The Florida Department of Law Enforcement earlier this month closed a 10-day investigation into what it termed “unverified information” that Flagler County Commissioner Joe Mullins “had interacted with an escort service.” FDLE found nothing that would warrant a criminal investigation.
“Based on the information provided and reviewed at this time, there was no evidence to corroborate a criminal predicate for FDLE to conduct a criminal investigation,” a two-page report by FDLE states. The report indicates that Agent Keith Riddick opened the inquiry on April 27 and closed it on May 5.
“The Mullins case is closed,” FDLE spokesperson Gretl Plessinger wrote today in an email, with the report.
The report states that Flagler County Sheriff’s Office Chief of Staff Mark Strobridge emailed FDLE on April 27, asking the agency to “investigate allegations made against” Mullins, along with certain documents. Earlier in April, an anonymous emailer had sent innumerable local public elected and administrative officials a pdf collage of selfies of Mullins and purported but vague payments he’d made. The set of pdfs, disseminated as broadly as it was, was clearly intended to embarrass the commissioner and raise questions about his conduct, though it made no direct accusations.
Mullins briefly addressed the allegations in general terms at the end of a county commission meeting earlier this month, calling the ploy an effort to smear him and tying it to ongoing family court issues in Georgia, where he said similar tactics have been used ahead of court hearings in attempts to damage his position.
FDLE reviewed the materials, along with a letter from the Palm Coast Observer inquiring to Sheriff Rick Staly about whether he would investigate (Staly had responded through a spokesperson that he had sent the materials to FDLE, as it would have been a potential conflict of interest for his agency to investigate a local official). FDLE reviewed a Bunnell Police Department report following up on a Mullins complaint filed with the department, and Mullins texts that he “would address his complaint via the civil courts.”
The agency reviewed an extensive Daytona Beach News-Journal article–the only article that made direct and detailed references to the pdf documents, though it did not corroborate any of the allegations, and a FlaglerLive article on the “Joe Mullins Smear.”
“It should be noted that although the reviewed documents contained unverified information that Commissioner Mullins had interacted with an escort service, it did not substantiate the allegation that he was ‘engaging prostitutes,'” FDLE concluded.
The report went on: “On May 7, 2020 Inspector Riddick spoke with Commissioner Mullins about these matters. Commissioner Mullins advised that he had not been involved in the solicitation of a prostitute and that the money he sent via PayPal (from one of the reviewed documents) was pertaining to a reimbursement related to his short term rental business. Commissioner Mullins also reiterated that he did not wish to proceed with a criminal investigation related to the allegations of cyber stalking he made to BPD.”