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Tables Turn on Dennis McDonald as Ethics Commission Investigates Assets Disclosures

| July 7, 2016

dennis mcdonald

Dennis McDonald in 2014, when he was running against Frank Meeker. (© FlaglerLive)

The tables have turned on Dennis McDonald, the four-time candidate for local political office who is among a small group of activists who have filed more than two dozen ethics, elections and other formal complaints against county commissioners in the past two and a half years: McDonald, currently a candidate for Palm Coast mayor, is now himself under investigation by the Florida Ethics Commission, following a complaint filed by one of his former targets, the man who’s twice beaten him to a county commission seat: Commissioner Frank Meeker.


Meeker’s decision was framed in the explicit language of retribution.

“I’m sick and tired of the frivolous and malicious complaints designed to cast doubt on the integrity of the Flagler County Board of County Commissioners, and me in particular,” Meeker said in a statement emailed to local media late Thursday evening. “They’ve gone well past the point of reason, and serve no purpose but to try and defame our reputations and credibility.” (See the full statement here.)

In another section of the one-page statement, Meeker again spoke of retribution as he explained the target of his complaints: “I for one have had enough,” he wrote. “Sometimes when you keep poking your finger at a bear, the bear decides to poke back. For that reason, I filed two complaints well before Mr. McDonald filed to run for the critical position of mayor of Palm Coast and State Committeeman of the Republican Party of Florida to demonstrate the true purpose of a real lapse in ethics, Mr. McDonald’s obfuscated efforts to hide properties (both in state and out of state) or expensive toys (individual collector cars exceeding $1000 in value each) he owns either individually, or jointly, together, or with others, and not providing that information to the public as required by a complete and most importantly honest, filing of their Form 6 Financial Disclosures.”

McDonald’s 2014 disclosure form, published then as part of his Live Interview, can be seen here.

“They’re all disclosed, but he’s saying that in my disclosure I disclosed all my properties but I had to give an exact address to each and everyone,” McDonald said this evening. “It’s all picayune stuff. I got to tell you something, this is all sour grapes. I could have filed all kinds of complaints on Meeker. I wasn’t going to file complaints on meeker because he was my rival. It looks like sour grapes.”

McDonald filed two ethics complaints, one against Commissioner George Hanns, one against Nate McLaughlin. He has not targeted Meeker directly with an ethics complaint, but he did file an elections commission complaint that named every member of the commission, Meeker included.

meeker ericksen

Commissioner Frank meeker, seated, with Commissioner Charlie Ericksen today at the sheriff’s ribbon-cutting for the new county jail. Meeker, who’s been in cancer treatment most of the year, was fresh from a wearying hospital stay that ended only last weekend. (© FlaglerLive)

Meeker’s complaints target both Dennis McDonald and his wife, Janet McDonald, who is in the middle of a four-year term on the Flagler County School Board. Meeker said he filed the complaint against Janet only reluctantly, and only because she was “dragged” into the issue involving Dennis, because the couple owns property jointly. The complaints allege that both McDonalds, but more particularly Dennis, did not fully disclose properties they own in their Form 6 financial disclosure form, including property in Connecticut, and two pieces of property in Ocean Hammock, and one property in Flagler Beach. Meeker says that while McDonald does list total assets for his auto collection, he the total begs disbelief, because it allegedly refers to 10 cars which should each be listed, with its individual value.

Candidates for office are required to file Form 6 during their election campaign. Those elected to office are then required to file the form annually.

McDonald said the allegation is merely a “smear.”

“They’re listed as open land in Palm Coast,” he said of his properties. “I think we own six or seven lots in Palm Coast, if my memory is correct, and we listed it as open land in Palm Coast.” He acknowledged having property out of state, and said he did include those properties his filings. “Mr. Meeker did not like the way I delineated them,” he said, and noted that in his filing for mayor of Palm Coast, the city is not requiring disclosures of properties out of state. “He wants to get in the mud and sling this around.”

Meeker, in a brief phone interview this evening, said he knew about Dennis McDonald’s flawed Form 6 going back over all three of McDonald’s election campaigns. “I could have filed it back then but I don’t play that way,” Meeker said. Now, he said, he will, having run out of patience. He said he filed the complaints two months ago.

On June 9, Ethics Investigator Thomas Reaves wrote Meeker that the McDonald complaint “has been found sufficient for investigation and has been forwarded to the Investigative Section of the Commission on Ethics.” Reaves asked Meeker to provide a list of potential witnesses and their contact information and any relevant additional information. He received a similar letter regarding Janet McDonald.

