The Flagler County Commission Monday morning voted unanimously to “reconsider” Heather Haywood’s service on the county Planning Board, pointing to her possible removal, should she not comply with a public record request FlaglerLive filed on Nov. 21.
Haywood, a Realtor, on Nov. 20 stood before the commission and accused Greg Hansen, who was chairing the commission at the time, of writing to her inappropriately: “Mr. Hansen, I answered your very very personal questions via Facebook Messenger despite the fact that I felt that they had very much so crossed the line,” she told him. (See: “Commissioners Keep Haywood on Planning Board But Boot Davies Off Contractor Review Panel.”)
Today Hansen said Haywood lied, as he has never used Facebook messenger, and a scouring of his email account produced no such communications. “She stood right there and lied about–that I had sent her inappropriate emails. Well, there is no record of any such emails. And she has been asked to produce them and she cannot. So I’m very concerned about that. And, and if Mr. Hadeed agrees I think it’s appropriate here to make a motion to reconsider her appointment to the Planning Board. We can’t have someone sitting on the Planning Board who would stand in front of us and lie to us.” Al Hadeed is the county attorney.
Haywood’s service on the Planning Board had been questioned for months by Commissioner Leann Pennington, because Haywood was then and still is homesteaded in Volusia County, a fact she did not disclose when she applied to serve on the county’s panel (after being rejected by the Palm Coast City Council for service on the city’s planning board). Her homestead status raised questions about whether she is a resident of Flagler County, where she has been a renter for several years following her divorce. (See: “Heather Haywood Is Homesteaded in Volusia But Serves on Flagler’s Planning Board. A Commissioner Questions That.”)
The commission on Nov. 20 decided to clarify some of its rules for service on its advisory boards, and also to let Haywood continue to be on the board. She had addressed the commission before the vote, accusing Pennington, too, of inappropriate conduct: “I have dealt the last five months of rumors being spread by Leanne and the community about my divorce who I was in good graces with his back pocket I have been in. I have spent the last five months answering extremely personal questions via text message from the people that she has chosen to speak to.”
Haywood did not back up her claims with any evidence for the record. FlaglerLive filed a public record request the morning of Nov. 21 for all communications to or from her related to her service on the Planning Board, going back to Oct. 1. All individuals serving on government advisory boards are subject to the public record law, just as elected officials are, and are required to share even communications with private individuals, if those communications relate to the public matter at hand.
Haywood on Nov. 29 told the county attorney’s office that she would comply (“I have received this request and will compile the communication,” she wrote Assistant County Attorney Sean Moylan and others at the county attorney’s office).
She followed up her initial response with another email to Hadeed bigotedly questioning this site editor’s citizenship (“I am not sure who he is, but I’m assuming he is not American,” she wrote, “as I just observed an American holiday with my family and have just finally settled back into work”), fabricating claims that the request was “harassing behavior” or that FlaglerLive was “in cahoots with Leann Pennington about my actions and or character questioning or right to file a record request,” among other mis-characterizations and preposterous claims as unsupported as those she made before the commission (“I need to make sure this doesn’t turn into a dangerous situation.”)
Nevertheless she again said she’d comply, but didn’t say when: “this is not high on my priority list as naturally I don’t just have these elementary things compiled on my desk,” she wrote. ” I have real-life matters to attend to currently but will make sure it gets done.” But she wrote that there was no “deadline” in the request, and in a misunderstanding of the law, claimed that “his time expectancy is on a turnaround [sic.], isn’t really a ‘me’ problem but he def could have requested one if he wanted to be more efficient.”
A week after Thanksgiving, Hadeed wrote her to correct and caution her. “The person requesting the information does not have to identify a deadline. The law does that for the requestor. The Florida Attorney General has emphasized that unjustified delays are not lawful,” Hadeed wrote Haywood. “Any records requested must be produced to the requestor within the limited reasonable time allowed the custodian of the record to retrieve the records.
The county attorney added: “Whatever your personal opinions about the requestor, whether wise or unwise, they do not matter under the Sunshine Laws. The requestor can even be anonymous. Regardless of your feelings or reluctance, you must provide the requested data. There are penalties for not producing public records, both civil and criminal. There also may be consequences to your continued service on the County’s Planning Board if you do not uphold the law in good faith. I do not mean to startle you, but this is the law. I don’t know what Mr. Moylan was able to discuss with you about the specific records, but we are prepared to assist you. You really need to complete the task as quickly as you can to reduce your jeopardy and the County’s.” Hadeed reminded her of the request’s parameters.
A clearly concerned Hadeed brought up the matter to the commission at this morning’s meetings, saying she had still not responded to the request. “The law requires us to promptly provide under reasonable circumstances, the records requested,” hadeed told the commission. “Any individual on your advisory board is a representative of the county government. And so ultimately, we bear that responsibility. … It’s obviously troubling for a number of reasons because it’s a statutory requirement. And I’ve done all I can to try to bring about that compliance.”
Hansen said today that the accusation Haywood had made on Nov. 20 about him being inappropriate “went right over my head.” He thought heshe was speaking about Pennington. But he reviewed the video of the meeting and realized the accusations had included him. “There’s no such record of any such thing,” Hansen said. “So she just made it up.”
Since the public record request specified that communications to or from Hansen, among others, be included, Hadeed communicated with Hansen about it. Hansen told Hadeed he’d not sent any communications. “I asked him to check with his wife and daughter because they use social media. And the response was no,” Hadeed said.
The FlaglerLive records request was placed to verify Haywood’s statements, as it would obviously be a serious matter had Hansen “crossed the line,” as she described it–just as it would be a serious matter if she had fabricated or mis-characterized the issue. (To Haywood, it “seems odd that some random internet blogger needs this information,” she’d written the county attorney’s office.)
Commission Chairman Andy Dance set the next commission meeting as the commission’s deadline once again to decide Haywood’s fate, if she “submits those documents that are being asked for, and then if she does, so then we’ll consider that,” he said. “But I would mention that she the deadline to respond is not in two weeks because she needs to respond as quickly as possible.”
Haywood did not respond to a text to her cell phone this morning.