When Bunnell City Manager Alvin Jackson announced the appointment of Interim Police Chief Brannon Snead on Tuesday, he said Police Chief Tom Foster had merely retired. Foster himself in a Dec. 2 letter to the manager and the commission said the death of Sgt. Dominic Guida convinced him to “start a new chapter in my life,” so he provided his four weeks’ notice.
The reality is vastly different. Foster was all but forced to resign.
The same day Foster wrote his letter, Jackson had disciplined Foster with a devastating written reprimand over severe deficiencies that point to a breakdown in relations between the city manager and Foster and between Foster and the city commission, and to charges of disrespect and misconduct that implicate Foster and the police department’s Sgt. Matt Mortimer. Mortimer is portrayed as a rogue officer who retaliates against officers who complain while failing to comply with department policies, including safety policies. The reprimand describes a department turned fiefdom of fear under both Foster and Mortimer. Just as gravely, it describes city commissioners repeatedly complaining of Foster spreading rumors, disinformation and false claims about the mayor and commissioners and their supposed intentions to eliminate the police department.
Foster, according to the disciplinary document, violated city policies and general orders, including rules of conduct, supervisory rules, disrespect, violations of prohibitions on public criticism of public officials, and dissimulation or manipulation of Mortimer’s evaluations.
The disciplinary document amounts to nine pages of sharp criticism and bullet-pointed outlines of corrective demands for every violation. Foster signed the document. Within hours, he was gone. He did not respond to a message on his cell phone today before the initial publication of this article.
Some commissioners were made aware by Jackson of the problems. Some were not, or said they were not.
Jackson in an interview earlier this week deflected repeated attempts to explain the suddenness of Foster’s departure. He was asked point-blank whether there’d been issues. Jackson , who was speaking at the same table as Snead’s, artfully dodged the questions.
“There is an element of surprise in Tom’s decision to leave that quickly. He was just here. Was there any dissatisfaction?” a reporter asked Jackson.
“No, not dissatisfaction. Like I said, I’m constantly working on areas that we need to improve upon,” Jackson said. “There’s some areas that we were working on as it relates to public safety.”
“Any issues internally that were grinding at the organization, that you are relieved that he’s gone?” he was asked.
“Let me say this, once you’re gone, my concentration right now is going forward,” Jackson said.
“Just for the sake of the organization, in terms of whether there are issues that could come back to bite you?” he was asked again.
“Well, no. It’s not going to be issues that come back to bite me because I’m moving forward,” Jackson said.
Contacted today Jackson said he had not deceived in his answers, but had accurately said that Foster had retired–and said he did not “appreciate being chided” over his previous answers.
Nevertheless, the city manager sought to keep a problem from being more broadly known, and understood by the public even though by his own account in the disciplinary document, it was not only an internal matter but had spilled into the community, affected the city commission, and seriously affected the running and morale of the police department–down to what had become a “practice” among sergents and corporals to leave their posts early or, in Mortimer’s case, the turning off of his GPS. The following bullet points from the document, in Jackson’s words, provide one glimpse at the extent of the problem:
• Chief has failed to meet the above-referenced policies and expectations [the Code of Conduct, interaction with citizens and employees, courtesy and respect, public criticism], by spreading rumors and bad mouthing the Mayor and Commission to residents about the lack of support for the Police Department. Those rumors also include the Commission is planning to get rid of him and the Police Department.
• Chief has failed to meet the above-referenced policies and expectations by telling Officers the City Manager can’t be trusted. As a result, the Officers don’t feel comfortable approaching the City Manager nor expressing their concerns for fear of retaliation from Sgt. Mortimer and the Chief.
• Chief has failed to meet the above-referenced policies and expectations by providing misleading statements to other agencies about Officers who are considering employment in other agencies.
• Chief has failed to meet the above-referenced policies and expectations by sharing misleading information. As an example, that the City Manager was not allowing overtime.
• Chief regularly displays a negative attitude and obstinate disposition. He also has been heard engaging in negative talk.
The deficiencies Jackson listed regarding Mortimer were equally serious, as he related them to Foster’s accountability:
• Failing to correct or address negative attitude/actions of Sgt. Mortimer. This includes but is not limited to the following actions and behaviors of Sgt. Mortimer:
o How he (Mortimer) talks down to Officers.
o How he (Mortimer) retaliates toward Officers if they complain or bring constructive items to the Chief’s attention.
o His (Mortimer’s) negative and poor leadership examples.
o His (Mortimer) failure to turn on his GPS, a real safety issue for the Officers.
o Taking off the days he wants and not being considerate of others in the department need or want for time off.
