Last Sunday, Joe Mullins, currently the chairman of the Flagler County Commission, was driving his red Ferrari on I-95 in Palm Coast when he was pulled over by a Florida Highway Patrol trooper for going 92 in a 70. He was ticketed, and faces a fine of $281.
None of that is particularly remarkable. Andy Dance, the only one of Mullins’s commission colleagues to have had a speeding ticket–at least in Flagler–had a couple of them more than a decade and a half ago, before he was an elected official, completed traffic school, and hasn’t had any since.
What’s more notable about Mullins is his pattern of seeking to get out of penalties, and of reaching out to public officials to do so or invoking their names–even when he’s not at the wheel–either to get out of a ticket or in attempts to get out of being adjudicated and getting points on his license, with a promise that he’d never do it again. Then he does it again.
In the latest case from a few days ago, Mullins wrote the judge that he was “preparing for family coming into town and running behind in my schedule rushing between meetings” when he was pulled over. “I lost track of time and while taking calls and dealing with traffic knowing I was behind schedule, I was not paying attention to my speed nor the limit.”
Mullins was pulled over driving northbound on I-95, at mile marker 287, or two miles south of the Palm Coast Parkway interchange, at 8:45 a.m., according to the ticket.
“I am asking for lenience as I am gladly to pay pay in full (sic.) the amount owed but would like the assessed points and my record not to be noted if possible. I commit in the future to pay more attention to my speed and be aware of my time so it will not put me in a rush situation.”
He had used similar words, and made a similar plea, when he was ticketed in St. Johns County in 2017, going 65 in a 55 on State Road A1A. He was not yet a commissioner at the time. (He was elected in 2018 and is running for re-election this year).
“I deeply regret this indiscretion and humbly request that you withhold adjudication so points are not assessed on my driver license [sic.],” he wrote the judge three weeks after the ticket was issued. But he did not pay the fine in time. The ticket was categorized as delinquent, and Mullins risked having his license suspended.
But along the way he had called Sheriff Rick Staly in an attempt to get the sheriff to contact authorities in St. Johns and have the ticket dropped.
“He wanted to know if I’d call the St. Johns County sheriff because he’d been pulled over by one of his deputies,” Staly said in an interview in 2020, indignant at the memory. “I told him absolutely not, this is Florida, and we don’t do these kinds of things, at least not with me. So I never called Sheriff Shoar. He’s a personal friend–I talked to him today–and I don’t know what happened with that ticket.”
Staly was recalling the incident subsequent to a traffic stop Mullins was involved in at the time, on belle Terre Parkway, when he was in the passenger seat of a car driven by a woman who’d been going 63 in a 45. Mullins, who claimed he was on his way to the dentist in an Uber (the car had no such markings, and Mullins was in the front seat), made sure that the deputy who pulled them over knew that Mullins was who he was, intimating his title as county commissioner, and told the deputy he was meeting with Staly later. There was no such meeting. The woman was issued a warning. (See: “Joe Mullins Wanted Sheriff to Fix Speeding Ticket in 2017; He Invoked Staly’s Name in Traffic Stop Last Week.”)
After Staly refused to intervene in the St. Johns County ticket, Mullins then appealed for help from Flagler County Clerk of Court Tom Bexley.
“I have a constituent that has requested my help,” Bexley wrote Michelle Cosomato, director of the traffic division in St. Johns, in late February. “He received a [Uniform Traffic Citation] in St. John’s County and has written a letter to the hearing officer/judge requesting no points be assesed. He is beyond the 30 days, but has not been suspended. Will you please submit this letter to the court asap in the hopes this issue can be addressed before a suspension? Of course he is more than willing to pay in full.” But he still had not. Bexley asked Cosomato for a “heads up” when the hearing officer rendered a decision.
Cosomato the same day let Bexley know that there’d be an additional $23 late fee and that Mullins would have to plead for a “late denial” to avoid further issues, with a deadline less than two weeks hence, or else the license would be suspended. Mullins two days later wrote another plea on the proper form, claiming he was “traveling during that time for work back to Georgia” and that he “will do to my best efforts [sic.] not to have another issue here.”
Mullins completed payment on the by-then $229 fine the following week, and a judge withheld adjudication.
A year later, it happened again–in Duval County, just after he had been elected county commissioner. He was pulled over on Dec. 12, 2018, almost a month after his swearing in, and ticketed by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office for going 64 in 55 on the Hartbridge Expressway. He again pleaded his case, paid his fine, and adjudication was withheld.
The following month (just after 10 p.m. on Feb. 19), he was involved in a car crash on State Road A1A in Ormond Beach, as he was driving a 2013 Mercedes Biturbo registered to his company, but it was not his fault, according to a Florida Highway Patrol report: the other driver ahead of Mullins had made an illegal U-turn on A1A in Volusia County, in foggy conditions, and was cited accordingly.
He was also twice cited for speeding in Seminole County in the last seven months–going 85 in a 65 on I-4 last Nov. 26, and going 89 in a 60, again on I-4, earlier this month, on June 2. The trooper noted on that ticket: ” VISUAL SPEED 90 MPH, ACTUAL 91.7 MPH, POSTED 60.”
Notably, when Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood was pulled over for speeding in 2017, he insisted on getting ticketed “to set an example” for his agency.
The latest ticketing case in Flagler is pending.