Flagler County Commission Chairman Frank Meeker this morning scarcely hid his contempt for two new ethics violation charges filed against fellow-Commissioner Barbara Revels and County Attorney Al Hadeed.
“I find the whole thing ridiculous and a complete waste of our time and efforts in the time that we’re dedicating to operating the county,” Meeker said of the complaints recently filed by John Ruffalo, a founding member of the local political group known as the Ronald Reagan Republican Assemblies. Reagan assemblies members—acting in their own capacity as individuals rather than as representatives of the group—have made suing the county or filing ethics charges against county officials an annual ritual going back to 2013.
With one exception, the actions have not been upheld, serving only to damage the reputations of their targets, though in one case the county successfully countered a frivolous lawsuit by winning a court judgment that required the filers to pay the county’s legal costs. The exception to the frivolity, so far, is an ethics commission judgment that went against Revels in January. In that case, the commission concluded she had violated ethics laws by not disclosing a business relationship and by taking an active part in votes that led to the county’s acquisition of the old Memorial hospital in Bunnell. Revels was supposed to have filed a conflict of interest form instead. The commission fined her $2,500.
The newest ethics filing against Revels adds up to 35 pages and, as with the 188-page filing against Hadeed, “include a multiplicity of charges.” In Revels’s case, the charges again go to her voting record, raising conflicts of interest issues.
All commissioners and the county attorney were the target last year of ethics commission and elections commission charges by former Supervisor of Elections Kimberle Weeks and Mark Richter, a former member of the Reagan group. Several of those complaints have been dismissed. Some are still pending.
After calling both of the most recent complaints “disgusting,” Meeker went on, referring to the one against Hadeed: “This one is just as annoying to me. It’s political payback that goes back years and includes current political attacks and I don’t like it.”
Ruffalo did not return a call or reply to a request for comment, placed through Reagan Assemblies President Michael McElroy. McElroy said the Ruffalo ethics charges were not discussed at a Reagan assemblies meeting, nor filed under the auspices of the Reagan group. “I’m a Kiwanis,” McElroy said. “Everything I do isn’t in the name of the K and everything some of our Ronald Reagan members do isn’t in the name of the organization.”
But McElroy said of this morning’s meeting: “There’s some bad blood between Frank and some of the Ronald Reagan members. He considers it his mission to discredit us, and some of our members consider it their mission to identify where Frank and some of his fellow-members have gone wrong.”
Hadeed did not make the ethics complaints public, though he did email them to all five county commission members over the weekend, along with a cover memo explaining the votes he asked of them at this morning’s meeting.
Ethics commission complaints are confidential from the ethics commission’s end until the matter is made public through ethics commission action, though nothing keeps those who file the complaints from making them public. In this case, there is some question as to whether the complaints can remain confidential following this morning’s votes by the county commission. Those votes may have waived confidentiality. FlaglerLive has requested that the county produce the complaints in light of this morning’s votes.
“I am considering that the BCC’s vote to refer the matter to the insurer, making it a county defense by way of its insurer as to those allegations involving votes and County Attorney services, makes the complaints available to the public,” Hadeed said in an email to FlaglerLive, referring to the Board of County Commissioners. “ The vote in other words served as a waiver of the confidentiality of those particular documents. “ But, he said, he was seeking counsel first from the General Counsel at the Florida Department of State to ensure that confidentiality has, in fact, been waived by the votes.
Hadeed was seeking the votes to enable the county to seek out coverage for the legal defense from its insurer. “The county does have coverage for public officers’ liability to provide the defense of these kinds of charges to pay for counsel, pay for legal expenses,” Hadeed said. “Of course we have to assist in that effort internally.”
The commission voted unanimously to do just that, with one vote on the Revels matter and another on the Hadeed matter. It voted the same way last year to address the slew of ethics and elections complaints filed against commissioners and Hadeed. Revels today abstained from the vote regarding the ethics complaint against her, citing a conflict of interest.
