Warning: offensive language below.
County Attorney Al Hadeed on Monday raised the prospect of jail for Dennis McDonald, the former candidate for various offices, if McDonald remains in contempt of court over a charge of $80,000 plus interest in legal fees he owes Flagler County government.
McDonald had filed an ethics complaint against former County Commissioner George Hanns in 2015. The Ethics Commission judged the complaint frivolous. The county sought to be reimbursed for legal fees on the grounds that the complaint had not only been frivolous, but knowingly, recklessly false. The Ethics Commission agreed, opening the way for the county to recover its legal fees, which at the time were closer to $59,000. McDonald appealed and lost. Fees accrued.
The state Attorney general last fall filed a contempt motion against McDonald, around the time when McDonald was running for a Palm Coast City Council seat (he lost), his fifth attempt at public office. The Attorney General did so because McDonald had 45 days to file a four-page “factual information sheet” about his finances.
The court has set a deadline of March 8 for him to provide his financial disclosure to the court, “The court directed that he could be arrested and held for 48 hours prior to the hearing on that order, which is set for April 28th,” Hadeed said on Monday, updating the County Commission on the status of the litigation. The Leon County court could issue an order for McDonald’s arrest, which would then potentially be carried out in Flagler County.
McDonald has long maintained, as he has in previous interviews, that “this ethics commission is absolutely out of control,” and at one point contested so much as having even filed an appeal. The ethics commission, which is no longer involved at this point since the case has been turned over to the Attorney General’s office, had noted McDonald’s “complete disregard for law” and publicly excoriated him for “just totally thumbing [his] nose at this whole process.”
For all his legal issues with state agencies and Leon County Circuit Court, McDonald continues to appear before the local county commission and the Palm Coast City Council, proffering advice and judgments, raising matters of fact and evidence or criticizing the governments’ alleged disregard for procedure or policy. He is married to Janet McDonald, the school board member serving her second term, who was herself in the news again this week for repeating variously false claims about covid-safety measures. (She had faced an ethics commission complaint herself, but opted to follow all procedural steps and agreed to settle the case).
McDonald’s is one of three cases in which the county is pursuing legal fees from frivolous ethics complaints filed some six years ago. One other case involves Kimberle Weeks, the former supervisor of elections who last fall served a jail term in her felony convictions over several charges of illegally recording and transmitting conversations. The third involves Mark Richter Jr., whose father was a former candidate for the county commission. (Note: an earlier version of this story confused Richter Jr. with his father. Richter Jr., who compared a prosecutor in his case to a Nazi in an email, wrote the FlaglerLive editor in a comment, as seen below: “First, please correct your paper as I have never run for office in Flagler county. You are mistaking me for my father. Second, if you are stupid enough to believe these lie I’m glad you got cancer you fucking sand nigger.”)
In Weeks’s case, a summary judgment motion was filed by the attorney general. That hearing is scheduled for March 17. Leon County Circuit Court has also set a summary judgment hearing on March 22 in the pending case against Richter. Richter, who now lives in Rome, Ga., filed a motion to dismiss the complaint last July. The court denied the motion in September.
The “protracted” litigation, as Hadeed described it in an understatement, is the longest-lasting set of legal cases on the county commission’s dockets. At one point every county commissioner then serving had been subjected to one of those frivolous complaints, either by Weeks, Richter and McDonald or by some of their allies. So were the county administrator and the county attorney. After the departure of Charlie Ericksen from the county commission at the end of his second term in November, the only remaining person in county government who had also been subjected to frivolous complaints is Hadeed, whose memory of the experience–bitter and distasteful for those who’d gone through it–has not waned.
“We should be hearing fairly shortly on these, hopefully their conclusion,” Hadeed said Monday.