Click On:


Meeker is not disclosing the complaints themselves, which are not public record until the commission disposes of them, either by finding probable cause that one or more violations occurred, or by dismissing them. It is not against the law for the person who files the complaint to disclose it or to disclose information about it.

Meeker said McDonald had numerous occasions to fix the allegedly flawed disclosure forms, citing himself as an example: in one form, Meeker said he failed to disclose the co-signing of a loan he executed on behalf of his son one year, so he filed Form 6x, giving filers a chance to correct the record without penalty.

Other county commissioners are not involved in Meeker’s filing, at least not formally. But it is likely that they are cheering from the sidelines, as Meeker is giving voice to what each of them has either expressed privately, or wished could do in fact. Each of the commissioner has been targeted by either McDonald or his associates at the Ronald Reagan Republican Assemblies, the political group that’s been rattling moire established Republicans–and others–since its formation a few years ago.

Throughout, Meeker has scarcely contained his contempt, and at times his anger, for the group, referring to each round of new complaints derisively from his commission seat. His antipathy is also informed by internecine warfare in the local Republican Party between the more established wing Meeker represents and the insurgent wing McDonald belongs to. The insurgents successfully took over the Republican Executive Committee last year.

“My guess is there are a number of people involved in this, just by looking at this,” McDonald said of the complaint against him, though the same observation could be made about many of the various complaints filed against commissioners. “This isn’t Frank Meeker preparing this by himself.”

Because of his filing, Meeker said he would resign his seat on the canvassing board so as not to create a new distraction there. The canvassing board membership during Supervisor of Elections Kimberle Weeks’s tenure became a game of musical chairs as Weeks, often with McDonald in her corner (he attended most board sessions and conferred with Weeks) challenged the propriety of one county commission member’s service on the board after another. Weeks’s tenure ended in January 2015 when she resigned, shortly before she was indicted on felony charges.

Meeker mentioned the Reagan group, many of its members and Weeks by name in his written statement about the ethics filings. “The 26 Ethics filings this group submitted to the Florida Ethics Commission (among other venues) amounted to nothing more than a good bye kiss from Ms. Weeks to the commission before her trial on multiple felony charges is heard in a court of law and gave Mr. McDonald and his RRRA friends the ability to play in the mud again,” Meeker wrote. “They seem to like it.”

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22 Responses for “Tables Turn on Dennis McDonald as Ethics Commission Investigates Assets Disclosures”

  1. anonymous says:

    This place is really something else. I have never seen so many ethics complaints, until coming here!

  2. Wishful thinking says:

    Frank Meeker is really getting the raw end of the stick. He has been very supportive and helpful to every request and concern I have , and many others have, especially regarding lobbying the legislature for urgent funding for an antiquated water system. He prevailed. He could easily resign
    his seat during this very very difficult time in his life .Despite his trying openly disclosed bout with cancer he still cares about us – he was my knight in shining amor at yesterday’s commission meeting
    I pray that this McDonald latest attack rolls off his shoulders into the trash basket . Get better soon Frank and don’t let this crap upset you anymore .

  3. Cry Baby says:

    Sounds like Mr. Meeker is being malicious and he should be paying Mr. McDonald’s attorney fees.

  4. Sherry says:

    “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone”!

  5. footballen says:

    Wouldn’t it be nice if they all just did their job? It seems that politicians here are more bully than workers.

  6. Fredrick says:

    The drama continues… You just can’t make this stuff up. This should be made into a a reality TV show. “Will Dennis back door Frank? Will Kimmeeeeee go to jail? Tune in next week and see!”

  7. robjr says:

    Why doesn’t Frank Meeker just let it go?
    He’s resigning from the canvassing board and that is not a bad thing.
    He should take it one step further and do the same at the county commission.
    He is one of those guys that wanted to suck a few more dollars out of the taxpayers for travel expenses. It is a fact, with one exception, that all of them wanted to.

  8. daveT says:

    McDonald is just as corrupt as all of them and I don’t trust him so he is not getting my vote.. . Like footballen noted, “Wouldn’t it be nice if they all just did their job” it sure would.

  9. tulip says:

    I’m glad Mr Meeker filed a complaint, it’s about time someone did. I just wish he had filed the complaint against McDonald a long time ago when he first started running for things. It might have prevented McDonald from filing all those frivolous suits against everyone.

    However, Mr. Meeker, thanks for doing it and get better soon.

  10. Common Sense says:

    McD is a bully with a big ego. He is divisive and has cost us thousands of our tax dollars with his frivolous complaints. It is about time someone fought back. Good for Meeker.
    McD and his RRR friends have been extremely disruptive to our community.

