Note: The County Commission Monday evening approved the re-appointments of Luis Medeiros and William Dudley Jr.
Flagler County commissioners at their meeting this evening will be considering appointments to the Contractor Review Board. The three candidates for two seats present commissioners with an unusual choice.
Luis Medeiros, chairman of the panel, is a candidate for reappointment. But a new candidate is competing for his seat: Dan Priotti. Both are general contractors. A few months ago, Medeiros filed a police report alleging potential harassing phone contact by Priotti. Priotti has been disciplined once by the board previously, and once by the state Construction Industry Licensing Board.
“This board is for licensed contractors who work in this county and are in good standing with their license as I am,” Priotti said today in an email, responding to questions about his record. “With the current shananagians (sic.) that has taken place with the city building department I feel it’s time someone with my educational back round as well as holding 3 current state contractors license that i am part of the corporation as well as the CFO unlike the current seat holder.”
In fact, in December, the state board suspended Priotti’s licenses and fined him $10,000, which he paid. The suspensions were stayed, giving him the chance to complete a continuing education program within 12 months, and allowing him to keep working. Completion of the terms would mean no suspension.
Priotti is also facing a defamation suit in circuit court from another contractor. The Palm Coast government administration trespassed him from city offices in 2016, alleging rude and intimidating behavior toward staff there, though Priotti’s lawyer challenged the order as illegal. And Priotti has had a run of minor criminal issues over the years, including at least five recorded bookings at the Flagler County jail since 2010.
It is unlikely that county commissioners will replace Medeiros. They seldom unseat a voluntary board member for another, especially when the commission itself hasn’t experienced much turnover (only one seat changed hands at the last election). Medeiros was first appointed in 2007 and has been reappointed to four-year terms twice since. But Priotti’s candidacy is notable because of his past conflicts with the board and a history of issues beyond it.
The 10-member board, which has only seven members currently, meets monthly. The board reviews contractors’ licenses and may deny or revoke them. It also hears various other issues regarding the building trades. The commission is considering the reappointment of William Dudley Jr. of Palmetto Electric, in the seat reserved for electrical contractors, and Medeiros, along with Priotti’s challenge, in the seat reserved for a general contractor. Medeiros runs A Plus Home Improvements, Priotti runs Agua Construction Company.
Priotti has had a tumultuous history with the county and Palm Coast.
On April 1, Medeiros met with a Flagler County Sheriff’s deputy to file a report about Priotti documenting text messages he was receiving from him. According to the report, Medeiros reported that he and the Contractor Review Board had “upheld a negative judgement” against Priotti’s business, and since then he’d been contacted by Priotti after he’d asked him to stop. “This is a private phone,” Medeiros texted him, “And if you continue to send me messages, it will be considered harassment.” In fact, nothing stops members of the public from contacting individuals serving in public functions, even on their private phones, which in those instances are subject to Florida’s sunshine law: records of the calls are public records because the individuals serve in the function of public officials.
According to the report, Priotti replied: “Sue Me. As long as you sit on the contracting board you put together I will follow your business dealings and let you know the contracting laws you continue to think don’t apply to you Because it obvious you don’t know them to be signing orders from your seat on the contracting board, If I was you if resign immediately from your seat on the board.” Medeiros told the deputy he only wanted a record made of the exchange “due to Mr Priotti making threatening statements regarding his status on the contractor review board,” according to the report.
“I was never informed by the sheriffs department of any of this so this is all new news to me,” Priotti said in an email today. “As if it was that serious something would have been done about it don’t you think? But the story should be on the current seat up for renewal. Not my personal life.” He then made a series of allegations about Mederios.
In March 2018, another contractor who, like Priotti, builds pools, sued Priotti for defamation. The complaint, amended two months later, alleged that Priotti made numerous defaming comments on social media about the company, questioning the quality of its work, its ethics and its reputation. “The defamatory statements were made negligently,” the suit charges, “without reasonable care as to their truth or falsity; with knowledge of their falsity; and/or with reckless disregard for the truth.” In his answer through his attorney, Priotti denied most of the allegations, and specifically denied the claim that his statements may have harmed the business since “the alleged defamatory statements were taken down long ago.”
