On a motion by Greg Hansen, the Flagler County Commission Monday evening unanimously voted to remove Realtor Heather Haywood from the county’s planning board after Haywood falsely accused Hanse of “crossing a line” in a Facebook Messenger text he never sent, and after Haywood failed to take seriously a public record request. It was the second time in a month that the commission removed a planning board member.
Haywood appeared to leave commissioners no choice.
Despite the county concluding that the text message at the center of the controversy was either a fabrication or an impersonation that never involved Hansen, Haywood on Monday evening never apologized for the false accusation against Hansen. Instead, after appearing to reassert that he had asked her “personal questions,” she blamed him for not saying right away that he had never messaged her and blamed the commission for its subsequent skepticism and reconsideration of her membership on the board: “If there wasn’t any malicious intent, why so defensive?” she asked the commissioners in a five minute statement as self-pitying as it was accusing.
“That’s why it was unanimous,” Commission Chairman Andy Dance said.
She immediately started with a rebuke of the commission: “I’m not sure why I didn’t get an opportunity to speak last meeting.” Then she said she needed to “clear some things up,” but immediately launched into yet another attack against Commissioner Leann Pennington, calling her “this woman,” accusing her–once again without proof–of slandering her and circulating her phone number and email address, though both have always been publicly available in her Planning Board application, and making yet more allegations of impropriety: “She has said things that I wish to not repeat,” Haywood said, “such things as I know how to use my knees, and I’m just a young little thing.” She made additional allegations that Pennington has accused her of being in the “back pocket” of certain interests, and invited people to apply for Haywood’s seat on the board.
Despite repeated requests from FlaglerLive, Haywood has produced zero record indicating anything of the sort has taken place–or that, other than two vague text exchanges with friends, that Haywood herself has received or written about any such communications to anyone since Nov. 1. (Haywood was frequently offensive, bigoted and dismissive in her email communications to the county attorney’s office, calling the requester a “mongrel” and blaming him for not setting a deadline to the public record request. By law, requesters may not set deadlines, because the burden for a response is on those at the receiving end. That response must be within a reasonable time.)
“I volunteer more than 80 hours to just my position,” Haywood said. “Because I read every packet, I compare that to the rules I’m supposed to abide by, then I do my research. I don’t want to rob my kids of that if it’s not welcomed or appreciated. I have better things to do. So I am here to clear up anything as I’ve done before.” But she did not, never addressing the lack of records or the lack of authenticity in the one record about Hansen she did submit.
Rather, she lectured the commission about the need to move Palm Coast forward before again self-justifying herself and accusing commissioners: “I’m not going to fight to be a volunteer and be harassed at the same time. So you can remove me from the board at any time. Either do that, or please stop spreading rumors and lies,” she said, adding further accusations about Pennington. (She told commissioners she was ill and had to struggle somewhat to make herself understood.)
“I think the more pressing issue at hand is a failure to follow our attorney’s requests for public records,” Dance told her. (The attorney was pressing for fulfillment of FlaglerLive’s request; the county attorney’s office itself was not the requester.) Haywood batted away the inquiry, saying there’d been no deadline, but that she had submitted all there was.
“You have sent everything that you have?” Dance asked her.
“Absolutely,” Haywood said.
Deputy County Attorney Sean Moylan said he had asked Haywood again recently whether there would be additional records and heard nothing back. “We asked that because of your statements at the previous meeting,” Moylan told Haywood, “it sounded like there was a larger body of records that are out there.” Haywood claimed most of those were by phone, “from the people who hold positions in this town.”
In her five-minute speech to the commission, Haywood had claimed she had “reached out to Hanson, I’ve never heard anything back over the last couple of weeks.”
“Well, I would certainly like to point out that I have never communicated with her, and she lied again,” Hansen said, “because she said she’s communicated with me, and she has not. So I’m concerned of having somebody of that ilk representing our planning board.”
To Dance, the issue was not about the original matter of Haywood’s homestead status, which had started the controversy. The commission had handled and settled that, agreeing to keep Haywood on the board even though she is homesteaded in Volusia County. The issue, Dance said, “about the public records, and the disclosure of the emails that I just dont to me, show the importance of respecting the public records law.” Hansen made his motion, and the commission voted.
Haywood had sat in the first row before the commission until the vote, then rose to leave the moment it voted. Dance addressed her again: “Ms. Haywood, I personally apologize for this,” he told her. “I don’t like the way any of this is all happened, but I think there are issues that are deep in this, and mine especially is with the attitude to the public records law.”
Dance explained later that the apology was regarding the unfortunate fact that Haywood’s personal circumstances became part of the discussion over her qualifications for membership on the board, since those circumstances were tied to her explanation of her Volusia homestead. “I sympathize with the fact that she had to explain the divorce and that kind of stuff to explain the homestead issue, bec I thought were were past the homestead issue,” he said.
The apology was not about Haywood’s subsequent handling of the matter, whether it was her “unprofessional” way of addressing the public record request or her statements before the commission, including what looked as if she “doubled down” on Monday, Dance said. “She handled it poorly.”