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Dennis McDonald Now Owes County $70,000 Over Frivolous Case, But Says He Won’t Pay

| July 10, 2019

Dennis McDonald, right, during a 2012 election panel, with then-Commissioner George Hanns, left, and Charlie Ericksen, who was a candidate at the time. Ericksen would also be the subject of a frivolous ethics complaint, as was Hanns, but the action against Ericksen wasn't filed by McDonald. (© FlaglerLive)

Dennis McDonald, right, during a 2012 election panel, with then-Commissioner George Hanns, left, and Charlie Ericksen, who was a candidate at the time. Ericksen would also be the subject of a frivolous ethics complaint, as was Hanns, but the action against Ericksen wasn’t filed by McDonald. (© FlaglerLive)

The more Dennis McDonald appeals, the more he loses: the bill he now owes a former county commissioner and the county, in attorneys’ costs and fees, is $70,000, up from $59,000 before he decided to appeal the ruling that led to the earlier judgment.


The Florida Commission on Ethics at its July 26 meeting in Tallahassee will be presented with a recommended order that McDonald pay former County Commissioner George Hanns $11,149. That’s the cost of Hanns and the county defending against an appeal by McDonald of a former order that McDonald should pay Hanns $59,000 in attorneys’ fees and costs.

The order names Hanns, but since Hanns was represented by Flagler County’s insurer, the money actually goes to the county. Hanns said he does not expect to see a cent.

“It’s long overdue, it’s about time,” Hanns said today. “It’s amazing how slow the legal process works, and how many options people have to appeal and try to get out of it and whatnot, but other than that, it’s all good–enjoying retirement.” Hanns left the commission at the end of 2016.

Remarkably, McDonald said today he never filed an appeal, was not aware of the judgment, and was not about to pay any sum. “I never appealed anything. I don’t know what they’re talking about. Way back, many, many years ago I answered the judge, I sent a written reply, and that’s all I ever did,” McDonald said. “This ethics commission is absolutely out of control. It really is.”

The issue dates back to a 2015 ethics complaint McDonald filed against Hanns, who was then on the commission–one of around two dozen complaints filed by McDonald and others against commissioners, the county administrator and the county attorney over a span of several years and through various venues (including the state elections commission and circuit court), with numerous allegations of misconduct. McDonald’s complaint against Hanns focused on Hanns’s service on the county canvassing board.

Almost every complaint was tossed out. In some cases, including the complaint against Hanns, the ethics commission found that McDonald’s claims were not only frivolous, but maliciously false. Flagler County government, which had been defending against the complaints, opted to sue to recoup fees.

The county won an initial judgment against McDonald, Kimberle Weeks (the former supervisor of elections who’s now appealing a felony conviction in an unrelated case), and Mark Richter Jr., all of whom had filed complaints against local officials. That initial judgment amounted to a combined $312,000, some of it owed the attorneys who defended officials, some of it owed the county, whose legal office also took part in the defenses.

McDonald appealed the judgment ordering him to pay $59,000, ($48,500 of it to Hanns, $10,541 for costs incurred by the county attorney’s office.) The 1st District Court of Appeal dismissed McDonald’s appeal last September. The court granted the county’s motion for costs and fees, remanding the case to the ethics commission to determine what those costs and fees should be. The commission referred the case to an administrative law judge, who set the amount at a little over $11,000.

The amount is based on a $350-an-hour fee charged by the firm the county used in the appeal–Messer Caparello P.A., and lawyer Mark Herron. The county’s insurance carrier covered only $180 an hour. The county made up the difference from its own budget, according to the recommended order.

At the time the court dismissed his appeal, McDonald blamed the county for pursuing a case against him–to recoup fees–because McDonald was “one of the guys that dug in on the hospital,” in his words–a reference to his criticism of the county deal that resulted in the purchase of the old Memorial hospital in Bunnell. That building became the sheriff’s Operations Center, the now abandoned and all-but-condemned structure. More than two dozen sheriff’s employees complained of illnesses while working in the building, where mold and water intrusion was documented through tests last year and this year. McDonald’s ethics complaint against Hanns, however, had nothing to do with the hospital purchase.

McDonald said he has not paid any of the original $59,000 judgment, and doesn’t intend to, nor does he intend to pay the additional $11,000. “There’s no basis for it in Florida law,” he said. “I’m a private citizen. They have no authority over me.”