One of the allegations about the business was that its owner “paid someone to sign off on his license.” Ironically, the state licensing disciplinary issues that resulted in Priotti’s $10,000 fine relates to a finding that he aided an unlicensed contractor by himself obtaining a permit for that contractor, according to the state order against him. He violated the law “by performing an act which assists a person or entity in engaging in the prohibited uncertified and unregistered practice of contracting,” the state found.
In his email today explaining why he was a good candidate for the contracting board, Priotti wrote: “I believe I can help make a change for the better of the community by using my position to work with local business to help educated the public on using state licensed [and] insured contractors.”
Priotti was disciplined by the Contractor Review Board after he worked on a house that had been damaged in the December 2013 tornado that tore through Palm Coast’s B-Section, and doing work outside the scope of his license. He was fined $500.
The trespassing issue arose out of what the city says was a series of contacts the city administration documented in 2016 and 2017. The city documented “profane or vulgar language,” “harassment or continued disruptive behavior, “possible directed threats of physical violence” and “repeated inappropriate behaviors.” The document in the form of a spreadsheet also states his “contractors license has been suspended by Flagler County Board more than once,” which is not accurate (it was never suspended by the local board, as Priotti’s attorney told the city back then), and that “his current residence has multiple code violations.” The document states he blames it all on Jay Maher, the city’s compliance director. He was issued a trespass warning in November 2016, which city officials this week said was still in effect. Priotti in an email in 2017 called the documents “lies.”
The issue generated an exchange of letters between Bill Reischmann, the city attorney, and Ron Hertel, Priotti’s attorney. Hertel disputed factual claims by the city as well as claims that Priotti made threatening statements to city officials, such as when he emailed code enforcement staff that they should not ” step foot in my property. This is my domain.” He went on in that email to then-City Manager Jim Landon: “This is your last warning, any more city notice of hearing signs is a clear threat to my safety.as it brings attention from citizens that can lead to my harm. I will exercise my America rights with another threat of trespassing and feeling of due harm to my domain and to myself.”
“Can Mr. Priotti compel the City not to come onto his property? Probably not,” Hertel wrote the city attorney, “but clearly, Mr. Priotti’s email made no outright threats. Mr. Maher has falsely paraphrased Mr. Priotti’s email to make it appear that Priotti threatened City personnel, which is plainly absurd since Priotti’s statement was actually that he felt threatened by “attention from citizens that can lead to my harm” resulting from the posting of public notices on his garage.” Hertel went on to say that the city had “clearly overstepped its bounds” by trespassing Priotti.
“Your client’s assertions regarding his intent aside,” Reischmann wrote, “his continuing rude, disruptive and threatening behavior towards City employees is the basis for this Sheriff’s Order.”
Beyond contracting matters, Priotti has contended with a few criminal charges, including a 2005 felony charge of battery on a law enforcement officer, later downgraded to a misdemeanor battery charge, then dropped. Charges since have included battery domestic violence, disorderly conduct, disorderly intoxication, and two drunk driving charges, one in 2016, in which he was found guilty to a lesser reckless driving charge, the latter from June 7, still pending in court. (On July 7, the State Attorney had filed a first-degree misdemeanor charge of DUI against Priotti. But on Nov. 6, 2019, the State Attorney filed a third-degree felony charge, which he acknowledged.) The domestic violence charge was dropped. He pleaded no contest to the two disorderly charges. “My personal life [and] professional life are separate. They should be kept that way,” Priotti said in today’s email (Aug. 19).
He added: “I’m unfiltered [and] speak my mind. Not many people can handle a strong minded individual. Go through what I went through in life [and] then speak about me. It’s way to point out the bad bit what about the good one does? Like as a contractor I’m out here finishing these pools crystal clear took thousands of dollars from us doing it at cost to help these owners out. Or the thousands of dollars I donate to local causes [and] fundraisers. Why does it [always] have to be the bad? Come on?”