Saturday, July 25, 2015
Flagler County Sheriff Faces Ethics Charges: TIMES-UNION
Probable cause in ethics case found against Flagler sheriff, who apologizes but calls for hearing to clear his name
By Dan Scanlan Fri, Jul 24, 2015 @ 6:12 pm | updated Fri, Jul 24, 2015 @ 6:41 pm
The Florida Ethics Commission says that Flagler County Sheriff Jim Manfre violated the state’s ethics laws on three counts.
But while the commission’s 6-1 vote cleared the sheriff of a fourth allegation regarding a request to get his first 2013 paycheck early, Manfre said he has asked a Florida administrative law judge to hear the matter “to clear my good name.” He also defended the legality of his actions and said he immediately made changes to make sure such issues never occur again.
“As your sheriff, I do take full responsibility for all of my actions and do acknowledge that I could have made better choices. However, I never violated any law, internal sheriff’s policy or practice,” Manfre said. “... Unfortunately, as this is an ongoing legal case, I must challenge this matter in the courts and not in the media.”
Manfre had asked the Florida Commission on Ethics in early July to dismiss the allegations against him, with all four stemming from a complaint filed by a former employee. That employee was the Sheriff’s Office’s director of business services in 2013. The incidents took place in Manfre’s first eight months in office. He took office in January 2013.
The commission said the sheriff violated ethics laws when he made trips to Louisiana, Virginia and Tennessee in a marked Sheriff’s Office vehicle; used a company credit card to purchase meals for non-employees and alcohol; and failed to properly report a gift.
Manfre’s response was that none of the things he is accused of doing were done with a wrongful intent, according to a legal filing to the ethics commission. During a Friday news conference, he said he did not violate any policy, procedure or law as he apologized “for the distractions this has caused to the community and the Sheriff’s Office.”
Manfre said the actions did occur during his first months in office. But he said that as soon as he learned that errors had been made, he directed staff to institute new policies and procedures to prevent these types of incidents from happening again.
“I only acted in accordance with the established practices and procedures that were in place when I took office,” he said. “I am an honest and sincere man, one who is extremely proud and honored to serve as your sheriff.”
Dan Scanlan: (904) 359-4549