Ethics Commission dismisses complaints against sheriff, 4 other PCSO employees

A complaint filed with the state Commission on Ethics against five members of the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office withered in the first stage of the process when the commission ordered the complaint be dismissed without investigation.

In June, Sheriff Jeff Hardy, Capt. Gator DeLoach, Lt. Ricky Lyle, Investigator John Zagar and former deputy Lynn Nicely received notification of the complaint filed by David Nixon after the October 2015 death of his stepson, Kenneth Flannery, during a fight in a bar.

In the complaint filed June 21, Nixon alleged Nicely filed a fraudulent report in the death investigation and the “sheriff and his deputies have used or attempted to use their official positions to secure a special privilege or benefit, for the deputies involved, by preventing or delaying the investigation of violations of state laws prohibiting official misconduct and obstruction of justice.”

In Wednesday’s news release of a closed session meeting July 29, the Ethics Commission dismissed the complaint for lack of legal sufficiency.

“The first stage in our complaint process is a determination of whether the allegations of the complaint are legally sufficient, that is, whether they indicate a possible violation of any law over which the commission has jurisdiction,” a notification of the complaint sent to the five law enforcement officials said.

Hardy said Flannery’s death was a tragic situation, and after detectives completed their investigation, the report was presented to the Seventh Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s office, which declined to prosecute.

“(Flannery’s death) was a very unfortunate thing that happened,” Hardy said. “I feel for the family. If an arrest could be made, we would have.”

An Oct. 10, 2015, sheriff’s office report said Flannery’s wife told deputies Flannery was intoxicated outside a bar in Florahome when he began damaging a wooden fence.

Flannery’s wife told officers a man told Flannery to stop, and the two men got into a physical altercation. During the fight, the man punched Flannery in the face, and Flannery fell to the ground unconscious, the report said.

Nicely was the detective assigned to the case after Flannery’s death Oct. 14, 2015, from injuries he sustained from the fight. An autopsy report said the cause of death was blunt traumatic head injuries.

A sheriff’s office supplemental narrative Nov. 25, 2015, filed by Nicely said he met with the state attorney’s office and during the case review, “prosecution was declined.”

A supplemental narrative March 28 noted Nicely incorrectly reported the location of the medical examiner’s office. 

The original report filed by Nicely said the autopsy was performed in St. Augustine. The autopsy took place in Gainesville, according to the supplemental report.