“Is there a light at the end of the tunnel here for us as far as there two remnants?”
Flagler County Commission Chairman Greg Hansen was asking the question to Scott Spradley, the Flagler Beach Bankruptcy attorney who’s been representing the county since earlier this month in what has turned into a federal lawsuit against Flagler Beach resident Cynthia d’Angiolini.
D’Angiolini owns the two “remnants” Hansen was referring to–tiny strips of beachside dune slopes on the east side of State Road A1A. The county has been trying for over two years to get d’Angiolini to sign easements that would allow the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to start a dune-rebuilding project along 2.6 miles of what’s left of the beach.
Not much is left, as three hurricanes, several additional storms, the more pronounced tides of higher seas and of course the absence of any dune repairs whatsoever have reduced the shoreline to something less than a promontory. That’s why Hurricane Nicole again ripped through various parts of A1A at the south end of Flagler Beach, again requiring repairs. The county thought d’Angiolini was holding out for money. But it’s been more complicated than that. She was in bankruptcy. Her bankruptcy was about to end this month, after a three-year payment plan. The county now surmises that she did not want to be paid the money while she was still in bankruptcy, otherwise it would have had to be declared.
But she had also hidden from the court for three years that she owned those two “remnants,” though her bankruptcy proceedings required her to disclose them. Flagler County is now suing her in a very unusual maneuver: to use her alleged deception as leverage, either to get the court to force a disclosure and put her bankruptcy disposition in question, or to force d’Angiolini to surrender, sign the easement and, in exchange, accept the county’s offer to pay off whatever debts she may still owe due to her non-disclosure.
Meanwhile, d’Angiolini has held the county–and, in essence, the lifeblood of A1A–hostage.
It sounds complicated, and no one could blame even those who have followed the case closely, elected officials among them, either for not understanding all that’s in play or, as Hansen did, ask whether there was light at the end of the tunnel.
“I feel there is,” Spradley responded, attempting to reassure all the commissioners. There’s only so much he could say about the ongoing case. “But I would say that from the outside or looking at this, suddenly there’s some pretty significant incentive to do something.” He meant pretty good incentive for d’Angiolini to do something.
Spradley had just completed a briefing to the commission on the case, attempting to translate what he described as the “foreign language” of bankruptcy. “To many lawyers, it’s a foreign language. It’s almost a parallel universe to the traditional court system.”
He only referred to d’Angiolini as “the debtor.” He summed up the case as it’s been summed up previously in these pages. (See: “Flagler County Sues Cynthia d’Angiolini, Lone Dunes Hold-Out, And Her Attorney Wants Off Bankruptcy Case,” “Flagler County Accuses Dune Hold-Out of ‘Bad Faith’ and ‘Abomination,’ and Wants Property Seized” and “In Stunning Revelation, Dune Hold-Out Had Filed for Bankruptcy–and Not Disclosed Parcels’ Value; County Now Has Leverage.”) The current approach, he said, is to argue to the court that d’Angiolini’s bankruptcy should be converted to Chapter 7, enabling a court trustee to seize the remnants (d’Angiolini’s homesteaded house would be exempt from any seizure). The court’s Chapter 13 trustee agrees with the county–a major boon for the county’s case.
“The court will set hearings, we don’t know anything right now. We’re kind of in the middle of it,” Spradley said. “But that’s the status as we speak.” Spradley confirmed to Commissioner Don O’Brien that d’Angiolini’s own bankruptcy attorney begged off the case almost immediately after the revelation that her client had not disclosed all assets to the court. Layers are not generally willing to risk their license by giving so much as the appearance that they may have been part of a deception.
“It’s not going to slow anything down,” Spradley said. “And I would be surprised if another lawyer jumps in at this point.”
The court has ordered the lawyers to prepare a notice of hearing, underscoring the distinction that it may be expedited. The lawyers prepare the order. The court sets the date and time.