  11. Jimmietwoshoes says:

    Mr Meeker has cried and cried, yet it was Mr Meeker that used taxpayer funds/insurance to defend his Election Compliant,
    Mr Meeker is a sad sad man….

    See Lomelo v. City of Sunrise, 423 So. 2d 974, 976 (Fla. 4th DCA 1982) (public funds may not be expended for other than public purposes;
    Print Icon Print Version
    Number: AGO 2001-53
    Date: July 18, 2001
    Subject: County funds, election contest suit

    The Honorable Ed Dean
    Sheriff, Marion County
    Post Office Box 1987
    Ocala, Florida 34478

    RE: ELECTIONS–CONTESTS OF ELECTIONS–ATTORNEY’S FEES–PUBLIC FUNDS–CANDIDATES–county funds may not be used for defense of successful candidate in an election contest suit. s. 102.168, Fla. Stat.

    Dear Sheriff Dean:

    You ask substantially the following question:

    May county funds be used to pay the legal fees of a successful political candidate who is an indispensable party to a suit contesting the results of an election, when the canvassing board has been charged with failure to carry out its statutory duties?

    In sum:

    County funds may not be used to pay the legal fees of a successful candidate in a contested election, regardless of whether the candidate is an indispensable party to the suit and whether charges have been made against the canvassing board.

    Section 102.168(1), Florida Statutes, provides that:

    “Except as provided in s. 102.171, the certification of election or nomination of any person to office, or of the result on any question submitted by referendum, may be contested in the circuit court by any unsuccessful candidate for such office or nomination thereto or by any elector qualified to vote in the election related to such candidacy, or by any taxpayer, respectively.”[1]

    The statute sets forth the grounds for contesting an election as follows:

    “(a) Misconduct, fraud, or corruption on the part of any election official of any member of the canvassing board sufficient to change or place in doubt the result of the election.
    (b) Ineligibility of the successful candidate for the nomination or office in dispute.
    (c) Receipt of a number of illegal votes or rejection of a number of legal votes sufficient to change or place in doubt the result of the election.
    (d) Proof that any elector, election official, or canvassing board member was given or offered a bribe or reward in money, property, or any other thing of value for the purpose of procuring the successful candidate’s nomination or election or determining the result on any question submitted by referendum.
    (e) Any other cause or allegation which, if sustained, would show that a person other than the successful candidate was the person duly nominated or elected to the office in question or that the outcome of the election on a question submitted by referendum was contrary to the result declared by the canvassing board or election board.”[2]

    The canvassing board or election board is designated as a proper party defendant, while the successful candidate is made an indispensable party to any action contesting an election or nomination of a candidate.[3]

    A suit, naming you as a defendant, has been filed contesting the November 2000 election for Marion County Sheriff. Grounds for the suit are cited as misconduct on the part of election officials, receipt of illegal votes or rejection of legal votes, vote tabulation errors, and the canvassing board’s failure to properly report to the Division of Elections the tabulation errors and corrective actions taken. You question whether the fact that none of the grounds for the contest relates to actions by you would lead to a different conclusion than that reached in Attorney General Opinion 77-87.

    In Attorney General Opinion 77-87, this office was asked whether the successful candidate for the office of supervisor of elections could use county funds or funds in the budget of that office to defend an election contest suit in the supervisor’s individual capacity. In that opinion, the supervisor had been charged with unlawfully soliciting absentee ballots. No charges had been made alleging improper actions by the county canvassing board. The opinion primarily relies upon Markham v. State, Department of Revenue[4] to assess the situation. In Markham, the unsuccessful candidate for tax assessor had sued the successful candidate in his individual capacity, as well as the county canvassing board. The question before the court was whether the successful candidate could use office funds to pay for his defense. The successful candidate claimed that since the election contest only involved the propriety of the canvassing board counting certain questioned absentee votes, without any allegations of personal wrongdoing, the suit was public rather than personal. The court rejected this argument and found that the public’s interest in an election contest suit is that the properly elected candidate hold office, not that any particular person hold the office. Concluding that the use of public funds for the successful candidate’s defense would be improper, the court found that the suit in no way involved the official duties of the office, but was a “pure and simple” election contest relating to the validity of certain absentee votes.

    Applying the rationale in Markham and similar cases, this office concluded that the expenditure of public funds by the successful candidate in defending an election contest would be improper.

