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Flagler County Argues Charge Against Commissioner Revels Belongs at Ethics Commission, Not in Court

| July 9, 2014

Flagler County's  $1.23 million acquisition of the old Memorial Hospital building last year is at the center of a lawsuit by a new group against the county. (© FlaglerLive)

Flagler County’s $1.23 million acquisition of the old Memorial Hospital building last year is at the center of a lawsuit by a new group against the county. (© FlaglerLive)

If a local “watchdog” group wants to contest the ethical propriety of Commissioner Barbara Revels’s vote last summer to buy the old Memorial Hospital in Bunnell for conversion into a Sheriff’s Operations Center, the group may well do so—but not in Flagler County Circuit Court, Flagler County Commission Attorney Al Hadeed argues. The group has no standing in circuit court, but may take its case to the Florida Commission on Ethics.

The 2013 Files:

The Documents:

Hadeed makes those arguments in the motion he filed last week to dismiss a lawsuit filed late last month by a new group that calls itself the Flagler Palm Coast Watchdogs.

When Revels was part of the 4-1 majority that voted to acquire the hospital for $1.23 million from a trio of local investors, she did not file a form required by ethics laws indicating that she had a business relationship with Bruce Page, one of the investors. Page is the CEO of Intracoastal Bank, in which Revels has $100,000 worth of stocks, according to the financial disclosure form she’s required to file as an office holder. Haddeed says the form filing prior to the vote was not required, as the hospital transaction did not involve Intracoastal Bank, and Revels’s finances were already transparent. The Watchdogs disagree, claiming that Revels had a conflict of interest that should have compelled her to recuse herself from the vote, and explain her recusal.

The county’s motion to dismiss does not attempt to invalidate the claim that Revels violated the state’s ethics laws. Only to remove the court from the equation. In fact, a complaint was filed with the Florida Commission on Ethics making the same charge against Revels, but by a different, if politically related, individual–Ray Stevens, the former candidate for sheriff.

The Watchdogs group is actually one man, Daniel Bozza, who works closely with the Ronald Reagan Republican Assembly of Flagler County, the temperamentally secretive right-wing group aiming to subvert the local Republican establishment. (When Bozza spoke to the group earlier this week at the Palm Coast Community Center, Bob Hamby, who heads the group, barred Kimble Medley, a former Republican candidate for Supervisor of Elections–whose first name should not prompt confusion with current Supervisor Kimberle Weeks–from attending.)

Bozza would not disclose the names of other members of the group, if any, when asked after he filed the lawsuit last month, but said the group is seeking a non-profit designation and intends to be the conduit for fund-raising that would then underwrite the filing of more lawsuits against local government.

Hadeed’s motion, in a sleight of rhetorical jujutsu, uses those intentions to make one of a half dozen arguments concluding that the group has no standing to sue the county in circuit court—at least not over the issues it raised against Revels and cited concerning Commissioner Frank Meeker. (Hadeed does not mention either commissioner by name in his motion.) Since the group leaves its identity imprecise, it does not show that it has been “ affected in a substantially different manner or degree” by the county’s purchase of the hospital any more than have other county residents at large.

Al Hadeed. (© FlaglerLive)

Al Hadeed. (© FlaglerLive)

“The reality is that [the Watchdogs group] does not stand in a superior position to the rest of Florida citizenry, with respect to the right to ensure public accountability and transparency, and if there has been a failure to be accountable or transparent, the plaintiff does not suffer a greater harm than the rest of the community. Absent the demonstration if a special injury, the plaintiff has no standing.”

In plainer English: Cheekiness, evasion or secrecy undermine the legitimacy of the Watchdogs’ claims.

But the legal heart of Hadeed’s motion goes to a simpler matter.

Florida law—the state constitution and state statutes—make clear who arbitrates what. In matters of ethics, the nine-member Florida Commission on Ethics was created to investigate the alleged ethics breaches of public officials, interpret ethics laws and recommend penalties or further action when laws are found to have been broken. Florida law specifically removes circuit courts from that responsibility, granting that authority to the ethics commission. Less than two years ago, Rodolfo Pedraza, a resident of Miami, filed  suit challenging the validity of Frank Hernandez to run for county judge, because Hernandez had allegedly not included his home mortgage as a liability in financial disclosures. The court dismissed the suit, saying it was up to the ethics commission exclusively to make that determination. Hadeed cites that case in his argument to the circuit court.

