demonstrated gross neglect and can not shift his responsibility off on to anyone else. Anyone with half a brain know that no county worker is going to take it upon their self to tear down thousands of square feet of a building without direction, and only certain individuals have that authority, Craig Coffey being one of them. The County Commissioner’s should pat themselves on the back for allowing this all to happen without intervening and being the leaders they should be as the employer of the county administrator. With that being said, the bocc is the employer of the county administrator, they cannot shift their responsibility, so the bocc is intimately responsible. Commissioner Nate McLaughlin, you will never get my vote, you have let us citizens down, you have done nothing more than be a puppet for Craig Coffey and run around this county cutting ribbons. You have not done the job you were elected to do and have bled us tax payers long enough. Go find a job where you have to work for a living! Now you can see what the rest of us here in the county face when we have to work 2 and 3 jobs to survive.
C'mon man says
I see multiple lawsuits coming from multiple employees.
Sherry, you are so right. Our leadership here in Flagler County is the worse I have ever seen. Looking at the rates of pay several individuals are receiving here in Flagler County., those who are all holding hands, should be a crime http://www.news-journalonline.com/news/20170812/top-dollar-database-lists-volusia-flagler-public-salaries warrants an investigation and Forensic Audit. Being’s the county will not call for a forensic audit on themselves, how do we voters get such an item on the ballot? Those elected officials who have foolishly purchased an unsafe building and put county workers in it exposing them to dangers should be removed from office! They knew the building was not safe before they ever purchased it.
lea marshall says
Gee that is funny the building past inspection for sales too?
lea marshall–that’s because the county does their own inspecting. OSHA won’t even get involved in buildings like the old courthouse either because the county owns them and they have inspectors. It is all designed for counties and municipalities to do what they want, how they want, when they want, and they do just that, and get away with everything. They would have swept this under the rug too if they could but too many people were affected and took the risk of speaking up and standing up for them selves and each other. Look at the previous articles about this building, the county knew of the risks and bought it anyway….why….to fill their friends pockets.