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Dennis McDonald Files to Run Against Greg Hansen as Sheriff’s Building Fuses Explosive Campaign Issue

| June 20, 2018

Dennis McDonald filed to run in his fifth electoral contest in six years. (© FlaglerLive)

Dennis McDonald filed to run in his fifth electoral contest in six years. (© FlaglerLive)

“Seeing no one else approach, we’ll close…” County Commission Chairman Greg Hansen said routinely during Monday evening’s public comment period, when it looked like no one else was going to address the board. He might have been wishing the same thing regarding his race for the commission. Until then, no one had declared to run against him, and the qualifying window was closing in three and a half days.

Then came his “Oops.” Dennis McDonald, the perennial critic of local governments, was walking down to the podium, slowly. “Don’t be shy,” Hansen told him.

“I won’t,” McDonald said.

He wasn’t then, nor was he this afternoon when he paid the hefty fee—$2,159–and filed to challenge Hansen for the seat Hansen has held since last year. It sets up a battle between two former allies: they were members of the now defunct Ronald Reagan Republican Assemblies. Hansen remains a Republican. McDonald, though a staunch Republican, is running as an independent because, he says, Hansen is bankrolling the Flagler Republican Executive Committee, and because he doesn’t see his run in partisan terms.

The two were friends. “Greg has taken on a completely new persona ever since he became a commissioner,” McDonald said, referring to Hansen’s switch from a McDonald-like critic of local government to cheerleader. “Within a month he morphed into a guy I didn’t recognize, so I went my own way.” Hansen did not return a call Tuesday.

But the race is also the direct result of the most serious crisis in county government right now: the possible problems affecting the physical structure of the rebuilt Sheriff’s Operations Center, which may or may not be a sick building, and which was evacuated of its 70-some employees last week, indefinitely. Testing took place there last week as well.

For McDonald, the decision to run was sealed by the issues surrounding the county’s handling of the Sheriff’s Operations Center–not just in the past few months, but going back to the county’s controversial acquisition of the building in 2013. “I’m reminded all the time that in 2012 if I’d been elected we wouldn’t be having this discussion because we wouldn’t have that building, it’s that simple,” McDonald said.

Not quite: the 2013 vote would still have had a 3-2 majority to buy the building even then, though McDonald says he’d have called on one of the commissioners at the time, Barbara Revels, to recuse herself because of her business ties to one of the co-owners of the building, and the 2-2 vote would have equated to a failed vote.

Neither Hansen nor McDonald has won an election yet. Gov. Scott in January 2017 appointed Hansen to fill out the term of the late Frank Meeker. McDonald is now running in his fifth election. He challenged Meeker twice, losing in 2012 by a 47-53 margin and in 2014 by 48-52 in those Republican primaries. He’s had poorer showings running in a special election for Flagler’s state Senate seat in 2015 and for Palm Coast mayor in 2016, coming in third in the Senate race and second in the mayoral race.

County Commissioner Greg Hansen, left, with Sheriff Rick Staly. (© FlaglerLive)

County Commissioner Greg Hansen, left, with Sheriff Rick Staly. (© FlaglerLive)

When McDonald appeared before the commission Monday evening, he used his three minutes to speak of the fine the Department of Environmental Protection levied on the county after the county demolished wings attached to the Operations Center “without a permit,” a contention Coffey denied: Coffey said the fine was the result of “these two” knocking on various agencies’ doors (Coffey was referring to McDonald and John Ruffalo, an ally), while the resulting $500 fine was “not a big deal.”

McDonald was also critical of the commission’s June 4 workshop about the building, when Sheriff Rick Staly was seeking some direction from the county as to the evacuation of sheriff’s employees from the Operations Center. The workshop ended without that direction. “Nothing, absolutely nothing was put on the floor for a motion,” McDonald said, crediting Tom Bexley, the clerk of court, for being the one who “saved the day” by offering courthouse space to the sheriff.

McDonald’s facts are often suspect. But that evening he wasn’t alone making inaccurate, incomplete or misleading claims: the statements by McDonald and those that followed by the commissioners and the administrator are likely indicative of the way the sheriff’s Operations Center will have a prominent place in the county commission races, but also of the way assumptions and misleading claims may frame much of the debate as much if not more than facts.

Click On:

It’s true that the commission didn’t make a decision at the June 4 meeting, leaving even the sheriff perplexed. Hansen said Monday evening that the commission couldn’t do so in a workshop. He was right, but also misleading: motions and votes can’t happen in a workshop, but commissioners routinely give the administration direction on what to do. And a special meeting had been scheduled immediately following the June 4 workshop for those directions to be ratified, if there were any. There weren’t. Hansen was flat wrong when he said “we gave some pretty clear guidance and Mr. Coffey jumped right on it.” If so, it wasn’t done in an open meeting.