• Deflecting a low morale of Officers onto the Commission.
• Not addressing the real issues and concerns of the department.
• Failing to provide effective leadership and communication to and from Sgt. Mortimer.
• Not addressing the issues and concerns of Officers and creating a retaliatory
• Only having one officer on per shift after the Chief had communicated to the City
Manager and Commissioners that we have at least two officers on per shift with a Cpl. and/or Sgt. overlapping shifts. This creates a safety concern for officers.
• Lack of consistent communication throughout the Department.
• Lack of Equitable treatment for all Officers, i.e. vacation, GPS (AVL) usage.
• Bad mouthing Officers to others.
• Bullying Officers verbally, both directly and indirectly.
The disciplinary document doesn’t mention a key trigger in the breakdown of authority: several police officers within the department had documented problems with Mortimer and time issues and forwarded the letter to Jackson, who had asked Foster to address the problem. Foster, it appears, kept protecting Mortimer.
Jackson noted that Foster failed to provide him with Mortimer’s evaluation before it was submitted to Mortimer, and that once Jackson reviewed it, he did not think it was accurate. “Chief has failed to hold Sgt. Mortimer accountable as one of his leaders,” Jackson wrote.
The disciplinary document goes on to list further “deficiencies” in Foster’s leadership, including “Bad mouthing the Mayor and Commissioners regarding policy and budgetary decisions,” and revealing that “The City Manager has been called numerous times by Commissioners about the misinformation and gossiping regarding how certain Commissioners are out to eliminate the Police Department or have the Chief fired.” The document then lists 16 bullet points giving Foster 30 days to comply with each, from complying with policies to improving the working environment to not spreading rumors.
In Foster’s absence previously Mortimer would take the reins of the police department. The disciplinary document implicitly explains why Foster’s departure did not trigger that sort of interim succession, and instead caused Jackson to contact Snead, whom he’d known previously, and offer him the interim post immediately, which Snead–who had not yet toured the city or become familiar with its neighborhoods, nor had met police officers–took.
Foster’s relationship with the city had been steady and solid, drawing exceptional or near-exceptional evaluations from three city managers, including Jackson. It’s not clear why or how matters broke down as swiftly and gravely as they did this year: Jackson is not willing to explain.
Then-City Manager Larry Williams hired Foster in February 2014. The two were never the closest of colleagues, but Foster still seemed to thrive. When Williams evaluated him three months later, he gave him outstanding ratings in every category but a few: he got poorer marks on “accepting responsibility” and “judgment,” and his public relations, while good, were not outstanding. “Chief Foster has to devote more time to building stronger relationships with the Community at large and as the Chief of a small department he must make himself available during an emergency situation 24/7,” Williams wrote. The evaluation improved the following year but was still well shy of perfect.
When City Manager Dan Davis evaluated him, he got perfect marks almost across the board, drawing a compliment from Foster that was also a slap at Williams: “This past three months has been refreshing working with our new city manager, Mr. Davis.” Foster got a raise. The perfect scores from Davis continued in 2017 and 2018. “Chief Foster is my top go-to department head to fill in for me as Acting City Manager,” Davis wrote in 2018, unwittingly anticipating precisely who the city commission would appoint as interim after firing Davis six weeks after he signed his last evaluation of Foster. Foster was the interim manager for six months.
Then came Jackson, who’s been making his managerial mark in various ways. One of those ways was changing the evaluation system. He replaced the evaluation form, added a prefatory list of objectives, and included expanded comments in each category. Jackson first evaluated Foster in May 2019.
Unspoken then as now, it was no small distinction on Jackson’s part that he was the first Black leader in Bunnell’s history to be evaluating a white police chief, in a town that until not too many years ago was a model neither of integration nor of warm relations as far as the Black community was concerned. “Injustice’s corner: Black men in Bunnell, arrested for being there,” read the headline over a News-Journal editorial in 2007. It was the result of then-Police Chief Armando Martinez arresting two Black men simply for walking in what Martinez called a “known drug area,” and arresting a third Black man simply for asking why the other two were being hassled. The State Attorney’s Office eventually threw out all the charges. And Martinez became city manager, ushering several unsettled years for the city, in its police department especially. The hiring of a Black police chief in Arthur Jones helped, though he was entirely under Martinez’s thumb. Foster’s era was calmer, as have been relations with the Black community.
