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Palm Coast Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012 8 years ago

Q & A: Donald Fleming, Flagler County sheriff


1. Please provide a few statistics and explain why they are indicative of the state of the Sheriff’s Office today.

In four of the last five years, the crime index has decreased. Index crimes are down in mid-year reporting for 2012 by 8.9%, with violent crimes down 6.9%.

Contrary to Mr. Manfre’s claim that crime has increased over 100%, the article in which he is referring is crime overall in Flagler County. In fact, in the source cited by Mr. Manfre, it clearly reports that the increase of crime in Flagler County falls within the city of Bunnell jurisdiction, an area not covered by the Flagler County Sheriff's Office. While the Sheriff’s Office works closely with the Bunnell Police Department, and will provide assistance as required, misleading the public is questionable — but expected considering the source.

The men and women of the sheriff’s office are working diligently in our neighborhoods, responding to calls for service and actively patrolling. The Crime Suppression Team, which was implemented in 2010, affected 70 arrests in its first year and recovered over $200,000 in stolen property. This is working in Flagler County.

2. What’s an example that illustrates your ability to perform as a manager?

As your sheriff for the past eight years, Flagler County has grown exponentially. We became the fastest growing county in the nation, which was followed by being the county with the highest foreclosure rate and having the highest unemployment rate. Through the ups and downs, I have demonstrated fiscal conservatism and worked closely with the county administrator and commission as well as the city of Palm Coast and School District to insure the high level of professional service being provided did not suffer as a result of a decrease in funding levels.

I have provided leadership and demonstrated significant accomplishment during my tenure. While it is my ultimate responsibility for the men and women in my command, the errors of the few do not diminish the strengths of the many distinguished men and women. I did provide three years of 10% raises. This was necessary to insure we remained competitive with surrounding agencies. Raises have not been given for the past few years. However, I have not had to lay off any one — sworn or civilian.

As the county population grew, it is expected the number of deputies and supervisors will increase as well. Under the previous sheriff, there were only 12-14 deputies on the streets. We now have 18-19 patrolling the streets per shift, in addition to the Crime Suppression Team and K-9 Deputies. In partnership with the School District and juvenile probation, we conduct juvenile enforcement operations. The programs implemented during my two terms are proven.

3. Why should people vote for you instead of your opponent?

The citizens of Flagler County are quite frankly tired of the shenanigans that surround my opponent. He has demonstrated his ability to not work well with government, blame others for his mistakes and take credit for the accomplishments of others.

His claim to having law enforcement experience is misleading. He has never held a state certification for law enforcement. In making this statement to the public on this minute issue is clearly a foundation on which to continue misleading the public.

As sheriff I have focused on crime prevention which is factually evident based on statistics compiled by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, not misleading statements. Community policing endeavors such as Twilight Ball and the Leadership Academy provide not only mentoring opportunities but also a supervised program for our youth.

I have demonstrated my ability to work closely with government entities and improving communications with citizens via social media and website development. As a fiscal conservative, I have been a steward of taxpayers' hard-earned money, insuring that just as our residents have tightened their household budgets, we have as well.

Following the questionnaire, we had each candidate come in for a follow-up interview. A sample of Fleming's responses is compiled below.

Challenger Jim Manfre says that, under Sheriff Donald Fleming, crime has gone up. Fleming responded this way: “The crime being up was all in Bunnell … 35% up in the city of Bunnell. … Unfortunately, Jim, as a former sheriff, should know that you get your crime index from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, who gets it from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and you get your uniform crime reports from there. … Mid-year, this year, we’re down 8.9%.”

Fleming added: "When Mr. Manfre was sheriff, he had 12 people on the road. We now have 17-19 people on the road. … I started a program called ‘boots on the ground.’ … The need for supervision on the road, for me, is paramount.”

Manfre said he the better administrator; Fleming responded: “If you go into the archives of the News-Journal … you’ll find that there’s a number of things about his budget being over budgeted. … He was constantly fighting with the County Commission. … He wouldn’t reveal or divulge anything from his record to them. …

"He has no law enforcement experience," Fleming said. "Cooperation between agencies … was non-existent (during Manfre’s tenure as sheriff). … His supervisory skills leave a lot to be desired.”

On Mr. Manfre’s claims that the Sheriff's Office is not doing adequate community policing, Fleming said: “He doesn’t know community policing, because we do that on a daily basis. … We always have to have an open door policy … with the citizens of the community because they’re our eyes and ears. … Community policing, in my administration, has grown leaps and bounds.”

Fleming was asked to explain three ethical concerns. First, Jamie Roster was investigated by the Sheriff's Office for falsifying time sheets. Fleming said: “I’m still investigating that. It’s still not complete. … Until I have all the facts, I’m not going to make that kind of decision at this time."

Second, on having accepted a membership to the Hammock Beach Resort without declaring it as a gift: "I decided not to fight anything with the ethics board. … The ethics board found cause, I paid $3,900 back to Hammock Beach for the restaurants. … I made a mistake, I’ve owned up to it, and it won’t happen again."

Third, on having talked on the phone with John Fischer, wife of hit-and-run suspect Jamesine Fischer: "I’ve been cleared by the State Attorney’s Office, I’ve been cleared by the Florida Highway Patrol. I’m not going to go into this. I’ve done this a thousand times … I did nothing wrong.”


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