Flagler County Commissioner Joe Mullins paid the Florida Elections Commission a $750 fine on April 17 to settle allegations that he had accepted $3,500 in illegal campaign contributions during his 2018 run against then-Commissioner Nate McLaughlin.
The Elections Commission ratified the settlement order, or consent agreement, at its June meeting.
Mullins “neither admits nor denies that he violated the Florida Election Code,” the consent order states. “The consent agreement has the same force and effect as a consent agreement reached after the Commission finds probable cause” that a violation of the election laws occurred. State law allows the commission to approve such a consent order before a finding of probable cause.
The case originated with a series of contribution checks written to Mullins’s campaign by different individuals in amounts that Mullins then reimbursed to those individuals, making it appear as if he was channeling money to himself to evade campaign-contribution limits. The arrangement was exposed on Austin Rhodes’s talk radio show in Augusta, Ga.
In April 2018, Kimble Medley, a former candidate for elections supervisor, filed a complaint with the elections commission citing March 2018 Rhodes shows where Rhodes “presented copies of checks that appear to indicate Mr. Mullins reimbursed the contributors listed on his February Candidate Report for the exact amount of their contributions.” The checks were written from Mullins Sports and Entertainment LLC, Mullins’s Augusta-based company. The checks were to employees and family members who had contributed.
“I understand nothing prohibits a candidate from receiving contributions from out-of-state,” Medley wrote, “however, I am concerned the contributions reimbursed by the LLC may represent contributions given in the name of another which may violate” Florida law, which states, “Any person may not make any contribution through or in the name of another, directly or indirectly, in any election.” Medley made further allegations.
Amy McKeever Toman, the executive director of the elections commission wrote Emmett Mitchell, Mullins’s attorney, that she found Medley’s complaint to “contain one or more legally sufficient allegations,” and that four allegations would be investigated.
The four allegations investigated were that Mullins filed one or more incorrect or incomplete campaign finance reports, that he accepted one or more contributions in excess of the legal limit, that he failed to report one or more contributions and that he “falsely reported or deliberately failed to include information in one or more campaign reports” as required by law.
Based on the result of the investigation, a staff attorney was to make written recommendations to the commission as to whether there was probable cause to charge Mullins with violating the law.
The elections commission launched the investigation Flagler County Elections Supervisor Kaiti Lenhart signed an affidavit in May 2019 attesting that she’d provided Mullins with the “Candidate and Campaign Treasurer Handbooks” for both 2016 and 2018, and that Mullins had attended a candidate orientation on February 16, 2018, laying out the rules. Mullins signed a form stating he understood the requirements of law on campaign financing.
It was just days later that the checks to his account were written.
“Commission staff obtained bank records from [Mullins’s] campaign depository at Intracoastal Bank,” the investigative report obtained by FlaglerLive states. “The bank records show that [Mullins] deposited five checks that totaled $3,750.00 on February 27, 2018. The checks included $1,000.00 each from Jennifer A. Mullins, Eden Farms, LLC, and the account of Daniel R. Eden, Jr, and Julie M. Eden, and $500.00 from Heather Buchanan. Ms. Mullins’ check was dated February 20, 2018; the others were dated February 22, 2018. It was also discovered [Mullins] failed to report a $1,000.00 contribution from Mullins Properties- Southern Grace, made on February 28, 2018.”
Jennifer Mullins is Joe Mullins’s sister in law. Julie Eden is his sister. Danny Eden is his brother in law.
Investigators reviewed an audio interview of Heather Buchanan, a former Mullins employee, who appeared on the Austin Rhodes show and said Mullins had her “deliver checks from him to individuals in exchange for checks written by those individuals in the same amounts. She further stated that [Mullins] wrote her a check,” the investigative report states. (“I was sent by Joe to deliver those checks in exchange for a check written from them to Joe Mullins’ campaign,” Buchanan is quoted as saying in a partial transcript of her appearance on the show, according to an investigative report exhibit.)
Joe Mullins signed his own affidavit to the investigators, and provided an explanation for the checks in question.
“My sisters and I are beneficiaries of a trust established by my mother. It distributes $75,000 in March of each year,” he wrote. “As part of the trust arrangement, I am responsible for making payments of roughly $10,000 per year to each of them. I make the payments to my sisters, either from the Mullins Sports & Entertainment, LLC account (“Mullins Sports”) or from one of the Real Estate LLC’s that I manage, Mullins Properties. I have been making those payments to my sisters for at least 4 years and continue to do so. Each of these individuals wanted to support my campaign and make a contribution. They asked that their contribution be taken from their payment. I explained that I could not do that under Florida’s campaign finance laws.
