The Kim C. Hammond Justice Center, in Bunnell. (File photo)

Courthouse deputies disciplined after internal investigation reveals racism and other misconduct

One deputy will be fired, a sergeant resigned while facing termination, and a commander has been transferred.
By: 
Sep. 5, 2018

The following is a news release issued Sept. 5 by the Flagler County Sheriff's Office:

Sheriff Rick Staly ordered an in-depth internal investigation on courthouse security operations on March 19, 2018 after after an internal inquiry revealed the need for complete investigation. As a result of this investigation, Deputy John Freshcorn has been served notice of intent to terminate his employment; Cmdr. Brian Pasquariello has been given a written reprimand and transferred to the jail; and, Sgt. John Bray retired while under investigation and facing termination. Sheriff Staly also ordered an additional internal investigation on Deputy Underwood for his alleged use of inappropriate and offensive language. 

As a result of the previous inquiry, Deputy Jeffrey Puritus was disciplined and transferred to patrol, Sgt. Kim Davis, a no no-nonsense patrol and internal affairs supervisor had been transferred to supervise courthouse deputies and civilian staff, Sgt. John Bray had been transferred to the Palm Coast District Office to handle walk-in complaints and Sheriff Staly had ordered that all FCSO courthouse employees undergo remedial human diversity training. 

The initial inquiry started after allegations of inappropriate workplace behavior was reported. The allegations included the use of racial slurs, unbecoming conduct, poor supervision and misconduct involving Deputy Jeffery Puritis, Deputy John Freshcorn, Deputy Edwin Velazquez and Sergeant John Bray. 

While the investigation was hampered by Court Administration employees that refused to give statements and by law could not be compelled to assist in a Sheriff’s Internal Investigation since they were not Sheriff’s employees, the investigation sustained the following policy violations: 

Sergeant Bray :

1. Unsatisfactory or Incompetent Performance 

2. Unbecoming Conduct 

3. Moral Character

4. Behavior and Language 

5. Courtesy and Respect 

Deputy Freshcorn:

1. Untruthfulness 

2. Unbecoming Conduct 

3. Moral Character 

Commander Brain Pasquariello was cited for unsatisfactory performance and served with a written reprimand. Commander Pasquariello was also transferred to Detention Services effective immediately. Cmdr. Louis Miceli was transferred to the Courthouse Security Section. 

During the investigation, Sergeant Bray, who had technically retired in September 2017 when he entered the state retirement system’s DROP program, submitted a letter on August 20, 2018 to terminate DROP and leave FCSO effective September 4, 2018. As indicated in a memorandum from Undersheriff Jack Bisland, Sergeant Bray would have also been served with a notice of intent to terminate his employment for the sustained policy violations and is not eligible for re-hire. 

“Sgt. Bray had participated in and allowed an unacceptable work atmosphere to prevail in the courthouse,” said Chief Mark Strobridge. “Sheriff Staly expects all employees of the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office to conduct themselves in a professional manner at all times. The use of racial slurs, racism, unbecoming conduct or untruthful behavior will not be tolerated.” 

“Racism and racist comments have no place in law enforcement or the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office and will not be tolerated,” said Sheriff Staly, who is attending his step-mother’s funeral in Orlando. 

Allegations against Deputy Velazquez were not sustained. Deputy Velazquez has decided to retire effective September 11, 2018 to begin a new non-law enforcement career. Deputy Puritis had been previously disciplined and transferred to patrol for inappropriate conduct. This investigation did not sustain any other policy violations on Deputy Puritis. Deputy Underwood, in truthfully answering a question as a witness in this investigation, admitted to using inappropriate and offensive language many years ago. As a result, Sheriff Staly has ordered an additional internal investigation to comply with Florida law and protections afforded Deputy Underwood under the Policeman’s Bill of Rights.

Deputy Freshcorn has ten days to appeal his disciplinary termination and has been relieved of all duties and authority. Deputy Freshcorn has been employed with the FCSO since September 2007.