“Because the charges are so many and are made in a ‘scattershot’ manner,” Hadeed wrote in his memo to commissioners on July 4, “I hesitate to provide a summary, either written or verbal, that can be construed as not complete.” He specified this much: “Here, the complaints generally go to the voting of Commissioner Revels as a Board member and to the legal advice and activity that I perform as County Attorney.”
The commission voted as it did—to seek out the insurer’s judgment on whether it will provide coverage or not—because it considers the matter to relate directly to Revels’s and Hadeed’s official duties. The insurance company may decline to provide coverage, leaving it up to the commission to decide whether it wishes to underwrite the costs of legal defense, or to require Revels and Hadeed to defend themselves at their own expense. (Flagler Sheriff Jim Manfre is defending himself in an ongoing ethics matter against him through the Sheriff’s Office’s self-insurance fund, whose premiums come out of the taxpayer-supported general fund.)
But in the county’s case, again, costs may possibly be recovered. “If the Ethics Commission dismisses the allegations,” Hadeed wrote, “a hearing can be held to determine if the complainant should be responsible to pay attorney’s fees incurred by the County and its officials. The Ethics Commission has to find that the complaint was made with a malicious intent to injure the official’s reputation. Further, it must find that the complainant knew the material allegations in the complaint were false or made the allegations about the official with reckless disregard for the truth.”
“I read extensively both Ms. Revels and County Attorney Al Hadeed,” Commissioner George Hanns said. “The allegations made in reference to years ago about said documentation and auditing etc. etc., I was a commissioner at that time, and I would like to say to this board that I am available as a witness to those proceedings, or allegations.”
Sherry E says
The RRRs yet again! Pleassssssse, give me a break! Who, who, who, will admit to supporting those idiots!
Ronald Reagan must be turning over in his grave at this group and all the other right wing nuts that do things “in his name”.
Michael Randazzo says
These RR people are no friends of mine. Looks like they are a bunch of Alinskites in the mold of Obama.
Who was Alinski? He wrote a book “Rules for Radicals” and they seem to be following the playbook to a T.
Samuel L. Bronkowitz says
Wrong party, I think you mean ted cruz or michelle bachmann.
It seems to me there is some biased reporting going on. If Revels was already fined $2,500 (which is the larges ethics fine issue to one in Flagler County) and there are still pending complaints, how could complaints filed be considered ridiculous and be identified as a waste of time and money? The tax payers deserve honest, ethical representation. I commend John Ruffalo for holding Commissioner Barbara Revels and County Attorney Hadeed accountable. It is about time that this out of control County Commission and County Attorney be held accountable.
Why has the county not paid or submitted for payment the expenses for the Sheriff to defend himself against the complaint filed against him? Did the commissioners or county attorney let him know this may be an option? I have to believe payment issues came up at BCC meetings because attorney Hadeed and some county commissioners want to use their positions for their own personal gain and are only interested in looking out for themselves.
Isn’t it a Sunshine Law violation for attorney Hadeed to be communicating with county commissioners over the weekend about what is going to be discussed at the BCC meeting this morning, and doesn’t the email communications he made to the board members now become public record? Was the matter on the agenda to be discussed at today’s meeting? If there is nothing in Florida Statutes Chapter 119 exempting the complaints or the emails from disclosure, then shouldn’t it be released by law? I hope Flaglerlive will get answers to the many questions raised. Sounds to me Mr. Meeker you are in denial and trying to diminish the seriousness of the complaints.
Rich Mikola says
I guess every village needs an idiot ! The RRRA/ TEA PARTY provides Flagler County with a never ending supply.
Purple Heartman says
Time that Ruffalo and the rest of those annals in the RRRA are put in their place.. They have destroyed the Republican Party in Flagler County and it will be interesting to watch the damage they do to Republicans running for office next year. I know that I would never vote for anybody that these jackasses endorse. And they call themselves patriots. What joke!
