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Palm Coast Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019 5 months ago

County Administrator Craig Coffey schedules special Jan. 9 County Commission meeting about his contract

County commissioners said they expect that he will offer to resign.
by: Jonathan Simmons News Editor

Flagler County Administrator Craig Coffey has called a special meeting of the Flagler County Commission for Jan. 9 to discuss his contract. 

Two commissioners, Donald O'Brien and Joe Mullins, who had recently spoken to Coffey said the afternoon of Jan. 8 that they expected Coffey to offer the County Commission a letter of resignation or a separation agreement. Coffey has been county administrator for 11 years.

"It’s my understanding that he'll offer a letter of separation, where he will basically offer to resign, and that will terminate his contract," O'Brien said. "I’ve been talking with him over a number of days about different concepts for ways he might want to go. ... I'm willing to accept [his resignation], and, you know, it’s sad that we have to get to this point, but I think it’s necessary, and I think I’m ready to move on in a new direction." 

Coffey, through the county's official spokeswoman, declined to speak to reporters the evening of Jan. 8 but offered to answer questions the morning of Jan. 9.

The Jan. 9 meeting was not formally announced to the public and posted to the county government's website until approximately 4:30 p.m. Jan. 8, and does not fall on one of the commission's standard meeting dates. The commission had planned to discuss Coffey's contract — and the possibility of firing Coffey — during a regular meeting scheduled for Monday, Jan. 14. 

Mullins said Jan. 8 that he'd spoke to Coffey about the possibility that Coffey might resign before Jan. 14.

"I asked him about three weeks ago to consider it so we didn’t get to Monday," Mullins said. "With the findings that I had [at the Sheriff's Operations Center] Friday, I went back to him and said, 'It's time.'" 

Mullins and several county staff members and Sheriff's Office employees had spent time on Thursday, Jan. 3 and Friday, Jan. 4 at the Operations Center overseeing testing on the building.

Sheriff's Office employees have said they believe the building — which the county bought in 2013 and remade into the Operations Center from the bones of the old Memorial Hospital building — is a sick building; more than 30 have reported symptoms they believe are related to the structure.

Coffey's handling of the Operations Center issue had drawn previous complaints from O'Brien and from Mullins, who in his first meeting as a commissioner had proposed firing Coffey. In the recent testing, water was found under the building's flooring and possible bat guano was found in the walls, along with old wood that the Sheriff said he'd been told was supposed to have been removed during the renovation process.

Both O'Brien and Mullins said Jan. 8 that they would be willing to discuss letting Coffey resign with his severance — something Coffey had stated last week would be one of his conditions if he decided to offer his resignation.

"I’m willing to consider anything up until the day of. The day of, I’m done," Mullins said. "I feel like we have cause right now, and if Coffey wants to make it to Monday, then I’m going be very aggressive that I want this termination to be for cause."

Mullins said he's experience symptoms himself ever since he reached around inside the Operations Center's walls during testing Jan. 4. 

"My arm's been irritated since that day," he said. "That’s exactly what those employees are dealing with. ... I hope [Coffey] makes the right decision for the community and saves us from going though that process Monday. ... I’d like to see us get through it."

The meeting will be held at 5:30 p.m. Jan. 9 in the board chambers of the Government Services Building, at 1769 E. Moody Blvd. in Bunnell.

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