“The trial court lacks not only the authority but the unique resources and processes of the Ethics Commission to investigate and report violations of the Code of Ethics,” Hadeed’s motion reads. “The trial courts do not have the experience or the body of jurisprudence developed by the Commission since its creation in the 1970s for addressing violations of the Code of Ethics.”

Beyond that, Hadeed had difficulties citing a claim by the Watchdogs that amounted to more than an opinion that the purchase of the old hospital was a bad deal. The Watchdogs had cited Commissioner Frank Meeker’s column explaining his vote—a reluctant vote, but a vote for the hospital purchase nonetheless. Extrapolating from Meeker’s column, the Watchdogs used the piece as evidence that the buy was ill-advised. But Meeker had merely described how he came to his decision, and at no point suggested that, aside from the usual lobbying and second guessing extant in such proceedings, anything improper or illegal was taking place.

“The remaining factual allegations of the complaint,” Hadeed’s motion goes on, again turning the Watchdogs’ own arguments against the group, “do no more than express the opinion of the plaintiff that the purchase of the former hospital property was not wise.”

Hedeed’s full motion to dismiss is below.

Download Hadeed Motion to Dismiss

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20 Responses for “Flagler County Argues Charge Against Commissioner Revels Belongs at Ethics Commission, Not in Court”

  1. m&m says:

    That’s the way politians line thier pockets.. She should brought before the court and put in jail for ripping off the tax payers..

  2. KMedley says:

    When calls for transparency lead to closed doors and closed minds, it is time to “Question with Boldness” the true nature of these groups and the candidates they endorse. Think of the numerous lawsuits brought about as a result of the RAFL and its members. Sorry folks, I simply cannot associate the name of a favorite President with this group. Conduct a search of Flaglerlive and read the many articles written about the RAFL, the main backer of this new group.

    A current candidate for City Council, endorsed by this group, filed the lawsuit against then candidate for sheriff, John Pollinger, and a driving force behind the lawsuit was that of party purity.

    Another candidate, endorsed by this group for County Commission, enlisted the aid of the same attorney retained by the Watchdogs to file lawsuit after lawsuit against the City of Palm Coast and the Palm Harbor Shopping Center. What were the results of those lawsuits and how much did each cost taxpayers? This man, along with the other candidates, is against everything; and, yet, few solutions and plans are offered, other than offering repetitious, regurgitated, rhetoric.

    The RAFL filed suit against the Republican Executive Committee; and, when that failed, they began to infiltrate the local Republican Clubs to gain a majority in order to bring about changes in the by-laws so that those who fail the “Not Republican Enough” test are driven out. When legal tactics fail, they resort to stronger ones, such as physically blocking access to meeting rooms. These two groups are like invasive species; they begin by taking root and within months they consume the host group.

    The same process is already taking place with the Flagler County Tea Party. A group that once welcomed differing ideas and varying voices is all but a former shell of itself and the sense of camaraderie once experienced and enjoyed, is all but vanished.

    It was the RAFL who parroted the arguments of, and coordinated with, the SOE against the City of Palm Coast and the procedures they followed to effect a change in their municipal election process. It would seem their inability to read and interpret the statutes will once again cost taxpayers.

    Groups that demand transparency from others, are cloaked in secrecy much like that of the Skull and Bones Society. Perhaps a fitting symbol for those responsible for disenfranchising thousands of voters by putting forth faux candidates, such as Dan Bozza. Board members of the RAFL are directors of the Tea Party; and, now, a third shadow group, Watchdogs, headed by Bozza, is set to take hold and request contributions all in the name of transparency. Reminds me of a carnival shell game.

    Our 40th President began a revolution. One wherein voters were reminded of a “shining city on a hill”. He was able to garner support from voters of all parties, including Democrats, Independents, and Republicans. Reagan’s 1980 election captured victory in 44 states and his 1984 election widened his victory with 49 states. I remember voting for this man. I admired how he brought people together while using bold colors to define conservatism. These groups could learn a lot if they would only study the man they claim to admire. They lack the eloquence and tolerance of this beloved President.