He said the most he did in the case was send his attorney to the Attorney General’s office over a year ago to ask for a “basis in law” for the action against him. “Never heard anything,” McDonald said.

Another McDonald case was before the June ethics commission board–a $500 fine he agreed to pay over a minor financial disclosure issue dating back several years, when he was running for the county commission.

Proposed Recommended Order in Case Against Dennis McDonald (2019):

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21 Responses for “Dennis McDonald Now Owes County $70,000 Over Frivolous Case, But Says He Won’t Pay”

  1. Wow says:

    Well there’s always contempt of court. Depends who you are I guess. Others would go to jail and not be allowed to vote because they haven’t paid their fines.

  2. Anita says:

    Slap a lein on his house; he’ll get the message.

  3. Concerned Citizen says:

    @ Dennis McDonald

    I’m sorry but you don’t get to pick and choose whether you pay a COURT ORDERED judgement. if you disagree with it then appeal it and try to get it dropped. If you choose to purposely not pay you are no better off than the ones who are on probation for various felonies and misdemeanors and fail to pay their restitution and fines. And if you intentionally refuse to pay I am sure there are legal ramifications involved.

    You are trying to be an active member in this communities political scene. Because of that you are held to higher standards. Yet you show double standards because your exhibiting the very same behavior you tried to file ethics charges on our other BOCC members.

    Both you and your wife “forgot to file” important paper work and got off with a little slap on the wrist. Perhaps you both need to reevaluate whether a political career in Flagler County is best for you.

    With this new information and your past behaviors I will definitley not be voting for you for anything.

  4. Barry Evans says:

    Remember this article next time he runs for office.

  5. Coyote says:

    @Barry Evans says:
    “Remember this article next time he runs for office”

    You mean *every* time he runs for office :-) Seriously, the guy’s made a career of it.

  6. Layla says:

    Somebody is most definitely out of control here, but it isn’t the Florida State Ethics Commission, it is Dennis McDonald, professional trouble maker and failed political candidate.

  7. mark101 says:

    Make him pay, if he doesn’t put a lien on his house and arrest him for contempt. The man is nothing more than a pain in Flagler Counties backside side and always trying to skirt the law, sorry this man is NOT a deserving person as a candidate.

  8. Richard says:

    Typical! Lies, lies and more lies. The big question is, who is the one lying? I will let you come to THAT conclusion by yourself and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure it out.

  9. Dennis McDonald says:

    Every Floridian will be stunned by this FACT ….the Florida ethics Commission does NOT allow any complainant to speak in their defense at their Kangaroo court up in the Banana Republic of Tallahassee.

    This issue was brought directly to representative Renner over three years ago nothing has changed. In fact in April 2017 the issue was put on the agenda and decided to continue to deny ALL Floridians this basic First Amendment Right, you can attend but NOT be allowed to speak on your behalf. This is a VIOLATION of all of our First Amendment Rights by the Florida ethics Commission and these officials can not seek cover under the sovereign immunity laws. They are personally responsible when they[including George] get taken to federal court.

    The legal process is slow as we just today heard of the Workmans Comp. settlement for the Deputies and Staff that George Hanns damaged by voting with Revels and McLaughlin to buy the old hospital brownfield in 2013. These Deputies and Staff had no insurance coverage,out of pocket for three years ! The Personal Injury phase is next and your right George the legal process is slow especially for the poisoned Deputies and Staff. But more to the point it is painful for these excellent county employees and their families and friends !

  10. Concerned Citizen says:

    @ Dennis McDonald

    I’m more stunned by the fact that you blatently refuse to pay your fines. And that you’ll most likely get away with it. I don’t know that I want someone representing me who can’t follow the law.

    I suppose it must not feel nice to be on the recieving end of the ethics commision after hounding your fellow politicians for years.

  11. palmcoaster says:

    Why so many here want to silence a citizen watch dog of the taxpayers best interest in this county? Why is the government using my hard earned tax dollars to sue one of us, just to silence him over denouncing wrong doing “of his fellow politicians?”