“I wrote checks to my sisters and Ms. Buchanan from Mullins Sports in February 2018. These checks represented a portion of the annual payment I would ordinarily make to them. I also paid my sisters additional funds in March of 2018 in the amount 9K. Those payments were made from the Mullins Sports account.”
Mullins then describes Buchanan as a former employee and one of the contributors to his campaign who “became a subject of funds missing in the corporate office,” according to his affidavit. “When she was confronted, she walked out of the office and never returned. She had made a contribution of $500 to my campaign from funds she would have received from hours worked on extra duties at the corporate office.”
“I don’t mean to get personal with you, but can you afford to give someone a $500 political contribution?” Rhodes had asked Buchanan during her radio interview. Buchanan laughed and said: “No, I sure can’t,” according to the transcript in the investigative report.
In his affidavit, Mullins states he refunded Buchanan on April 16, 2018, after he learned that she “didn’t want to make the contribution,” and reported the refund on his April 2018 campaign finance report. “To the best of my knowledge, all of the campaign finance reports I have filed for this election are true and accurate reports of my contributions and expenditures,” he attested. “Additionally, I have not falsely reported or deliberately failed to include any information on any of my campaign reports for this election. I never intended to try to circumvent any Florida contribution limits by accepting contributions from these individuals, nor was it my intention that Mullins Sports would be somehow considered as the ultimate source for the contributions in question.”
Medley said she was satisfied with the settlement, but not the length of time it took to resolve, “because quite honestly I think it’s deterrent for anyone that’s trying to do any homework on a candidate,” she said, especially if something questionable is discovered and warrants investigating. “If it is OK, fine, I’ll go away, just tell me, but for it to take two years–what if the amount had been larger? Now we’re two years away from it, he’s in office.”
Writing checks from different accounts, and to family sure sounds like he’s laundering money. Once again another fine example of a commissioner, “NOT”. Time to make him history, and vote his sorry are out next election cycle. Or better yet let him continue down the path of misguided, and end up in jail. Time will only tell!!!!
Mike Cocchiola says
Joe Mullins got caught again. Uber drivers, fake residence, shameless emails and past history of discriminating business practices are damning. His honesty, ethics and morals are so questionable as to make him unfit for office here in Flagler County or anywhere else. He must be removed or cornered so tightly that he becomes a non-entity until we can dump him into the has-been trash bin in 2022.
CB from PC says
He would make a great Democrat politician.
Maybe he and Gillum can team up. For the Republicans, he is
like one of those kids not even the parents want.
Nope, that’s more of what republicans are known for. Look at trump and all his political sycophants – lying, cheating, bullying, fraud… yep, that is republicanland. Truth hurts.
Tim McAuliffe says
Mr Mullins was paying a lot of sign wavers in 2018 $10/hr. Were any w-2’s filed?
He used Spiheron staffing for his campaign
He is such a waste product. Oh wait, he will report it as fake news.
Adios Muchacho says
Gee – Mullins doing something shady? Must be Thursday.
Jane Gentile-Youd says
My complaint has not yet been ruled upon, sent certified mail on June 11, 2020, received by the Election Commission on June 16, 2020 regarding Joe Mullins campaign reports stated he paid over $61,000 in his 2018 campaign for ‘consulting fees’ to a non existent entity- all sent to a P.O. Box – The ‘Whitson Group’ dissolved by the Secretary of State December 31, 2017.
What puzzles me is if he had $61,000 just 2 years ago to pay mail to a P.O Box how come his condo association has filed liens against his two condos for non payment of maintenance fees -public record?
Disgraceful is too kind a word in my opinion.
Joe Mullins, needs to go voters, when its time vote backwards Joe out.
I have lost count of how many “incidents“ there have been with this commissioner regarding questionable actions and morals. He appears to have taken pages from the same playbook that governor DeSantis and President Trump are using. Lies, deflection, money laundering…
His term in office cannot end soon enough and we all need to keep reminding the citizens of Flagler county how he has behaved and voted when we get closer to reelection time.
Dedicated American says
Joe Mullins has been a disaster from the first day he stepped into Flagler County. Bringing all his corrupt baggage from Georgia. He is suppose to be living in Bunnell when actually he has been living in The Aliki in Flagler Beach. His water bill in Bunnell proved he was not living in Bunnell.
Part of his district is representing the residents of Plantation Bay. Joe Mullins would rather represent ICI the builder. He should be removed from office NOW! There was an article written a few years ago about Flagler County being one of the most corrupt counties in Florida and now we have Joe Mullins. Hopefully the law will catch up with him and we will be rid of him.
Bill C says
Crooked is as crooked does, and boy is he crooked! RESIGN.