Jackson at first was impressed with Foster, finding him to be an exceptional leader, dedicated, exemplary to his team, mentoring officers and increasing accountability. Foster maintained good relations with the city commission and a succession of sheriffs (he’d worked with Sheriff Rick Staly during his long career at the Orange County Sheriff’s Office). But Jackson had concerns, too. Foster, he found, “Must attempt to close communication loop during discussion to negate the perception of not being open to other’s [sic.] point of view. Be more of an active listener. Choose your battles. Chief needs to work toward diversity in PD,” and the “elimination of drug dealing, particularly in South Bunnell.” Jackson was asserting himself in no uncertain terms in stronger terms than Foster had seen in any of his previous evaluations, though Jackson concluded: “Chief is a major asset to the leadership team,” giving him an “exceptional” rating.
The following year’s evaluation got better by one point (50 instead of 49, out of a possible 54). The need for more diversity persisted, as did a recurring concern: “Chief needs to strengthen his reputation as a team player internally. He need to be [cognizant] of his interactions with his staff and others that can be perceived as a non-team play,” though that seemed to contradict Jackson’s observations of Foster’s leadership: “Chief demonstrates a highly effective communication style that motivates his staff. He serves as a mentor for his staff. Gives consistent encouragement to team, actively uses employee recognition.” Jackson reproduced the same language from the previous year’s concerns about Foster’s interactions, and this time outlined a work plan that called on Foster to improve customer service and safety, hire a detective (Foster did. The detective did not last), expand community policing, work toward eliminating drugs from South Bunnell (a miniature pipe dream that both echoed Nixon’s futile war on drugs and ignores drug consumption in the rest of the city), and develop a capital improvement plan.
Jackson’s February 2021 evaluation was more of the same.
Tom Foster’s Evaluations and Disciplinary Reprimand, 2014-2021:
Dennis C Rathsam says
Looks like Bunnell… is just as corupt as Palm Coast…. THE WORST IS YET TO COME!
I call BS says
This nothing more than expert gaslighting by the the City Manager with the questionable degrees himself. The City did barely a background check.
Typical of Bunnell to be in this position be cause they haven’t ever had a qualified City Manager. Larry Williams was the best they ever had (tough but fair) with balanced budgets and because of Larry Williams hiring Chief Foster they saved the Bunnell PD from getting taken over from State.
So now at the sad passing of Officer Guida The City uses excuses to blame Chief Foster with this gaslight “PIP” personal improvement plan. Conditions that are likely not achievable by even God himself.
The City of Bunnell will never change. They have had to take money from reserves two budge seasons in a row. This is a direction of catastrophic proportion.
They raised City taxes to become one of the highest in the State. All this with the worst City Manager and here is just another example of his method of operation.
Here is another Bunnell blunder to discuss while you all read the bullet points above.
They never took care of the new City Hall. The new City Manager ignored the roof leaks while the building fell to disrepair. Ultimately it is now the excuse to purchase a new building and land.
WELL I GOTS BAD NEWS FOR YA ALL.
YOU CAN’T HAVE IT!
The New City hall is pledged to another state project and may not get released to sell.
AGAIN, your City Manager wrecklessly without proof of a BNA, Benefit Cost Analysis why you need yet another City Hall. Just fix the building for 750k and you’ll be all set.
SO, before you read this article and judge Chief Foster about performance remember, he worked with budgets that were 50% less than his previous Chiefs worked with. Chief Foster brought back a department that essentially shouldn’t even exist.
Oh yeah there is only one Director left from the previous group. Likely not to last long next.
It’s just total incompetence and mismanagement.
Your Commission should be putting Jackson on notice about his actions before they go any further.
Jackson even tried to fire a housekeeper by writing poor review. This person had to sue the City to her retirement.
Lance Carroll says
Hello Public: it seems to me I am responding to a post that has been composed by a person that offers reality. May the light shine through…
John Stove says
Funny how you are going after the everyone BUT the Chief or Sergeant..
Sorry bud…. but Chief was rotten and was about to be shown the door so he left before he was escorted out.
Sounds like this is an ex or current police officer that has his girl panties in a bunch.
If hearsay is rotten then everyone is. There is ZERO proof, substantial and credible proof of Cheif Foster other than pouting, lying whining babies perceiving what they think is reality, which is far from it.
I hope you know, we all know who you are hiding behind fake alias’s bc you’re too much of a coward to use your real name. Sounds like you’re more of a B*%ch than a cop. I suggest you get a grip of reality and truth before you slander, defame and provide misinformation.
you probably get off on this because you are a deplorable miserable person and the only thing that makes you feel better about your loser self is trying to ruin others with lies.
Keep playing yourself everyone knows the truth. Let the show begin.
Truth Hurts says
This woman does wear girl panties and has bigger balls then both of you put together.
There is proof. You will find out soon enough boys.
The dude says
The irony here is off the meter…
Can’t BS and BS’er. says
I call BS also.
