Jim Manfre officially became Flagler County Sheriff Tuesday at 12:01 a.m. He didn’t waste any time: The moment his office took effect, so did a number of changes to the organization of the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office.
The position of Chief Deputy, as well as the positions of majors and captains will no longer exist in the office’s managerial hierarchy. Those who served in those positions under previous Sheriff Donald Fleming have either be reassigned positions — bringing pay decreases — or terminated.
The changes are the culmination of efforts from Manfre’s transition team, which was made of volunteers who will now assume positions in Manfre’s office. The team interviewed current staff and examined the agency as a whole to decide what changes needed to be made as Manfre assumed control.
“The transition team … found an agency that was dysfunctional, bureaucratic and without direction and leadership,” Manfre said at a Monday press conference, adding that there were six layers of supervision between the sheriff and patrol deputyies during Fleming’s tenure, an amount he considers too high.
Manfre’s reorganization, he said, is an attempt to reign in the ratio of deputies to supervisors in the department, which, until Tuesday, was about 2:1. The changes Manfre made are as drastic as he is legally permitted to do under the Career Service Reform Act, which eliminates the right of collective bargaining for deputy sheriffs in Florida.
Because of this, Manfre’s initial downsizing brought a decrease of seven supervisory positions and savings of about $150,000 annually. This is just the start of Manfre’s planned organization: He hopes to form a leaner office that has four deputies to every supervisor.
“(In doing this), I may be making seven people unhappy, but I’ll be making 250 employees happy and fulfilling the promise I made in the campaign to take a business approach to the office,” Manfre said, later saying that transition team interviews revealed that Sheriff’s Office employees were “starving for leadership.”
Majors Steve Clair and John Plummer were terminated. Chief Deputy David O’Brien was transferred to senior commander of the office’s neighborhood services division.
Manfre brought three new employees to his executive staff: Rick Staly, who will act as undersheriff; Robert Crouse, who will act as director of human resources and professional development; and Jack Bisland, who will act as commander of the investigative services division. Manfre said the new staff members would bring a fresh perspective to the agency.
Lieutenant Robert Weber will act as the new public information officer for the Sheriff’s Office. Debra Johnson, who previously held that position, will act as Weber’s assistant. This is an effort to make information more accessible to the public, Manfre said.
“The transition team also found excessive and wasteful spending (in the Sheriff’s Office),” Manfre said. He gave two examples of such spending: the first, an armored vehicle that was delivered the agency recently, costing $130,000.
The Sheriff’s Office already has an armored vehicle, Manfre said, and doesn’t need another one.
A second example: The office purchased three years ago a fingerprint analysis system, which cost $100,000. It’s never been used. There is currently no qualified fingerprint analyst on staff.
Manfre has also eliminated the two-district method of patrolling Flagler County, which he said caused difficulties in communication. Instead, the area will be treated as a whole, and will be served in conjunction with the agency’s newly created Neighborhood Services Division.
“Neighborhood services will be delivered using a community concept,” Manfre said. “(The) Palm Coast community service area is created, with future community service areas planned for the Hammock community and Western Flagler County. The Safe Neighborhood Unit is created to focus on neighborhood crime trend using problem-oriented policing methods.”
O’Brien will now head this division.
Now that he’s in office, Manfre can move forward with other plans — such as address overcrowding at the Flagler County Inmate Facility. He’s ordering a full audit of the facility, which will be headed by an inmate commander from another county . Manfre said he hopes to determine not only the scope of need for a new facility, but also how to address the problem in the time before it’s built, which could be up to three years.
“It’s certainly a prime topic,” Manfre said. “It’s an area of high liability. ... Clearly the in facility is in a crisis at this moment.”
This, he said, could become “a tremendous liability for Flagler County citizens.”
Manfre said these changes to the Sheriff’s Office are just beginning. The Palm Coast precinct will be moving to City Marketplace with extended operating hours, and Manfre is looking for ways to downsize the agency’s costs from leasing buildings.
“What the transition team indicated to us was … the agency was looking for leadership,” Staly said at the press conference. “And, in many cases, the line level did not have the respect of the staff. I suspect that the majority of the agency’s reaction (to changes) will be excitement for a new future for the Sheriff’s Office.”