McDonald was also not quite right to credit Bexley for the resolution. Soon after the meeting, Coffey’s staff began physically exploring the county courthouse as an option, while the sheriff was already dispatching some of his personnel to the old sheriff’s administration building and meeting with his staff on finding a way out of the building. Bexley is like the sheriff—a tenant in county building, without authority to decide what to do with space not his own, though he would end up being centrally involved in making space available in a pair of meetings with Coffey and the sheriff.

But McLaughlin, like Hansen, was overstating the case Monday when he took to the defense of Coffey and the commission, saying the administrator at that meeting had received “pretty clear” direction. “I don’t want Mr. Coffey to have to defend himself on this one, he went out, he’s the one who found the place, he made the space, he put the personnel available to make this movement, I mean this thing happened quick,” McLaughlin said. “I was thinking two to three weeks for movement and they’re moved now.”

Coffey put it this way: “I had an idea of where we were going to go but I thought it would be unfair of me to bring that or spring that on Mr. Bexley or the sheriff without first discussing it with them and I immediately did that, we worked through that.”

While Coffey initiated the courthouse solution—as even an email by the sheriff confirms—the sheriff had for days turned up the pressure on the administration to get something done, had been left with little hope but to act on his own after the workshop, and continued to apply the pressure while exploring alternative locations on his own, such as modular buildings. That evening he got an email from the sheriff’s union representative, Greg Forhan, asking for the immediate evacuation of six employees: “We need command to cut through the red tape and to get them out now,” Forhan wrote. Within hours, in a midnight email—suggesting to what extent the sheriff was immersed in the matter—Staly ordered the move.

In another midnight email to his staff two days later, he wrote: “Like you I was disappointed in the outcome of Monday’s meeting in which I had hoped a plan would be presented to relocate you. As a result, on Tuesday morning I immediately directed staff to start looking for alternative locations to immediately reassign employees, especially those most affected while we located enough space for the entire operations staff. We previously contacted modular companies and began researching other alternatives as a back-up in case the county did not respond quickly or would not relocate us as I was determined to find alternative space. During our space assessment and staff discussion on relocation, County Administrator Coffey called to discuss possible available space in the County Courthouse.”

The move was the result of much cooperation between the county, the clerk of court, court staff and the sheriff’s staff (and especially heroic work by the county’s IT staff), though mistrust remained between the sheriff and the county administration: the sheriff has openly spoken of being leery of the county being predisposed to finding no problems at the Operations Center.

Meanwhile the county administration the same day that it was approaching Staly with the courthouse proposal was also slapping a public record request on his administration for any Staly communication to his staff “regarding the Sheriff’s Operation Center, the potential that it is a sick building, and the handling of the testing and the remediation by the county,” and for the county to be “copied on all correspondences in the future to foster transparency.” The standing request was made by Julie Murphy, the county administration’s public information officer, though she has previously told local media that the county would not honor such standing requests—that requests for records must be made and renewed individually.


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31 Responses for “Dennis McDonald Files to Run Against Greg Hansen as Sheriff’s Building Fuses Explosive Campaign Issue”

  1. Anonymous says:

    You got my vote man!! We need someone in that seat with a backbone who will put a stop to Coffey and the rest of the BOCC BS!! All incumbents need to go!!!!

  2. knightwatch says:

    Oh, boy. Two former RRRA hardliners chewing on each other. This will be very interesting.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Woo-hoo——can’t wait for the cat to get out of the bag. Won’t Greg Hansen and his infamous brother in law in big time politics be embarrassed! We will all soon learn why Greg Hansen would never run for public office, only take an appointment. The skeletons are going to come out of the closet—-let’s see his wife Linda try to put a nail on that door to hide what we deserve to know of a public office holder.

  4. Robert Lewis says:

    The worlds perpetual bullshit artist. A man who has sued every local government in an effort to scam pennies at the expense of taxpayers. Once again the perpetual conman is on the ballot. I’ve lost count on how many times I’ve voted against this clown. Looks like I’ll be voting against him again.

  5. snapperhead says:

    Let’s see… so the the choice is an appointed incumbent rubber stamp for Coffey or the guy who can’t walk around the block without falling down and suing Palm Coast.That will be one unchecked race on the ballot for me. i won’t be responsible for putting either one of those choices on the commission..That’s why “throw the bums out” cheerleading means nothing if the alternative is probably worse.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Coffey is full of BS. He wasn’t even interested and n relationship caring FCSO employees. Go back and reread the previous blogs….he was arrogant and blew the Sheriff off. The BOCC lets Coffey do what he wants ants—that’s why McLaughlin a/k/a Mc Laughable and Hansen need to go. Pack your bags boys…come back and play the game when you grow a spine……I’ll be polite.

