Flagler County has a flock of albatrosses in its building inventory: the former Sheriff’s Operations Center in Bunnell, the former Sears building off Palm Coast Parkway, and the former Wachovia Bank building off of Old Kings Road. County officials are trying to figure out what to do with those buildings.
Monday evening, county commissioners took a step toward at least attempting to be rid of the Sears building. They voted unanimously to offer that the seller, their realtor, an engineering firm and their insurers buy it back–or face lawsuits.
The county bought the building for $1.25 million in November 2018 after a tortuous option agreement that at one point commissioners attempted to set aside. They found themselves in a position to have to carry out the option. Soon afterward, it turned out the building was severely damaged. County officials today said that the sellers knew it was damaged and had a responsibility to disclose the building’s problems with water intrusion.
“Shortly after our purchase we discovered that there was an existing condition,” the county attorney said, “a pre-existing condition due to a failure in the gutter system, gutter repair.”
“A pre-existing condition that should have been disclosed by any seller, and/or realtor and/or engineer,” Commission Chairman Don O’Brien said. Hadeed showed a video of the copious water intrusion during a rain event.
The sellers were James and Adre’a McIntyre, who’d operated the Sears building. Their broker was Margaret Sheehan-Jones, who was also involved in several other county land or building and economic development deals, not least of them the old hospital that became the sheriff’s operations center, now evacuated, and the now-collapsed deal to bring a furniture company to the south end of the county. She’s had a long and close association with the county’s economic development director, Helga van Eckert. (An earlier version of this story inaccurately reported that Sheehan-Jones was the broker on the county’s purchase of the Wachovia bank building.)
Universal Engineering inspected the Sears building for water damage–after being specifically asked to do so by a county official.
“We filed formal claims against the seller, the engineering firm and the realtor,” County Attorney Al Hadeed told commissioners. The claims are being processed. But the offer to the seller presents a way out of a lawsuit–for both sides. “Our demand is that we be repaid for the purchase price that we made on the property and that the cost that we have incurred since then be part of that payment, so that we are made whole,” Hadeed said.
Should the parties reject the offer, the county would move to sell the building immediately, as-is, and would submit a claim to the parties’ insurers to recoup the difference between the selling price and the cost of the building to the county, including the cost of repairs to the building that the county has incurred since taking ownership.
“We believe absolutely that this was a known problem and there is some evidence that there was some effort to conceal the issue,” County Administrator Jerry Cameron said. Documentation of the problem makes it “that much more egregious,” he said.
Hadeed called the offer to the sellers “the most efficient path to give them the opportunity to weigh it out.” He said the county believes the parties will want to resolve the matter “in the least painful way to them,” short of a lawsuit.
The county didn’t have a crying need for the 8,000 square feet of the Sears building. But when Sheehan-Jones let then-County Administrator Craig Coffey know the building would become available, Coffey drew some interest from the tax collector to use it as a satellite location and started the process of buying it.
“Do we have something in place that we’ll never do business with them again?” County Commissioner Greg Hansen asked the administrator and the attorney this evening, referring at least to the engineering firm. Commissioner Joe Mullins wasn’t comfortable with that sort of question being posed at this stage, with a lawsuit potentially hanging over the process. He said commissioners should speak the least about the issue and vote on it. Which they did, at Commissioner Dave Sullivan’s urging. Sullivan had been the one who’d tried to set aside the option to buy last fall.
Concerned Citizen says
So the county willingly bought this building knowing it didn’t do it’s due dilligence. Then got caught in a bad deal and is threatening to sue? Sounds about right.
Our BOCC is laughable at best and criminal at worst. No room to talk when it comes to throwing law suits around.
Wow the county commissioners grew a pair. Go get em!
Did the county inspect it before purchase? Why is our county so ignorantly incompetent? You bought a building without inspecting it properly and now you want to force a buyback? More misuse of our taxdollars because of stupidity.
That sounds just like St.Johns County.
It’s about time this stupid county goes after the crooks that have been fleecing the taxpayers. Now go after the perps involved in the sheriff’s building.
Speedy Faith says
Buyer beware. This is what happens when politicians rush a sale and due diligence is not done properly.
Silence Dogood says
The County, as buyer, signed an AS-IS Purchase Contract to buy the Sears Building in its then-current condition. AS-IS in Commercial real estate deals (as opposed to Residential properties) means the Buyer is buying the property As-Is with any and all risk as to the building’s condition being squarely on the Buyer, yet reflective of a cheaper sales price for the Buyer, does it not? If the current County officials were thinking clearly, they could sell the Sears Building As-Is today (in an up real estate market) for more than what it paid for (under a contract procured in a down real estate market).