  12. A Dedicated American says:

    It really amazes me how people can voice their opinions about Dennis McDonald, when the majority never attend any of the board of county commissioners meetings and have no idea of what the real story is about. These commissioners past and present along with Al Hadeed are part of the Good Ole Boys Club, and this goes right up to Tallahassee. What the past county administrator Craig Coffey did to our county along with the
    the decisions made by our commissioners past and present and County Attorney Al Hadeed should be under investigation now. The way Dennis McDonald has been treated should never have happened. Justice does not prevail for the tax payer. With all that Dennis McDonald and John Ruffalo have done to bring light to the corruptness to this county, along with the negativity that is heard from bloggers here is very sad. Dennis and John need tax payers to ban together in NUMBERS (Democrat’s and Republicans etc} to investigate Coffey, Hadeed and the commissioners for the shady real estate purchases made by these people. Margaret Sheehan Jones the real estate agent involved with Craig Coffey on real estate transactions have to be investigated also. We The Tax Payers of this county need a forensic audit of every purchase this county has made while Coffey was our County Administrator. The Forensic Audit has to be administrated by the county commissioners. I was told years ago, the FBI told a resident that there is a little bit of corruption in every county. We The people must take control to help Dennis McDonald and John Ruffalo bring HONESTY to our county.

  13. Concerned Citizen says:

    @palmcoaster

    This man files an ethics complaint as soon as he dislikes or disagees with someone. He also had multiple law suits out. So who is wasting who’s tax dollars?

    He and his wife intentionally “forgot” to disclose important information on an application and got a minor slap on the wrist on top of everything else. In th regular work force if we forgot to disclose something there would be consequences.

    This whole attitude of the law doesn’t apply to me makes him no better than those he complains about. And to intentionally not pay is again unethical conduct.

    ALL of our politicians and appointed leaders need to clean up their acts and remember their oaths. And if they can’t they need to be voted out and lets find someone who will represent us properly and ethically.

    @ Dennis McDonald

    Since you are picking and choosing what laws apply to you I think I will try it. If I get pulled over in Flagler Beach I’ll tell the officer I live in the County outside of city limits. Let’s see how that holds water and if I get out of that ticket. I mean I’m not a citizen of Flagler Beach right?

  14. ASF says:

    A guy who wants to lay down the law to everyone else considers himself above the law. I would call that a mite bit on the hypocritical side.

  15. Layla says:

    @palmcoaster,

    Mr. McDonald is not being a watch dog, he is addicted to filing frivolous lawsuits and that is why the State fined him. You may file suit, but when they are ruled abusive and frivolous, the state has the right to make you pay legal fees.

  16. Flatsflyer says:

    Contempt of Court, Comtemp of Congress, the Trump Administration has set new standards that will result in the collapse of Law and Order for the entire country.

  17. C’mon man says:

    $350 per hour?? C’mon man!!!

  18. hawkeye says:

    And what in the hell does Trump have to do with this? Maybe its obamas fault ,or bushes fault, I hate the way some of these posters make everything political.

  19. Bob Hamby says:

    I recently left Flagler County largely because of the futility of all actions trying to expose and correct the rampant corruption in the local governments. The willful ignorance (or intentional collusion with the corrupt) of those criticizing those trying to expose the corruption is sick (including the cheering section for the corrupt – the local “press”). I can only hope that a sufficient number of concerned citizens wake up and take action. GOOD LUCK.

  20. weldon ryan says:

    This is incredibly troubling that a citizen has to go through such lengths to be heard and then when he is heard and dismissed he is then sued ny the very government that such permit him a voice! Witnessing how the old boy network works we as citzens should stand up for Dennis regardless of what they alledge pertaining to his complaint as frivilous. Politicians in Florida don’t work for the people who elected them. Judging from the poll tax on former convicts violating the trust of the people with the referendum passed, we see what they are about. Furthermore, the cost of legal briefs and legal filing is outrageous! A regular citizen cannot stand up to any injustice and this in itself needs reform! Taxes are for this purpose and not for cronyism. Reform this BS
    system!!!

  21. J.S. says:

    I agree with putting a lien on his properties in Flagler County. He based his law suits on the ethics of the commissioners. Once it was declared to not be the case he should have to pay back the county for wasteful spending he induced on Flagler County and its citizens. Kinda hypocritical that the republican fiscal hawks in this county aren’t behind going after Mr. McDonald for this wasteful spending.
    As for Mr. McDonald I think his voting rights should be revoked until he pays back the county or does that only work for felons? I also believe if he ever tries to run for public office here again I will personally protest him doing so until he pays back the legal fees. I will do so against his wife as well. See how they like the political harassment. I’ll show you my first amendment right Dennis the Flagler County menace!

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