Volusia County looks to fire jail director amid reports of hostile work conditions

Corrections Director Mark Flowers accused of mistreating employees, inmates

VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. – Volusia County officials issued a letter of intent to fire the corrections director Wednesday after multiple reports of him mistreating inmates and employees at the jail.

According to the Volusia County Department of Public Protection, human resources received an email in May 2022 about a hostile work environment at the county’s corrections division.

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A few days later, officers and command staff from the jail came forward to file complaints about the division’s leadership under director Mark Flowers, a letter issued by Public Protection Director Mark Swanson read.

This led to an internal affairs investigation, which included interviews with about 24 employees, a review of almost 15,000 text messages sent and received by Flowers and complaints dating back to 2021, that showed “instances of mismanagement as well as on-going violations of VCDC policies,” the letter reads.

According to county officials, multiple employees said there were numerous occasions when Flowers had sent inmates “to the disciplinary unit called 10A without due process and inappropriately denied communications and commissary privileges as well as basic hygiene items.”

Employees added Flowers did this without explanation, telling officers and inmates, “This is my house.”

On more than one occasion, Flowers also reportedly ordered an inmate placed in unit 10A to use a crayon and paper to communicate with their attorney, a news release shows.

County officials said an investigation further revealed that one inmate ordered to stay in unit 10A for 25 days was instead kept in there for 182 days.

Flowers’ actions and lack of explanations as to why prisoners were being disciplined “agitated inmates and made the environment more dangerous for the corrections officers,” county officials said.

Additionally, Flowers would regularly yell at, disrespect and threaten the jobs of his employees and change course on directives, according to the county.

In one instance, Flowers gave an order to move an inmate on suicide watch to another dorm with more inmates and one officer. When the employee refused to move the inmate because they were still under the watch, Flowers sent the employee home for the day, officials said.

“Information collected from staff and inmates indicates that Dr. Flowers continuously violated the policies of the Corrections Division and ordered staff that reported to him to also violate those policies, making staff uncomfortable in performing their duties and risking their safety in dealing with inmates who were not being treated in accordance with established practices,” the HR investigation determined. “It appears that Dr. Flowers has lost the trust of his command staff and many of the officers.”

Flowers previously filed a complaint back in August saying the internal affairs investigation was botched, which led the county to turn the case over to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for review.

“Any suggestion that the termination was retaliation or in any way related to Dr. Flowers filing the complaint is absolutely and unequivocally false,” County Manager George Recktenwald said in a statement. “He was under investigation for three months before he ever filed the complaint. The reality is that the allegations that were substantiated during our investigation were so egregious that it was impossible for Dr. Flowers to continue in his job. His own actions and his mistreatment of his staff and inmates left us no choice.”

Flowers was hired at the jail on May 17, 2014, and promoted to corrections director on June 3, 2017. He has been on paid administrative leave since Aug. 15. Warden Steven Smith is currently serving as the county’s corrections director.

Flowers has until Monday, Dec. 12, to respond to the notice before the disciplinary decision is finalized.

Those interested can read the full letter of intent below.

[READ LETTER OF INTENT BELOW]

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About the Author:

Samantha started at WKMG-TV in September 2020. Before joining the News 6 team, Samantha was a political reporter for The Villages Daily Sun and has had freelance work featured in the Evansville Courier-Press and The Community Paper. When not writing, she enjoys travelling and performing improv comedy.