The homeless love the old bank
Flagler Female says
A Realtor may not have known of a pre-existing condition if the Seller did not disclose that to them. The Seller may not have known either unless it was overtly obvious. Buyers have a due diligence period wherein they have the ability to perform inspections to protect them against this very scenario and in case a Seller may not realize there is a defect. (I’m also wondering if this was an “AS IS” contract.) It isn’t fair to put out publicly an accusation without also offering other facts or possibilities such as those described above. I am guessing an inspection was not performed since the claim is that apparently this defect is so obvious that the Seller and Realtor should have known by visual inspection. If that is the case, the Buyer also has culpability in this. Let the Buyer Beware and do your due diligence!
Bill Nelson says
This smells of “something rotten in Denmark” syndrome. Anybody of authority check on the “money trail” ??
Denise L Calderwood says
For the record it should also be documented that Margaret Sheehan Jones was the realtor who sold the county the old hospital (which is the abandoned Sheriff’s Administration Building) when her husband Mark Jones was the consultant that was asked to draw up specific building requirements needed in a building for the Sheriff’s Administration – with the old hospital coming out as the best purchase- a clear conflict of interest and yet our county leaders and staff still continued to use her services several more times afterward to where we are now. I guess it is hard to teach an old dog new tricks after all. When are we the people going to say enough is enough already!’ Apparently it is easy to do when the people are homeless but I guess it isn’t easy when it’s a professional person in town.
Severely damaged ? Look at it ? It’s not a new building, it’s empty for a reason, it didn’t sell for as long as it was on the market for obvious reasons. The county has employees that made this blunder, they need to own that. I would think being the county, they could fabricate a reason to inspect the building before even getting involved in a escrow and contract situation with options ?
This kind of supports what I’ve always thought about home inspections for residential even, if the inspector isn’t willing to guarantee their report, it’s just another opinion. This world is full of experts that aren’t experts and reports that are worthless compilations of the most obvious findings that anyone that has decent vision can see the blaringly obvious flaws. The county employees have certifications to know this for a reason. Maybe in the line of duty, that Friday they leave the office early, they drive over to the place and get a showing, it costs nothing to arrange & be shown property multiple times.
Sophie Dupp says
PC Lady says
Don’t most people inspect a property BEFORE they buy it?!
So what about the hospital building in Bunnell? Good ol’ boy network renders it immune from a similar situation?
the land of no blinkers says
And so the saga continues in ‘as the stomach turns’.
More taxpayer money than brains.
Lets see what will be the outcome now. What a waste of taxpayers funds…they better recoup all our hard earned taxes invested in that pos and then go next to that contaminated Hospital bought and also get rid of the closed bank in Old Kings Road that seats empty wasting away! Six hundred thousands a year of our over paid in taxes to this county they should fork for the sheriff requested extra funds needed in additional traffic units for Palm Coast to control and fine all these maniacs at the steering wheels, in motor bikes with open mufflers making Evil Cannibal stunts and truckers violating our no truck or no construction zones in our residential roads and also speeders in our waterways. Palmcoasters pay this county double the taxes of what we pay our city that gives us over 70 percent of our services plus additional 3 millions a year for the sheriff services to the city that has a population of over 856 residents per square mile, versus only 197 residents per square mile in the county. This makes our current sheriff traffic units insufficient in Palm Coast to stop undetected bully drivers killing and hurting kids an adults on a daily basis and destroying our quality of life with speed and noise day and night.
Is time that Palmcoasters get the services we overpay to the county other that them wasting our hard earned taxes buying useless real estate from their significant well connected buddies and other frivolous spending suing their residents or elected constitutional officials for uncovering their wrong doing paying outrageous legal fees to former FL ethics commission lawyers like Herron. FCBOCC needs to get down walk the line and stop wasting our tax funds buying garbage, protecting wrong and witch hunting its people while violating the Florida Anti Slapp Statute! Also their Economic useless Department need to start promoting local employment by hiring our local professionals some holding even Masters in Public Administrations other that pay consultants fortunes to go find out their administrations in Tekerary with shady political infused background jobs!Why our local professionals with distinguished proven degrees and credentials find always a shut door when trying to present their resumes? Then our local government go pay fortunes to “consultants” or created costly half a million a year budget Economic Development Departments to create jobs! When are we taxpayers going to stop all this at the ballot box?