BS on making your men work alone.
BS on not taking responsibility for your actions.
BS on not getting your ass out and backing up your men when they were alone.
BS on allowing one person to divide your men.
BS because men and women have left because of the actions or lack of, of your leadership.
That’s a FACT!
Fed Up resident says
The City of Bunnell is a joke. One excuse after another, Chief Foster not too far off from the truth, a lousy City Commission and an even worse City manager, always blaming the guy before. Force a tax increase on Resident’s to fund their projects for the benefit of them as the city crumbles below, literally…
And ya winder why people don’t trust the police tisk tisk
The dude says
This article is about politicians not police. This guy was a politician, not a LEO.
for real says
As the potato turns.
Sam Royer says
Is it April Fools day because this is such a joke. The Chief and Sgt Mortimer are two of the finest men I have ever met in 46 years of life. When my wife got held up at gun point, both of these men checked in on her and made sure our family was ok. Very sad day for the citizens of Bunnell. Thank you Chief for your service and thank you Sgt. Mortimer for being a truly dedicated law enforcement officer!
SAm. It’s not a Joke. The only JOKE IS THE CITY OF BUNNELL.
It’s such a joke, the Flagler County sheriffs office doesn’t even want to take it over, and that is a reputable agency. They are smart people.
Unlike the dunces who run the city. Let’s line your pockets and spread lies to make their measly little lives feel like they’ve ‘achieved’ something. JOHN ROGERS, Alvin the racist Jackson and SHANE GROTH, also a HUUUUGE RACIST (PS ITS PUBLIC RECORD) aren’t qualified, competent or liked enough to go further than Bunnell, in which they are a laughing and continual joke.
I feel sorry for them. Cheif and the PD (minus groth who got fired from other agencies) are great people and honest officers.
The City didn’t just lose Sgt. Guida, but now they lost 2 other officers, one being the best chief this city has EVER had due to the negligent questionable character and unethical behavior by ALVIN JACKSON AND SHANE GROTH.
Truth Hurts says
Wait until I get the rest of the records on Foster and Mortimer so the world can see the true unethical pair.
You can see how childish they are by the comments they’ve written about.
Truth Hurts says
Groth is the best officer Bunnell has. Mortimer only wishes he was half the officer Groth is.
The only reason he wasn’t hired someone else is because Foster, as always, bad months anyone who tries to leave. He’s done it to 4 other officer.
Called them lazy POS, said they were to fat to do anything, called them worthless. But you’re loyal to your men. LOL. You’re a joke!
Do we need to name them so friends and family can ask and post the truth.
You want to blame one person for you getting caught, sorry to say there’s been numerous that have come forward about your unprofessional behavior. Past and present employees.
Truth Hurts says
No Sam, not a joke. And it’s not a joke that Foster and Mortimer are not the “fine men” you think they are.
You didn’t have to work with or for them.
Fire no pension
Joe Mama says
Shane Groth is a known racist!!!
Look at the Daytona News Journal. Shane was involved in making racial comments about Trayvon Martin. Really!
He also has been heard using the “N” word several times while on patrol.
Joe Daddy says
Foster and Mortimer have been heard using the “N” word many times while on duty and talking about commissioners and staff. Ask Foster why he’s never hired any colored individuals. Ones that have been hired by other agencies and are good cops.
Quit trying to deflecting the real problem here.
Foster and Mortimer after years of failed leadership and wrong doing got caught.
Plain and simple.
The guy was fired, why do you have to destroy him by printing this?
The problems at the police department clearly go beyond the ex-chief. We do not cover up, much as the city tried to.
The dude says
“Fired” or “Retired”???
The two terms have different and distinct meanings and implications on our tax dollars? Or do “retired” LEO’s in Bunnell not receive tax payer funded pensions?
Corruption in this city needs to be investigated and exposed.
Truth Hurts says
The comments above are from Foster and Mortimer. They have to make themselves look good by trashing others. Foster has always trashed the City Commission, even ones that backed him. He’s talked trash about employees and citizens daily.
How many people left because of you two? A couple of secretaries, and I could name a couple of officers also, so you want to throw stones and blame officers who finally told the truth.
I can also tell you some comments that Foster has made about the South side of Bunnell, about Sheriff STALY and I could go on and on, and I can also ruin Mortimer’s whole career with one phone call.
Keep playing games and blaming others for the crap y’all did.
Foster has tried ruining every employee that tried to better themselves by leaving. That’s a known fact.
Hell, he’s even told so many people how lazy his buddy Mortimer is, but kisses his ass.
Sadly this has been going on for years. Ask the officers and secretaries that have left including me. The best thing I did was leave that hell hole.