    While the question of public funds being used to pay attorney’s fees for defending an election contest suit has not been directly addressed subsequently, several cases have mentioned Markham with approval.[5] In Thornber v. City of Fort Walton Beach,[6] the Supreme Court of Florida reiterated the established proposition that in order for a public official to be entitled to representation at public expense, the litigation must arise out of or be in connection with the performance of official duties, and it must serve a public purpose.[7] This standard remains the appropriate measure to determine whether public funds may be expended for legal representation. It should also be noted that no statutory changes have occurred that would affect the conclusions of the Markham court or this office.[8]

    In this instance, the election contest action did not arise out of or in connection with the performance of your official duties as sheriff. Moreover, while it could be argued that the public has an interest in having a sheriff in office to ensure the uninterrupted function of that office, it could be asserted that more importantly the public possesses the right to have the sheriff who was properly elected in office.

    Accordingly, it is my opinion that county funds may not be used to pay for the defense of a successful candidate in an election contest suit, regardless of whether the charges arise from alleged improprieties by the county canvassing board or by the successful candidate.

    Sincerely,

    Robert A. Butterworth
    Attorney General

    RAB/tls

  12. Michael Cocchiola says:

    Go get’em Frank! Turnabout is very fair play.

  13. Dennis McDonald says:

    Mr Meeker.

    Your public triads and tantrums continue whether they be from the public dais or any other public venue you can impose on. To be blunt your actions are a far cry from the statesman like performance required by your office. You feel that it is within your job description as County Commissioner to attack taxpayers who follow Florida Statutes and file complaints about their representative’s actions as provided by law. You sir are a Political Bully !

    Recently your actions as a member of this County Commission taking the lead to hire Mark Herron the maker of the Herron Memo which served to disqualify overseas military ballots in the 2000 Bush/Gore Election, speak volumes about your character. The Herron Memo is a very dark day for all service members, past and present, but it is especially egregious for the citizens of the great state of Florida because it happened on Florida’s watch, and he continues to be a major player in Florida politics.
    Commissioners Meeker, Hanns, McLaughlin, Revels and Ericksen were confronted with their actions when I spoke at the June BOCC meeting having said this…..

    ONE WEEK AGO I WATCHED ALL OF YOU ATTEND SERVICES ON MEMORIAL DAY HONORING OUR SERVICE MEN AND WOMEN. MANY OF THEM PAID WITH THEIR LIVES WHILE DEFENDING THIS GREAT NATION A SACRIFICE THAT ALL TO OFTEN GOES WITHOUT
    APPRECIATION. SO THAT IS WHY I AM HERE, TO BRING ONE OF
    THIS COMMISSION’S ACTS TO LIGHT THAT FOR ME DISHONORS ALL
    OUR SERVICE MEMBERS. REMEMBER BACK TO FEBRUARY, 2016, WHEN A MAN FROM TALLAHASSEE IN A $1000 SUIT WAS INCLUDED ON
    MR COFFEY’S AGENDA. HIS NAME IS MARK HERRON, THE AUTHOR
    OF THE HERRON MEMO, USED IN THE 2000 BUSH/GORE ELECTION.
    YES, THE ELECTION WITH DANGLING CHADS!

    I AM GOING TO READ FROM WIKIPEDIA SO I DO NOT INCLUDE ANY
    PERSONAL BIAS…

    • Democratic lawyer Mark Herron authored a memo distributed to

    Democrat election canvassers on how to invalidate military absentee

    ballots. The Herron Memo stated postmark and “point of origin”

    criteria Herron maintained could be used to invalidate military ballots.

    But the Herron Memo was in line with a letter sent out by Secretary of

    State Katherine Harris stating that if a postmark was not present on a

    military ballot, it had to be thrown out. On November 19, 2000,

    Democratic vice-presidential candidate Senator Joseph I.

    Lieberman appeared on Meet the Press and said that election officials

    should give the “benefit of the doubt” to military voters rather than

    disqualifying any overseas ballots that lacked required postmarks or

    witness signatures. Until that point, the Democrats had pursued a

    strategy of persuading counties to strictly enforce those requirements

    by disqualifying illegal ballots and reducing votes from overseas, which

    were predominantly cast for GEORGE Bush. Florida Attorney General

    Bob Butterworth, a Gore backer, later told the counties to go back and

    reconsider those ballots without a postmark.

    MARK HERRON WAS ATTEMPTING TO INVALIDATE VOTES OF THE
    SAME SERVICEMEN AND WOMEN YOU SAID ONE WEEK AGO THAT
    YOU HONOR.