John Brady says
Good move. Now for the Sheriff’s Operation Building, can’t we ask the same questions? Didn’t the sellers know that the site was a “brownfield” site and should that fact be made known prior to the sale.
The Sheriff’s building is certainly an issue for all the citizens of Flagler County. I humbly suggest that each Commissioner appoint 2 citizens to serve on a panel to review all the available information and make recommendations to the Commission. I think if opened up to people outside the existing staff, perhaps there will be more universal acceptance of the final decision.
BTW this appointment of citizens to study specific issues and make recommendations is a process already used by the Flagler County School District when faced with picking a new Superintendent.
LEE MICHAUD says
It’s time the people we vote into office start protecting our tax dollars. To many decisions are being made that do not benefit are city. Time to take a hard look when votes next time.
John Yankovich says
Property taxes go up and county admin competency goes down. Why is the county getting involved in buy damaged property. Once again the county commissioners are asleep T the switch!
Why the hell is the county commissioners in the real estate business to begin with??? They don’t care it’s not their money anyway. Wake up palm coast your getting fleeced and footing the bill as their buddy’s laugh all the way to the bank
What a joke. They will never buy back that building, no law suit would ever stand up in court.
How about we get rid of whoever’s was involved in buying that structure and make sure they never work for the public again!
If there were conflicts of interest, material misrepresentations & failures to disclose, I’d think criminal prosecutions for those individuals certainly is a remedy for consideration. I mean similar to Corrine Brown of Jacksonville, FL ? Not only would they jail those with the conflicts of interest, they would hold them financially responsible for this mess. Frauds need to be locked up just like the drug dealers and whatever else FCSO rounds up. I mean if nobody gets special treatment for breaking laws, it needs to start within the county government, talk the talk, walk the walk thing.
Yeah and pay back the red light tickets that was illegal with it
Jane Gentile-Youd says
Our commissioners have forgotten that the county attorney and county administrator work for them not vice versa.
They all had all the engineering , inspection, appraisal reports re-sent to them yesterday prior to them voting to waste more of our money with a lawsuit in my opinion they will not only lose but have to pay attorney fees for all defendants named.
The engineering reports clearly state that the inspections were ‘ordered’ by the county to be non-destructive and non invasive; they repeated more than once through both property and asbestos inspection that client did not need them to inspect or go on the roof. Non invasive and non destructive orders prohibited them from finding the water leakage Al Hadeed showed the commissioners last night – you have to destroy dry wall to get there!
Not once piece of correspondence was addressed to anyone other than Tim Telfer ( the fall guy for Coffey and Hadeed). Hadeed’s office on March 6 had to send Tim an e-mail asking him to ‘dig up the contract stuff’ and send to Mrs. Youd.
All these facts will be brought out in any lawsuit by any party the county chooses to sue.
They just can’t accept another piece of mud thrown at them by Coffey and they refuse to consider Hadeed one step below God.
Amazing.. simply amazing
My thoughts says
Did anyone who commented read the story? The county hired an engineer firm to specifically look for water damage. I do not necessarily love all the failed business deals, but it looks like the county did their due diligence on this one.
Was the inspection so lax that the damage wasn’t noticed? Or did they fake the inspection? Okay, they hired someone to do the inspection. But there’s something wrong in that process……
Duh. Based on past performance of the county and its real estate purchases wouldn’t at least one of these elected brain trusts walk through the building at least once or twice.
Ideally with an engineer from the company contracted to inspect building.
Obviously that is a little too much of an expectation.
Concerned citizen says
The whole city is run by NY ‘rs they didn’t like ny now they want palm Coast to be like ny I see so much money wasted every day and our taxes just keep going up some of us won’t be able to live in PC much longer
When carpet baggers/snake oil salesmen NYers & Good Ole Southern Rednecks/Boys make deals ?
Okaloosa County, are you reading this? Are you suuuuuuure about your hiring decision?
This hire ?
Silence Dogood says
The small number of County officials involved in this petty smear campaign might instead consider a policy of telling, as Paul Harvey used to say: “The Rest of the Story…” The County, as buyer, signed an AS-IS Purchase Contract to buy the Sears Building in its then-current condition. AS-IS in Commercial real estate deals (as opposed to Residential properties) means the Buyer is buying the property As-Is with any and all risk as to the building’s condition being squarely on the Buyer, yet reflective of a cheaper sales price for the Buyer, does it not? If the current County officials were thinking clearly, they might sell the Sears Building As-Is today (in an up real estate market) for more than what it paid for (under a contract procured in a down real estate market) or keep and make positive and productive use of the valuable commercial building it bought at a bargain-basement price.