Here we go again, the RRRA working against the people and leaders of Flagler County. Members of this radical group seek only to disrupt all meaningful political dialog in this county and to discredit anyone who gets in their way as they seek to gain political power. Yet the RRRA continues to deny their members act for the group. How disingenuous, how hypocritical! The members are the group. John Ruffalo, and fellow RRRA provocateurs Dennis McDonald and Mark Richter, clearly expose this group for what it is – – far-right fringe, delusional, litigeous and very, very bad for Palm Coast and Flagler County.
We all need to send this group a strong message … we’re fed up with their disruptive and costly antics. Get out the anti-RRRA vote in 2016!
Linda Morgan says
Barbara Revels and Al Hadeed have done more for Flagler County than 90 % of entire county population. They are not self serving. I have know them on a personal and business basis, and Barbara is a family friend of over 30 years. I know how hard she works. Don’t impede their good intentions and work. Support them and strive to be as good, and work as hard.
I believe it’s time to put the individual members of the Ronald Reagan Assembly under the same sort of microscope they make it a practice to use against others. They are a bunch of bullies who should be stopped.
Let me get this straight, another “ridiculious” complaint, yet other previous “ridiculous” complaints confirmed findings and elected officials were fined for breaking the law. It appears to me county officials are down playing what is being exposed and misleading the public by denying what the accusers have accused.
There must be something to “ridiculous” pending complaints or they wouldn’t be pending.
I can imagine Commissioner Frank Meeker isn’t happy since he just paid the Elections Commission a $250 penalty for a “ridiculous” complaint filed against him for wrong doing. Strange here that it is only reported that Revels was fined $2,500 when Meeker and McLaughlin were fined in recent months, and McLaughlin was fined by the Ethics Commission a few years ago as well. There seems to a pattern here that violations are taken lightly and considered “ridicilious” which is concerning.
It is interesting and also concerning that the county attorney doesn’t want to release a copy of the complaint filed against him. Is he trying to hide something? His emails to the commissioners are public record…does he not realize this? He made the complaint a public record! Why as an attorney does he need outside representation at the tax payers expense if he is a competent attorney?
McDonald has been quiet lately since he lost the law suit and owes megabucks to Palm Coast. I guess Ruffian Ruffalo is going to take his place for awhile.
Two years ago these RR people were exposed and talked about quite heavily on Flagler Live, but no one paid attention, so here we are having to put up with these bullies as they take over more and more, and I think the RR bunch will keep quiet about their candidates, and perhaps not publicly endorse them now that more and more people are learning about these radicals.. But one never knows what this group will do.
Nancy N says
Gee, Mr McElroy, I wonder why there is bad blood between the RRRA and the chair of the county commission? Maybe because the group has made it their personal mission to harass and destroy the commission and its members? Newsflash – punching people in the face isn’t how you make friends. It’s how you get a reputation as the playground bully.
Confidential – just because a complaint is pending doesn’t mean anything. Pending means nothing except still in process of being dealt with.
I don’t see anything wrong with the county attorney getting a second opinion to double check things seeing as how we know if he gets it wrong, the RRRA is waiting to pounce. Seeking counsel on a complicated matter from a state entity like the General Counsel at the Florida Department of State is routine for local governmental bodies wanting to backstop themselves with a higher authority on a matter. It’s what it is there for. It’s not “outside representation at the taxpayers expense”.
I’ve frankly had it up to here with the RRRA perverting and poisoning the political process in this community. The games, the harassment, and the grandstanding are undermining the very democracy they are claiming to protect. They are basically trying to undo the results of elections in this county and control the political process through the use of legal weapons like lawsuits and ethics complaints. I’m all for keeping a wary eye on our elected officials but this has gone way past that to an assumption that basically everything they do is criminal or inappropriate. I also believe that there are personal vendettas and egos involved and that the RRRA is looking for political and personal wins, not (even a perverted view of) the public interest. The people of Flagler need to stand up and say “NO MORE” and remember all of this next election and say in no uncertain terms at the ballot box that we will not tolerate this any more.