Groth is the best officer Bunnell has. Neither one of you could ever be as good as him. He has more leadership in his little finger then either of you have or will ever have.
Oh Jennie, the best thing you did was leave? yet here you are, still stuck knee deep in Bunnell’s bs.…so sad. Did you file any formal complaints during your employment? If not, hop out of the comments because you don’t get to ride in on someone else’s coat tail and start making accusations now. You had your opportunity to make your concerns known.
BPD is running out officers so you really shouldn’t have to work so hard to kiss up to Groth and Alvin’s BFF Snead to get your job back. Just reapply as I’m sure they’ll be happy to have you. After all, they do need warm bodies.
It sounds to me like Alvin Jackson didn’t like Tom Fosters opinion of him and is now on a witch hunt, dragging Mortimer down, too. The only thing Alvin Jackson has ever been good at is blaming everyone else for his short comings. How long has he been in office? Yet he’s still blaming the “little people” for all of the mistakes of himself and the city commission just to save himself.
Florida Girl says
I can’t believe that Shane Groth is still carrying a badge and gun. Talk about racist cops. After the horrible comments and group chat on social media about Trayvon Martin, this person is working in Bunnell! I wonder what kind of skeletons are in the new Chiefs closet, what is Alvin hiding in his past? Bunnell and their Cracker Jack commission leading the way with Howdy Doody at the wheel are destroying the city and all of us living here are suffering.
I’m glad to see the Manager taking this problem seriously.
Look like those to clowns need to go and find another profession not in law enforcement.
It’s pretty obvious they’re posting there anger on here and still retaliating and being childish.
Truth Hurts says
Obviously the truth is shown in the previous posts.
Foster is nothing but a bully, manipulator and narcissists.
Your true colors are shining well Tom.
Thanks for verifying everything the Manager exposed about you.
Like the saying goes, the truth always comes out.
Corn and Taters says
Well, well, well. Looks like we have ourselves a little cat fight between Team Tom and the Commission! I have to really chuckle, the best Chief this City has EVER had?? That’s funny. Can you even name any of them? How can you speak to something intelligently when you only know the current Chief or some of the most recent?! As far as the Chief and the Sgt checking on someone’s wife, that’s their job, y’all. And while they were wooing you, the City was most likely not covered by a 10-8 unit. In fact, if you pay attention to a recent FCSO video of a high speed pursuit, a Bunnell unit is requested as they come in to Bunnell and of course, there isn’t one available in the middle of the day on a weekday! Could that have been a day someone’s GPS was off? JOHN ROGERS could run for County Commission District 4 and wipe the floor with Mullins’ crazy ass but he has declined many invitations to run so as far as your BS about they can’t make it further, ummmm no. ALVIN JACKSON has been in loftier places than Bunnell and we are lucky to have him. And, you know, with all the in fighting, the lack of concern for officer and citizen safety, might Sgt Guido have been caught in the middle and thus adding to his stress which can easily lead to heart event? There’s no separating heart attacks and police work. The statistics are heartbreaking. Sudden cardiac death accounts for up to 10% of all line-of-duty police deaths. The average age of an attack is getting lower. Officers are 25% more likely to die (or suffer a disability) from heart disease than from a violent suspect–and that is in a well ran, well organized Department so how much more is added by being surrounded by strife, unsafe conditions and chaos? And a good portion of that chaos created by a Chief running his own little private smear campaigns and using the less astute in the process. JACKSON was aware of this. Here’s the thing, JACKSON is a chess player. He didn’t crowd the board or play petty, he waited, he documented and he handled the issue! All y’all posting here and trying to spread disaccord should be thanking JACKSON for attempting to raise the security and safety level in this City! One incident where a person is injured or worse–killed because their wasn’t enough units 10-8 and the City of Bunnell will be on the ropes and talking about sovereign immunity limits. BS, I call your comments TRASH!
The whole commission needs to be replaced, but there are no replacements… Jackson too
Truth Hurts says
How many meetings have you attended? I’ve went to a few when I’m not working and no citizens ever show up. It’s disgraceful.
If you want something done then run for a seat.
Maybe you should run since you have all the “Truth.” I’ve been to the ones that I needed to and guess what? Nothing but excuses and lies and broken promises. 2 years later and here I am with nothing… but the commissions words of wisdom. “Eventually” and “its somebody else’s fault”
It’s too bad nobody is commenting the same article on Facebook; you could put a face to the comments instead of playing a game of Guess Who.
Bring in a true cop says
They should hire life long resident and outstanding law enforcement officer, Larry Jones, as their new chief. But they wont.