James Clair says
Time for Joe Mullins to go !
He is a disgrace to our county…. scams, lies and attacks…. we don’t need him here !
Roy Longo says
This guy is a nothing but a scam artist making decisions that effect every resident of Flagler County and all the employees. The worst part is he could care less. The only thing he cares about is himself. We do do not need an ego centrist, self serving asshole to make decisions for the taxpayers.
Patricia A Brooke says
I agree 100%!
Sadly, people were WARNED about Mullins back in 2018. Flaglerlive did a background piece on him that opened his closet doors. Republicans chose to close their eyes and ears, as they do for trump.
The more thorough reporting on Mullins before the election was done by the Observer. FlaglerLive has conducted extensive reporting on his “closet doors” since.
Glen quagmire says
That’s what happens when we keep voting for the good ole boys. Don’t you think it is time to throw out the the whole bunch and vote all new in?
It sure looks like corruption in government exists at every level in corrupt America.
Mullins, The Carpet Bagger should resign and head back to Georgia before he ends up in jail.. He is not needed or wanted here. He can probably get a job from Trump and then he will be assured that any additional criminal activities will be pardon by the scumbag occupying the White House!
Trailer Bob says
Disgraceful. As an honest man who truly loves Flagler county, and has political experience, perhaps I should run against him in two years. I can’t match his money, but I can bang on a lot of doors in the next two years. This man does not belong in a position of authority or control. HE can’t even control himself. How did this happen? Oh right….money. Flagler deserves better.
Go for it. Even if defeated you can shake things up Politically. God knows they need it there.
Dirty Joe and his stooges Jerry Cameron, Sullivan, Hansen, and now Andy Dance as well as others running for various offices are going to do immeasurable harm to our community with whatever machinations they have in store. I pray they are defeated.
Only Me says
Mullins fine should have been $3500.00 the amount of the money he took illegally. When is the Flagler County Commissioners wise up and remove Mullin from office. How many more shady things does Mullin have to do to be removed? His tract record proves he has no business being anything for Flagler County.
As taxpayers of this county we want him removed and the sooner the better.
Charlie F Ericksen says
Perhaps you forgot, but it was the voters in Flagler County who elected him..The Commissioners have no power to hire /fire. or remove
WOW…got off easy. Guy’s a sick joke. Vote. Him. Out.
Concerned Citizen says
In the private work sector when you get in trouble and have to pay fines you usually get fired.
Here in Flagler County our Commisioners on ALL levels do not know what the words ethical and moral mean. I have long since lost faith in ANY of them. Every day we keep hearing about unethical behavior.
How much longer will we let this go on? Before we start voting these clowns out.
This should have been a jail sentence. I wonder why it was not.
Both sides agreed to a settlement, halting further legal proceedings. Either way, even had the process continued, the eventual penalty, had there been one, would have been civil, not criminal (as with the disposition of ethics commission cases).
What does it take for the Flagler County Commissioners remove Joe Mullin, how many more corrupt things does he have to do before they do what they should have done a long time ago?
When you read something about Joe Mullin it isn’t by any means a positive story.
If the Flagler County Commissioners are unable to do their jobs maybe they all need to be removed.
Rita May says
Listen up Flagler Republicans. Recently, Commissioner Joe Mullins endorsed several Republican candidates and Republican Committee people on his FaceBook page. These are his cronies, not yours! Check out his page in Facebook before you vote so you know who NOT to vote for.
Trailer Bob says
Why did he even run for this office he is now disgracing? It is all about “him” with no concern for the people he is supposed to work for. I do not have the money he does, but with the help of this newspaper, knocking on doors for the next two years, and speaking with everyone in the county that I can, maybe we can get rid of this fool and have someone who truly cares about the community and not themselves. Intelligent and responsible Republican, business owner since forever, no criminal record, honest, loves Flagler County, mentally sane, and NOT a radical or extremist. Former town councilor, former mayoral candidate (wrong party to win), formed local cleanup programs, on board of directors for the Chamber of Commerce, founder of Clean Sweep to clean up the community, founder of North End Residents and Merchants Association (NORMA), and many other civic positions.
Vote for someone who cares and is dedicated to making our County as good as it can be. And I truly believe that when elected you work for those in the community, not yourself, regardless of party affiliation.
Pamela I Andrews says
I knew he was a fake, and liar from first sight…
The definition of a narcissist: Humans like joemullins…
Former SOE Weeks for much less than that is going to jail 30 days, a fine of over 269,000 and loosing her government retirement plan and deemed a felon that can’t vote. Where is justice ..? for this is that I am not voting for any county incumbent