    DID YOU KNOW MR HERRON’S REPUTATION THIS PAST FEBRUARY
    WHEN YOUR EMPLOYEES COFFEY AND HADEED BROUGHT
    HIM HERE? HE WAS HERE TO MAKE HIS PITCH FOR YOU TO HIRE
    HIM TO APPEAL THE ETHICS COMMISSION REJECTION OF HIS
    FIRST ATTEMPT TO COMPROMISE MY RIGHTS AND THOSE OTHER
    CITIZENS. THOSE RIGHTS PROVIDE FOR DUE PROCESS TO MAKE
    COMPLAINTS ABOUT ELECTED OFFICIALS’ AND THEIR EMPLOYEES MISDEEDS AS SET FORTH BY THE FLORIDA STATE STATUTES.

    HERRON HAS HAD A NATIONAL PROFILE ATTEMPTING
    TO DISENFRANCHISE VOTERS FOR DECADES ! YET YOU CHOSE
    TO HIRE HIM.

    FLORIDA ATTORNEY GENERAL BOB BUTTERWORTH AND
    CONNECTICUT SENATOR JOE LIEBERMAN ACTED WITH HONOR
    AND DEFENDED THE RIGHTS OF THE OVERSEAS MILITARY VOTER
    IN THAT 2000 ELECTION EVEN THOUGH IT WAS NOT IN THEIR BEST
    PERSONAL INTEREST.

    HONOR, COMMISSIONERS, IS DOING WHAT IS MORALLY RIGHT,
    AND HOLDING YOURSELF TO THE HIGHEST STANDARDS.

    As a point of reference Mark Herron WAS the Chairman of the Florida Ethics Commission. That should give all of us great pause and help us understand the failings of Tallahassee.

    All Voters of Flagler should remember this when they vote for any of the incumbent commissioners, HANNS,REVELS,ERICKSEN and all those “candidates” Mr Meeker supports !

    Dennis McDonald

  14. Virgil F says:

    So McDonald, Your disregard for required financial disclosure details is immediately reminiscent of Ms. Hillary from whom you seem to be taking lessons. Or, is it that Ms. Hillary is taking lessons from you? Good luck in your own dealings with the investigators. You are finally facing some serious legal exposure.

    Your destructive disregard for decent government and especially for those of your own party elected to serve, seems more an illness in need of attention than any political motivation.

    Your and your political puppet, Ron Radford, in open collusion with a new band of Democrats about to be victimized by you attempting to interfere with Palm Coast’s mayoral election has strong parallels to your Kimberly Weeks very public mutual admiration fantasy. Your connections to her have really worked out well for her. Democrats beware of this fellow and his latest scheme to burn you all in his quest to become mayor.

    Hoping you and your RRR’s will do for the Democrats everything you have caused your own party to suffer these last several years. They do seem eager to be pulled into your orbit. Nice to see you working the other side. Stay there please.

    Virgil F.

  15. Robert Lewis says:

    Dennis maybe you should file another frivolous lawsuit!

  16. Connie says:

    It is disgraceful that Frank Meeker would attack another elected official, Janet O. McDonald. Janet is an outstanding School Board member. This man has lost his mind and demonstrates lack of character and integrity.

  17. iva hadit says:

    Republicans of all stripes. Glad to not be one! 😕

  18. Intellectual says:

    http://articles.latimes.com/2000/dec/24/news/mn-4251/4

    Leave it to dennis mcdonald to further an unsubstantiated rumor that isnt true. Why is it conservatives have to resort to lies? His post was a factual distortion taken out of context.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Frank Meeker-An unstable man full of hate. Let vengeance be mine says the Lord.

  20. Virgil F says:

    Connie,

    Frank Meeker is one of the finest most competent people to ever serve this community.

    The other elected elected official to whom you refer is the gal that has been standing with and supporting Mister McD all along the way. She has for years escaped any consequences for his malicious activities while others in his orb get slammed.

    Mrs McDonald is a party to the same misleading cavalier public disclosure filings as her husband. Neither appears to have any regard for fulfilling the most compelling requirements in all of politics: honest accurate detailed disclosures of every item on individual and combined balance sheets. They failed this while husband, with her full knowledge, and his RRR band have been banging the brains out of other elected officials for lesser imagined frivolous infractions.

    Mrs. McDonald needs to step up and admit her filing deficiencies, correct her paperwork and ask for leniency.

    Wondering what Mr. McD’s current city paperwork looks like?

    Virgil F.

  21. Yankee says:

    Dennis and Janet McDonald are fine citizens of Flagler County who look out for the best interest of the people here, and for Frank Meeker to be filing complaints years after filings of financial disclosure statements were filed is a clear indication he has malice and hate in his heart. This is not what we need in leadership as a county commissioner. It is time Frank Meeker stop playing the victim card and get out of politics.

  22. palmcoaster says:

    Totally agree with Yankee here!! Go get them Dennis for Mayor!

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