  7. Flatsflyer says:

    This “Clown” should not be running for any elected office, he is the perfect example of what’s wrong with Palm Coast, Flagler County, Florida and America. The only place he would fit in, is as a Cabinet Member in Trump’s Administration .A lying fool, no morals, no common sense and a total lack of concern for human life.

  8. palmcoaster says:

    Dennis McDonald is who we need in our county or city government for a long time. A real watchdog of our hard earned taxes dilapidated by both governments. He was right from the start against that fraudulent tainted hospital purchase when he was able to get Barbara Revels fined for conflict of interest by not abstaining to vote for in favor of the purchase as she was a customer and got a hefty loan from the local Bank CEO that owned the hospital with his friend associate local lawyer.
    Dennis has fought every single waste of our hard earned taxes in capital projects not needed that were even rejected by us in referendums yet were built anyway at unthinkable overpriced cost, also he fought to save our towering Oaks that gave us shade and beautify our city along the parkway. He also fought the intended interference of our canvassing board by the FCBOCC chair and county lawyer that honest former SOE Mrs Weeks uncovered and for which is still witch hunted in court with unfair legal cost and threat of jail just for trying to keep our elections out of county and city special interest interference.
    Dennis is an honest and relentless fighter for our taxpayers rights to receive the services we pay for and prevent tax waste and preserve our environment. He gets our vote!

  9. mark101 says:

    The issue is not the Commissioners, its Coffey . Plain and simple, we need a strong commission as a whole to remove Coffey from office. McDonald if elected is only one of the commissioners setting on the board with NO real power.

  10. 107 says:

    Mark101—You failed to mention that even with McDonald getting elected he may not have the power to remove Coffey himself without a majority vote, he certainly can call Coffey out publicly and put a stop to the schennigan’s that are taking place. You can be rest assured that if McDonald was currently a commissioner he would never have delayed getting the Sheriff’s employees out of a sick building. Had he been a commissioner when the purchase of the sick hospital took place he would have raised some issues that would have put some light on what was going on and probably would have stopped the purchase to begin with. McDonald has had nothing personally to gain by being a watch dog for us tax payers. He truly sees a problem here in local government and hopefully with him getting elected to replace rubber stamper Greg Hansen things will take a change for the better! The City and County has sued McDonald for being an advocate for the people and in return he has sued the city for their negligence and been able to recover monies they took from him in an effort to punish him for being a voice for the public. I am sure he didn’t purposely fall to have a hip replaced…..what goes around comes around. The county and city has tried to keep the mouths of those who call them out for a long time. It is going to be only for the better of the citizens if McDonald gets elected as County Commissioner…..he has my vote that’s for sure!!! Hansen has done NOTHING since being appointed other than promote more of the same. He is drinking the Coffey and we are all paying the price. Hansen never ran for public office before because he is not public office material. His wife was quoted quite some time back of using language of a sailor……she must be his puppet master. Keeping the incumbents in office will only bring us more of the same. McLauglin and Hansen need to go!!!!!!! Do not vote incumbents back in office. They are the reason we are in record number debt and why commissioners make deals to bail out their friends like when they bought the old Bunnell hospital. McDonald, you will be the next County Commissioner—we the people have had enough!!!

  11. atilla says:

    MacDonald like Trump would be to Coffey!! YOU”RE FIRED!!!

  12. johng says:

    We need to start a Palm Coast Tax Watch Group

  13. tulip says:

    So in this article it states that Hansen is bankrolling the Rep Exec Committee. That should guarantee him a certain amount of votes, money is king and talks loudly. At least with McDonald running, Hansen won’t be comfortably smiling anymore knowing he would win by default. He still may win, but at least there is some kind of competition.

  14. Percy's mother says:

    Perhaps 1 or both outsiders / underdogs (McDonald and/or Mullins) might be able to get the answers to the following questions:

    1. What is the name of the company that served as building contractor for the fiasco of converting the old hospital into the new FCSO operations center? AND, why was that particular building contractor chosen?

    2. Once we find out who the building contractor was for the new FCSO operations center, can we find out where the building contractor sourced all building materials used for this reno?

    3. Regarding the environmental specialist the county contracted with to test for toxicities at the new FCSO operations center, which county entity made the decision to hire this particular environmental testing company as opposed to any and all other environmental testing agencies, and what are the company’s credentials?

    Let’s just start with those 3 questions for the time being. Inquiring minds want to know.

  15. Just the facts says:

    Interesting to see th Republicans turning on each other.

