Although investigations are ongoing and Armor has not been found guilty of wrongdoing, Staly is unhappy with how the company responded after inmate Anthony Fennick's death, he said.
Sheriff Rick Staly is ending the Flagler County Sheriff Office's contact with Armor Correctional Health, the company the FCSO hired last year to oversee medical issues at the county jail.
The move comes after the death of an inmate, 23-year-old Anthony Fennick, who had told his parents in the days leading up to his death that he was sick and was not getting adequate medical care at the jail. Fennick died Feb. 9, after he had a seizure at the jail and was hospitalized with no brain activity.
"The system failed Anthony. I, as your sheriff, and this agency, along with our medical providers, will work hard to prevent another tragedy from occurring."
— RICK STALY, Flagler County sheriff
“As a father myself, I cannot begin to imagine the depth of their loss and sorrow,” Staly said in a news conference Feb. 22. “We have been continuously keeping them informed on the investigation. As sheriff, I accept full responsibility. I promise the Fennick family a thorough and transparent investigation. The Fennick family and the citizens of Flagler County deserve answers and I intend to get them. We will leave no stone unturned.”
With the investigation into Fennick's cause of death still in progress — it will take the medical examiner's office 60-90 days to determine a case of death — no one has yet been found responsible.
There are also two other investigations underway, handled by Sheriff's Office staff: a criminal negligence investigation, and an internal affairs investigation. The sheriff had requested that the Florida Department of Law Enforcement conduct an investigation, but that request had been denied, he said. Still, FDLE investigators did check Fennick's body for signs of trauma, and found none.
FCSO investigators are now in the process of reviewing medical documents, video surveillance and phone calls, and interviewing witnesses, Staly said. He has granted them permission to hire an outside medical expert to review medical documents.
At this point, Staly said, there is no indication that Sheriff's Office employees themselves committed any wrongdoing, but the investigation is early, and things could change.
One FCSO sergeant, Staly said, clearly made the right decision by overriding Armor's direction on how to transport Fennick to the hospital after Fennick had a seizure at the jail.
"The nurse, as we understand it — now remember, investigations change as we go through — the nurse on duty at the time had told the sergeant, 'Well you can just transport him in a patrol car to the hospital,'" Staly said. "I am very proud that the sergeant overrode that and called for an ambulance and a paramedic to transport him, which was an appropriate call."
Although wrongdoing has not, at this point, been determined, Staly is ending the contract with Armor because of how the company has responded to Fennick's death, he said.
"They sent us a bill, and they denied any responsibility. That's it," he said. "I have a death in my jail, and the president of Amor doesn't call the sheriff of Flagler County? Really? Not acceptable. If you're going to be a partner with me, you're in it 100%, not just to collect the check."
The company's president still hasn't called, Staly said, but Amor has asked the FCSO to pay additional money: When the Sheriff's Office requested that the two Armor nurses who'd been at the jail during Fennick's deterioration be removed from duty at the jail and replaced, Armor requested that the Sheriff's Office continue to pay for those two nurses' salaries — stating that the nurses would be placed on paid leave — plus the salaries for the nurses that would replace them.
"My general counsel has asked them to cite where they think that we should pay them, and they have not responded at all," Staly said. "They know they're wrong. The contract is very clear."
The Sheriff's Office issued an RFP for a new medical services contractor on Feb. 22, Staly said, and has also taken the following other steps at the jail:
• All inmate medical concerns will be reported to jail supervisors and administrators, allowing for oversight.
• Signs are being added to the housing units, and a section to the inmate handbook, encouraging inmates to report medical issues to jail staff.
• Inmates will be given medical release forms when they're booked into the jail, so that the jail can share medical information with their selected friends or family members without violating medical privacy laws. Jail medical staff had repeatedly told Fennick's mother, she said, that they could not talk to her about his condition because he didn't have a current release form on file.
• An inmate's family or emergency contact will be notified immediately if the inmate is taken to the hospital for a critical emergency.
• The FCSO website will have a dedicated jail medical page that includes contact information for the Inmate Medical Department, inmate services director and division chief.
• A 24-hour hotline phone number has been created for inmate medical concerns.
• The following medical services offered with no co-pay: follow-up care; mental health services; and for an inmate or staff referral to medical services.
"We will release the results of all investigations when they are complete," Staly said. "I’ve heard a few say, “They are just inmates.” I disagree. They are human beings. Anthony Fennick was a son, a brother and a father. He was well behaved in our custody. He was trying to make positive changes in his life, despite past struggles and mistakes. ... To the Fennick family, I am very sorry. I can’t bring Anthony back. But I can work to prevent another family from ever experiencing the loss of a loved one in our custody. The changes I am making are important and significant, and consistent with my ongoing efforts to continually improve and make your Sheriff’s Office the best it can be. "