Florida Bar Dismisses Complaint Against County Attorney in Latest of Many Defeats for Growlers
FlaglerLive | February 11, 2016
It’s decidedly not gone well for the cabal conjurers against county government—former Elections Supervisor Kimberle Weeks, frequent political candidate and government critic Dennis McDonald, and Ronald Reagan Republican Assembly schemer John Ruffalo.
The trio, occasionally aided by others, have since last year filed piles of seemingly injurious complaints and the odd lawsuit against county officials, heaving their allegations of corruption, malfeasance and other improprieties at any state agency they could: the elections commission, the ethics commission, the Florida Bar, and more locally, the State Attorney’s office and circuit court. In all, roughly 19 or 20 such complaints (an exact count is difficult) have been filed, each requiring investigations and defenses of its own, each incurring expenses and anxieties for all concerned.
None has stuck.
The dismissals of complaint after complaint have drizzled back from Tallahassee since the middle of last year, rejecting grave accusations of abuse and misuse of office with characterizations that paint the complaints as baseless, frivolous, and ill-placed, just as the county has contended all along. The county has also contended that the complaints have been filed with malicious intent, expressly to damage the reputation of county officials. So far, that part of the county’s argument has not carried (the ethics commission, for example, refused to award attorneys’ fees to the county). But state agencies’ unanimous and mounting rejection of the trios’ complaints adds to the credence of the county’s argument.
On Wednesday, two more complaints were tossed. The Florida Bar found baseless complaints filed by Weeks and Ruffalo against County Attorney Al Hadeed.
The Feb. 10 letter informing Weeks of the dismissal tells the story with what appears to be an added irony the lawyer addressing the letter to Weeks could not resist: mention of Weeks’ felony indictments—she faces 12 felony counts—as a result, partly, of her allegedly secretly recording Hadeed in conversation with a county commissioner. Weeks had used that very recording to buttress her complaint to the Florida Bar.
“You alleged that Mr. Hadeed committed a felony crime by whispering to a county commissioner about an event that was previously witnessed during a canvassing board meeting,” the Florida Bar’s counsel, Carrie Constance Lee, wrote. “You obtained this conversation by recording device and disclosed the contents of the recording at a subsequent meeting. A grand jury has since indicted you for these alleged actions and you are pending trial.”
Lee goes on to explain the Bar’s process, which included an investigation that included interviews with agents of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and members of the Florida Commission on Ethics. consideration of The grievance committee reviewed the grievance and Mr. Hadeed’s response.
“After carefully considering and weighing all of the evidence, the grievance committee determined that there was not objective evidence of a violation of the Rules Regulating The Florida Bar,” Lee wrote. “Because the bar only has the authority to address questions of ethics, the committee could not address any legal issues about which you may feel concerned.” (Weeks et. al. have used such lines in the past to press their cases further by suggesting that dismissals or lawyers’ disagreements don’t mean that the initial complaints are invalid, only that the authority of the agency where the complaints were filed does not extent enough to address them. While technically correct, as the Bar itself notes in the case of the current complaints, none of the allegations raised in any of the complaints, filed in any venue, have been sustained.)
The Bar addressed Ruffalo in much the same way. Ruffalo’s complaint was more extensive if also more scattershot than Weeks’s, much of it a cut-and-paste job from a similar complaint Ruffalo filed with the ethics commission (also dismissed).
Hadeed did not respond to phone messages this afternoon. He is quoted in a county news release, however. “We fully and professionally cooperated with all of the investigating agencies, including the Florida Bar,” Hadeed, who had once called the complaints “ridiculous,” said. “We are pleased with the outcome, of course, but more importantly these dismissals will allow us to fully focus on other county business that yields a meaningful, tangible benefit to our citizens.”