They made similar statements when the issue was raised about an elected official who voted to buy her chum’s white elephant. If it was left up to these politicians they would have hid it in the closet, and went about business as usual.
Someone needs to air out these so called representatives of the people.
I am not a RRR, or even an R. I think Donald Trump is a fraud, Newt Gingrich is an immoral clown and I would like to put my foot in Ted Cruz’s behind. Nuff said?
My opinion says
The purpose of having the option to file complaints as has been done is to prevent corruption. It means nothing for a complaint to be filed, what is important and matters is if probable cause is determined and when action is taken against the Respondent. There should be no concerns or comments made as Frank Meeker has done if there were no concerns and all have conducted themselves in an honest, legal, ethical fashion. If wrong doing has occurred it should be exposed, stopped and those responsible should be held accountable. Just my opinion.
Capt. Morgan says
This article has nothing to do with the RRR’s so why are all the comments about the RRR’s. It is disturbing how an organization is getting bashed for something the organization had no part of. It is obvious a nerve has been struck with complaints being filed and attempts are being made to shift the focus off the accused. This to me has only made the accused appear more guilty.
If the accused have done everything as it should have been done ethically and properly there would be no reason for concern and the complaint would be found to not have merit. This will only be known after the complaint is looked into and research is done. If it is determined that wrong doing took place then those accused deserve to receive consequences. Frank Meeker’s comments are alarming as he apparently believes he and other board members should be able to do what they want regardless of whether it is ethical or not.
The support of Frank Meeker and George Hanns is not going to change the facts or the outcome. Besides, wasn’t it Commissioner George Hanns who was thrown off the elections canvassing board last year for an integrity issue? His reputation speaks for itself so for him to be a witness to anything would be more harmful than good. If it is determined that wrong doing took place, the elected officials should be removed from office. A $2,500 fine is nothing when county commissioners spend millions and millions of our tax dollars, and Commissioner Revels should not be able to continue to do wrong and pay these little fines when she may receive favors in exchange for her actions and be paid a salary that allows her to pay little fines and still be able to put money in her pocket! While an investigation is taking place those accused should be suspended without pay!
Commom Sense says
Yes, this is about the RRR because these people are acting for the group, even though they won’t admit it.
They strategy is to throw enough trash at our elected representatives in the hope that something will stick or that they will get tired of the harassment and then their members can start running our local government. In the mean time all these filings are costing the us, the taxpayers, are our hard earned dollars.
Confidential, get your facts straight. The county Atty doesn’t have to release anything, it is all a matter of public record. It is his right not to comment the stupid accusations if he doesn’t want to. As is his right to legal counsel even if he is a qualified atty.
Own It says
Seems to me the complaints must not be too ridiculous if County Commissioner Revels has already been found to have broken the law and fined $2,500 and the Sheriff has a hearing the 24th of this month. These agencies don’t hold hearings for the fun of it. I would also imagine the complaints would be dismissed if probable cause was not determined. I don’t see this as a RRR issues, I see this as an issue of people fed up with the good ol boys network of those abusing their positions. Common Sense, you are lacking, no proof has been provided to support your claim that the RRR is behind this. Just because someone is a member doesn’t mean the organization is on the same page and supports the independent actions of a person. I guess if you have to blame someone, why not them. Seems like everything on here is blamed on them and no responsibility is taken for anyone and their actions.
I have never in my life heard of a county with so many issues and for an attorney to be facing so many issues and complaints. There must be something to that or like I said the complaints wouldn’t be complaints, they would have been dismissed and dissolved without any investigation.
It is sad to see complaints be filed against those who spend millions of our tax dollars and then spend our tax dollars for their personal defense rather than be responsible for their own actions. I sure hope complaints are filed against individuals for expecting us to pay their legal fee expenses. if they conducted themselves in an appropriate manner there would be nothing to file a complaint on, right? If elected officials have complaints filed against them then they should own them rather than deny and reverse the blame on the person who filed the complaint. If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck…it’s a duck!