Q+A with Flagler County's sheriff
Sheriff Rick Staly has a nice view from the third story of the Justice Center, but it’s a view he hopes he doesn’t have much longer, as he presses the county to find a new solution for the troubled Sheriff’s Operations Center. Meanwhile, Anthony Fennick’s death has raised questions about inmates’ health, and a homeless camp has formed near the library. The good news is that progress is being made in traffic safety and domestic violence deterrence. The following is an edited transcript of a Feb. 19 interview.
Q: There have been several students arrested recently for making threats. Are they being prosecuted?
A: I don’t know the outcome of the cases at the State Attorney’s Office. I suspect they are using pretrial diversion, to give the kids a second chance, which I support.
It’s time for parents to be parents again. I’m not a child psychologist, but something is going on with this generation. Maybe it’s because they’re behind a computer keyboard all the time, and they’re playing games on Xbox or whatever it’s on, and there seems to be a breakdown in the American culture. It’s taken a long time to get to this point, but when I went to school, every morning you started your school day with the pledge of allegiance and with a prayer. It’s not like that anymore.
That’s just one example of the American culture coming apart. It’s fraying. What we’re seeing now is we have a lot of single parent homes, parents that are working multiple jobs, so they don’t have the time to really be strictly involved in the kid’s life.
Q: Traffic fatalities have been cut almost in half from 2017 to 2018. What accounts for the improvement?
A: In 2017, when I saw the fatality rate climbing and the crashes with injuries climbing, I went to the city of Palm Coast, and I asked for five additional deputy sheriffs to focus solely on traffic and aggressive driving in the city of Palm Coast. And then we purchased the five Mustangs that you see. We finally got them operational in early 2018.
Q: In light of the death of Anthony Fennick, was it a mistake to hire Armor Correctional Health Services to provide medical care at the jail?
A: When I took over as sheriff, we were in compliance with the Florida Model Jail Standards, but we were at the basic minimum level. We used part-time paramedics, part-time doctor for four hours a week. We were asking detention deputies to administer insulin (giving shots) to inmates. My understanding is that there were some wrong dosages of insulin.
That’s what I inherited. And everywhere around us was doing at least 16-hour medical care in the jail. So that was one of my goals. And so we did [a request for proposals] and there were only two inmate providers that submitted bids. One was Armor.
There were 25 jails in Florida that had private vendors to provide medical care; 19 of those were using Armor. Volusia was using Armor, St. Johns was using Armor. In our analysis, Armor was not the cheapest, but Armor had promised a higher level of medical staff. We felt that they were the best provider to fill these needs to provide 24-hour medical services.
Since that time, our jail has been accredited by the Florida Corrections Accreditation Commission — the first time in the history of this agency — just received in October 2018.
Now every person that is arrested is seen by nursing staff. They go through a series of questions, blood pressure, all those things when you go see a doctor. Armor’s staff are now responsible for doing the medicine.
The remodeled jail, prior to me taking office, had a medical area. Never used. They had an EKG machine but never used it. So now that stuff is being used, because we had trained medical staff at the facility.
Armor was ranked as the best. Obviously, we are reviewing that.
And I’m a father, too. I can’t imagine the pain and grief of the Fennick family.
Q: Have you spoken to the Fennick family?
A: I hope speak to them this week. They deserve full answers, and they deserve decisive action so that another parent hopefully never has to go through this again. They will get answers, and I will get answers, and then I will take action.
Q: FlaglerLive Editor Pierre Tristam said your “Green Roof Inn” sign in front of the jail shows your contempt for inmates. What is your response?
A: That’s not true. My expectation is that we treat inmates like we would want to be treated. And if I have a provider that didn’t get that, meaning Armor, then I’m going to deal with that.
Obviously FlaglerLive — that’s the beauty of this country: You can say what you want whether it’s accurate or not.
That sign out there, that’s a crime prevention sign. I don’t want you to get arrested.
I can promise the community that there will be transparency in this investigation. We’re not leaving any stone unturned, and wherever it falls, it falls. If I have employees that acted inappropriately, we will deal with it swiftly.