Flagler County Commissioner Joe Mullins on Friday emailed fellow-commissioners a brief but vague apology about his “inappropriate remarks and actions” at last week’s commission meeting even as he’s continued to insult Commissioners Greg Hansen and Charlie Ericksen online since.
The email mentions neither commissioner by name, nor makes reference to the actual abuse he spoke to them, doing so twice to Hansen, even after seemingly apologizing to Hansen in person at the commission meeting. Mullins’s behavior led Hansen and Ericksen, among others, to call for the commission to censure him.
Ericksen, who was skeptical of the email today, said Mullins’s apology doesn’t change his call for censure at the coming meeting of the County Commission Monday evening (Sept. 21). “I’m sure he’s written a few of these in his career,” Ericksen said. “He’s making an attempt to CYA–cover your ass. As to whether he’s honest or not, maybe that’s something that comes up at our meeting.”
Commission Chairman Dave Sullivan, who left town for the weekend to take a break, said categorically that Mullins’s email doesn’t materially change anything.
“He’s not very smooth, is he, and he’s not very knowledgeable about stuff,” Sullivan said. “I’m going to be faced with a very difficult situation on Monday, and I don’t want to say anything now that will affect that because I’m building up what I’m going to say as I’m sitting here trying to enjoy a bit of time off after the campaign.” (Sullivan was at a time-share just north of Naples.) “I think he’s realizing that he’s in trouble. But I think it’s good that he wrote–I think that’s good that he wrote the letter, or the email.”
The September 9 meeting of the County Commission started with a tense half-hour as a group of 12 to 15 anti-maskers, sitting at the front end of the commission chamber, defied county building rules and requests by Sullivan to don masks in order to stay in the room. The group was becoming rowdy when Sheriff Rick Staly spent several minutes calming its members down, only for Mullins to interject and try to speak. Sullivan and Hansen told him not to. He threatened to leave with the anti-maskers. They both told him he was welcome to, which upset Mullins further. He did step down from the dais, but only to return shortly afterward and call Hansen a “fat sonofabitch,” and insult Ericksen’s mental acuity. At a 9/11 memorial two days later, he again unleashed a string of abuse at Hansen, with Mayor Milissa Holland standing next to Hansen.
“I first and foremost want to sincerely apologize about my action in a very intense situation,” Mullins wrote in his email, sent late this morning. “As I said during the meeting I am truly sorry for inappropriate remarks and actions.”
That’s all there was by way of an “apology,” with recognition neither of the abuse he’d heaped on two commissioners nor the disruptions he’d caused in the room, at one point going as far as lodging a complaint with the sheriff against a sheriff’s deputy who had tried to calm him down (though Mullins routinely speaks of standing with deputies).
The rest of the email is more focused on himself in a mix of dissembling and back-patting, with no apologies to the way he’d treated Hansen at the 9/11 event: “It was a very intense situation that we all would have like to avoided. I take this position seriously and feel strongly that I want to represent the people as I’m sure everyone on this board does. While we are made up of many personalities in the county and commission and have many different styles and views I realize we have to work together as one. I by no means want our great accomplishments we have all been able to achieve as a team the last two years to be overshadowed by personal issues. (We all know a house divided cannot stand) and I truly regret my actions in heightening the tension subsequent to the unfortunate event that occurred at last meeting. I am committed to a positive path forward. I will make my apology public at the board meeting Monday.”
“It’s vague,” Ericksen said of the email, calling it more of an “introductory letter. Or more to come?” Asked directly if the words changed his mind about censure, Ericksen said: ‘The guy’s a cancer and he’s got to go. I will bet there are things we don’t even know that this guy is doing.”
Mullin’s email contradicts the numerous times he’s again insulted Hansen and Ericksen on his social media platforms since the Sept. 9 meeting. “I gladly stand by my words and actions and will always be by the people of Flagler,” Mullins wrote on Sept. 12, again adopting insulting nicknames for the two commissioners (“HASTY Hansen and CRAZY Charlie Ericksen (who makes Biden look more alert and smarter than Einstein)” and, remarkably, accusing them of being “demeaning”–in the very same sentence. He called them “clowns” in yet another posting. His postings attacking the commissioners were interspersed with posts about his delivering campaign signs, including signs representing the campaigns of fellow-County Commissioner Donald O’Brien (who has been least willing to criticize Mullins on the commission) and for Staly.
On Thursday, Mullins was at it again: “This story will bring a long battle out between Hasty Hansen and his wife attacking me personally and professionally. And Ericksen not attending any of his committees. It’s backed up by many emails, text and one from my attorney threatening legal action. His goal is to remove me so the back door deals can be attempted again. But once again Flagler live spins the truth.” Ericksen concedes that there’s been times that he’s not been to meetings, but he said that’s been because of a combination of meeting cancellations or his own health struggles of late. (Emboldened by County Administrator Jerry Cameron, who’s ordered his public information staff not to recognize FlaglerLive among local news organizations, and silence from other commissioners, Mullins for months has been using anti-Semitic and other racist imagery and language targeting the site’s editor.)
Sullivan said his intention Monday will be to protect the commission above all. “I don’t want the County Commission to come out of this with a black eye that will take us time to overcome.” Conceding that Mullins has called him over the last few days, Sullivan did not disclose what he would do specifically. “I just assume not, because I do have some thoughts, I’ve been researching definitions and the history of censures and what they mean. I’m focusing on specific incidents, if that will give you any thoughts on it. It’s a word that’s used flippantly as far as I’m concerned. I think it’s worth looking at the various definitions.”
A search of commission minutes through the clerk of court’s office, prompted by the county attorney’s office last Monday, revealed no instance of a commissioner being censured through the years locally–at least not from what the minutes indicate.
What is more certain is that commissioners will have to address the Mullins question one way or another as they’ve been fielding additional emails regarding his behavior–and his being in line to be the commission’s next chairman, come November.
“As a resident of Flagler County, I find it appalling that action has not been taken to remove, or at the very least, censure Mr. Mullins for his absolutely disgusting and disturbing displays at public meetings,” one constituent wrote commissioners, the county attorney and Cameron on Sept. 16. The email echoes the tenor of others like it. “Mr. Mullins is well known to incite negative behavior in his constituents and your continued acceptance of his behavior does little to encourage him to change. Moreover, we are well aware that he is in line to chair the board of commissioners, and, should this happen, his “friends ” in the community will almost certainly feel that they are at liberty to act out even more than they do now at their street corner political rallies. I have seen quite a few articles, letters and comments about Mr. Mullins’ various business dealings and other shenanigans, and am having a difficult time chalking them up to hearsay when I see his behavior in person. Frankly, I don’t know why he’s not regularly drug tested (based on alleged shenanigans). Quite a few of us would like to see that happen, and the results made public. You all seem like reasonable individuals. Do something about this while your integrity is still intact.”