    I would urge all voters to Question with Boldness all claims presented by these groups and the candidates they endorse. There are numerous opportunities for voters to become informed and ask questions of candidates seeking office. Take the time to become informed and ask those tough questions.

    • Genie says:

      Ms. Medley, obviously you have a personal problem with this group. All I ever see in this town are personal attacks, mostly one so called Republican at another. You rant, you rave and you never tell us what it is you want.

      I believe you ran for Supervisor of Elections and lost. Is that the problem?

      We all have choices at election and I am praying we will exercise them. Anything, but this.

    • Bob Hamby says:

      The Ronald Reagan Republican Assembly – Flagler is a membership-funded organization. As such, we reserve the right of review of any guest in order to provide a friendly, positive atmosphere for our members. Admittance to our meetings is not an entitlement. In this case, your reputation precedes you. You are a former RRRA-FL member who resigned. In 2012, as a candidate for Supervisor of Elections, you sought the endorsement of the RRRA-FL. You were not the SOE candidate chosen by our members. Since that time, you have consistently attacked our organization.

      One of the missions of the Ronald Reagan Republican Assembly – Flagler is to identify and support Republican candidates who: Respect the Constitution, Respect Life, Believe in Limited Government and Believe in Individual Responsibility. Party registration is only one of the common traits that unite the members of the RRRA-FL.

      Your personal and political association with individuals vehemently opposed to the mission of the Ronald Reagan Republican Assembly – Flagler as well as your own personal attacks against our organization does not endear you to our membership and board. Your own actions resulted in your being asked to leave our meeting.

      We trust there won’t be any confusion in the future

      Bob Hamby

      • KMedley says:

        Dear Mr. Hamby:

        My actions consisted of taking a seat in the last row of chairs that had been set out and opening my notebook in order to take notes. Again, this was a publicly announced meeting to he held at a publicly funded facility. I do not resort to tactics of the politics of personal destruction. I do; however, research avidly and present facts from which folks may make their own conclusion. In 2012, I attended many events, including those of the RAFL. I became a member at the suggestion of a long-time friend who led me to believe your organization acted in the best spirit that represented a dear President. As time progressed and I was able to observe your organization in action, it became quite clear you did not represent the values of the 40th President and therefore, I resigned. I see that many have reached the same conclusion and have chosen to walk away. Informing others is not a personal attack, especially when they can see that which I present is factual.

        I am quite concerned my civil rights have been violated by the discriminatory practices demonstrated by you. As always, I will conduct a thorough research and will act accordingly. I do thank you for your detailed explanation.

  3. Biker says:

    It is really sort of strange but according to the florida division of corporations this watch dog group is not a non profit entity, but is in fact a for profit LLC. I don’t think for profit LLCs can get a 501(c).

  4. fruitcake says:

    Don’t waste your time with this issue…she will walk away with clean hands and a smile on her face

  5. confidential says:

    Sorry Medley but I sure like some of these candidates given what the incumbents have done against the taxpayers until now!
    You lost by landslide your run for SOE against our excellent current SOE Kimberle Weeks. So the voters better take your long rant above with a grain of salt. I am not particularly fond of any Tea Party or extreme conservative agenda…but whoever has the brave heart to fight against corruption deserves my vote no matter his/her partisan affiliation. Keeping up the stupid partisan fights is conducive only to the further undermine of our economy without enough needed jobs and the never ending tax rate increases to be wasted!

  6. KMedley says:

    Genie and Confidential:

    By your standards, Ronald Reagan would have never realized his landslide victories, as he lost the Republican nomination in 1976. I am well aware of my loss in the 2012 Primaries. Both the campaign and the loss have provided me with a great opportunities from which to learn. What I want is quite simple; a more informed electorate and for folks to realize this particular group has, in my opinion, high-jacked the name of a favorite President in order to perpetuate an eminence front. Yes, their candidates are repeating and regurgitating rhetoric; but, all lack substantive answers and solutions. A loss will not keep me silent.

    • Genie says:

      I don’t expect you to be silent. If I am understanding you correctly, you are supporting our incumbents, which in my view are unacceptable in public office any longer.

      We simply cannot afford them!