  16. Jane Gentile-Youd says:

    To Percy’s Mother-
    C.C. Borden in Jacksonville, was general contractor for the ‘renovation’ of the old hospital. Here is the link to the page showing a photo and description of this ‘project’ on their website. Perhaps I might call them to remove this project from their advertising material on the internet…….as well as ask them for the details on this sick building and why they did not suggest gutting it entirely. Should be interesting.

  17. John Dolan esq. says:

    Who is guarding the Guardians? Mr Coffee is weak, diluted and he puts me to sleep. Time for some stronger brew.

  18. Nancy N. says:

    Percy’s Mother – For heaven’s sake, you don’t need some magical skills you think that McDonald and Mullins posses to find out the answers to the questions you are asking. The name of the contractor for the FCSO building is public record, like all other money spent by the county is. And it’s in Pierre’s article about the the testing on the Operations Center who the environmental engineer is that was hired and that Craig Coffey (acting on behalf of the County, who owns the building) hired him. These aren’t massive secrets being hid from the public.

    As far as finding out where the building materials were sourced, that’s way ahead in the investigation. First we need to see what the results of the testing are to see what it points to. Follow the science where it leads instead of looking for random boogeymen.

  19. Born and Raised Here says:

    Once again no one should be allow to hold office until they been a resident of Flagler County or Florida for 20 years.

  20. Nancy N. says:

    Jane – Contractors bid on jobs whose specs are set by the client. They do what the client pays them to do. They can make all the suggestions they want but if the client won’t pay for them, it doesn’t matter. The Commissioners were set on using this building despite massive pushback from multiple directions. Why?

  21. Anonymous says:

    I’ll vote for him, he has almost the same color hair as Trump.

    Dennis McDonald is much sharper than Greg Hansen and is not as naïve. Dennis is a detail man, you know the Devil is in the details, and he can sniff out when the county is about to get ripped off or someone is about to violate the ethic codes of Florida and perhaps could prevent these from happening. There would definitely be more government business done out in the open Sunshine.

  22. Jane Gentile-Youd says:

    To Nancy N.

    The Contractor ( yes I got their name in 2 seconds – public record) should have NEVER taken on the job- and even using it on their website!!
    No different than a dentist selling a patient a $40,00 capped bridge when they know full well the teeth holding it on aren’t going to hold up for no more than a year or two….

    No difference from any professional who does what the money wants even though they know their work isn’t going to be a permanent FIX.

    I have no respect for any professional guided by personal profit and greed above ethics and morals…

  23. 107 says:

    Anonymous: I completely agree with you. Hansen has done nothing but rubber stamp the current corruption and status quo. He has done nothing to stand up for the people and serve those who he represents. He is a good pawn, just ask Jack Abramoff and his connections.

  24. 107 says:

    Dennis Mc Donald would be a good county commissioner!!! We need more advocates in this town like MCDonald. He is a selfless serving individual who stands for what is right. Thanks to him we got moved out of a sick building because the current BOCC took no action to help us, Craig Coffey was arrogant and tried to spin the facts. It was McDonald who presented crucial mold and rotten wood being covered up. It is McDonald who got the county fined for wrong doing, something that proves negligence. McDonald has my vote and hopefully he has yours. Greg Hansen has proved to stand for nothing but the same old, and defend Craig Coffey’s every action. Let us not forget he was appointed by our corrupt Governor, Hansen was not the people’s choice!

  25. Coyote says:

    Oh No, not again !

    This guy is like cowpiles in a pasture you’re trying to get out of. As soon as you scrape him off your feet and take two steps, squelch, there he is again.

    And I agree – we really really need to get a fund started to buy him a ‘real’ Presidential toupee .. his current look just doesn’t cut it.

  26. palmcoaster says:

    We sure totally agree with you 107. We need Dennis McDonald in the FCBOCC, thanks to him fighting against corruption at local level is that those Sheriff employees were moved out of the infested old hospital.
    Thank you Dennis and also Mr. Rufaolo.

  27. palmcoaster says:

    Right on 107!

  28. Anonymous says:

    Didn’t we learn our lesson when we elected Steven Nobile who was also a malcontent and constant complainer?

  29. palmcoaster says:

    Lets seat Dennis McDonald in the FCBOCC and Jack Howell in Palm Coast City Council district 2.

  30. 107 says:

    Palmcoaster—-they both will get my vote!! Anyone that has been around here for any length of time know these are definately 2 men that we want and need in public office, and know that Hansen and McLaughlin must go!!!!!!!!!!!

  31. Anonymous says:

    @ Anonymous says:
    June 22, 2018 at 2:24 am
    Didn’t we learn our lesson when we elected Steven Nobile who was also a malcontent and constant complainer?

    Or as I saw him somebody who didnt take the BS of thats how we do things here in PC.

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