  7. Steve Wolfe says:

    Injunctive Relief Items of the suit #17, 18, and 23 ( should make this all very clear. Ms Revels falls clearly under the definitions of Florida Statute in #17 and 18, while #23 makes it clear that any citizen of the jurisdiction may seek relief through the circuit court, and not exclusively through the Ethics Commission. Please tell me where I am wrong (in layman’s terms as I am not an attorney). It sounds like the law is on the side of the Watchdogs in this motion.

  8. Steve Wolfe says:

    I for one am very pleased with all the attacks on the RRRA, especially for their personal nature. It is refreshing to me to know that we are considered by our opposition to be so effective that they feel compelled to attack us personally. Personal attacks mean there is no substance to their opposition, and it means they are very angry that their favored pro-incumbency campaigns are threatened. Without the Reagan Assembly pointing out the anti-Republican actions of the incumbents, many voters may be otherwise uninformed, and that pleases incumbency. Your taxes have been raised several times by these incumbents. Conservatives stand for lower taxes. Your liberty has been restricted by cumbersome regulation and even automated traffic enforcement. Conservatives stand for liberty. Now we are seeing the push by our incumbents for a jail-driven local economy. Who, I ask, benefits from such? I submit to you that only the politicians, who enter into such horrendous contracts IN OUR NAME benefit. You don’t benefit because you will bear the burden of paying for a jail that we just don’t need. Even Sheriff Manfre said as much before the last election. As with the old hospital boondoggle, there are alternatives that these Commissioners just refuse to look at. Why? Because big money = big influence. Little money is, in the political world, unnoticeable. Your incumbents want the attention of the deep pockets so they can move upward in government after stepping on US, which in the governmental/special corporate interests world = “effective public management.”

    I hope we are effective at educating as many folks as possible so the local government is returned to the people on who’s behalf it is supposed to be operated ethically, effectively, solemnly, and transparently. Many thanks to Flagler Live, once again, for hosting the forum.

    • confidential says:

      Amen! Wolfe.

    • Carol Mikola says:

      “Personal attacks mean there is no substance to their opposition”. I’m glad you feel that way, Mr. Wolfe. I must assume then that you are not supporting Dennis McDonald who has engaged in personal attacks since he lost the last election for county commissioner.

      • Wake up says:

        Dennis mcdonald has the county and city in his best interst and is an honorable man to stand up to corruption, over spending, wrong doing by those that believe they are untouchable.

    • Samantha Claire says:

      Mr. Wolfe, You as their mouthpiece attempt to set yourself and your Reagans up as governing and legal experts as you spout your purely political agendas but manage only to project more and more your own oppositions to all things “government” and your even thinner real knowledge of any of it. Pushing Mr. Bozza to make the fool of himself is shameful.

      Your personalized attacks on decent people are disgusting. YOU are letting Flagler Voters know just where the Reagans stand in the muck you are attempting to stir. You and your organization’s leadership are standing and sinking in your own sewage while pointing to others.

      Your attacks are doing real damage to our communities for your endorsed candidates imagined benefit. The extraordinary legal costs you are forcing on to Palm Coast and now, county taxpayers are mounting. You are contributing to the weakening of your own political party which also seems to be one of your sub plots.

      Here are the Wolfe-Reagan candidates again: Janet McDonald and Mike McElroy — School Board; Anna Marie Shafer and Steve Nobile – Palm Coast City Council; Mark Richter and Dennis McDonald – County Commission.

      Readers, please look at these names again slowly while stepping on a nail or pushing a thumbtack into your forehead to get a painful feel for their effect if any of them are elected.


  9. tulip says:

    I read that the county commissioner’s salaries are about 53,000 a year per person. That’s $1000 a week, and a pension and they don’t constantly work at the job 8 hours or more a day 5 days a week like regular folks do on their jobs. I’ve often wondered how many people would actually run for county commissioner if the salary was half that amount.

  10. Mike says:

    She should be suspended, and put on administrative leave while this is investigated by and OUTSIDE investigator, otherwise it will just be swept under the rug.

  11. Steven Nobile says:

    Good work folks. You’ve allowed yourselves to be led by the nose away from the real issue.
    Something stinks in the county transaction and for one would like to get to the bottom of it, either way.
    I don’t care what venue it is dealt in, just deal with it, take action if necessary and move on. But by all means, stay focused.

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