Each complaint, filed by Dennis McDonald and John Ruffalo, "substantively fails to indicate a possible violation," the ethics commission decided.
The following is a news release from the Flagler County Communications office:
The Florida Commission on Ethics on Wednesday, Oct. 28, dismissed complaints filed against County Commissioner Nate McLaughlin and Flagler County Attorney Al Hadeed.
The public reports and orders dismissing the two complaints were nearly identical. Both orders concluded that each complaint “substantively fails to indicate a possible violation.”
“We are glad these allegations are being looked into and dismissed,” County Administrator Craig Coffey said.
The dismissed complaints were filed by Dennis McDonald against McLaughlin, and filed by John Ruffalo against Hadeed. They alleged that it was illegal for the Board of County Commissioners to submit previous claims filed against each member individually and Hadeed to the county’s insurance provider for the payment of legal defense.
Those previous complaints were filed by former Supervisor of Election Kimberle Weeks, failed county commission candidate Mark Richter and Richter’s son following the 2014 election cycle. These complaints were filed not only with the Commission on Ethics but also with the Florida Elections Commission and the Florida Bar.
Weeks resigned as elections supervisor in January 2015 and was later indicted for a dozen felony accusations related to surreptitiously recording conversations of public officials and others. She, McDonald, Ruffalo and the Richters have filed some 19 complaints with various agencies since the 2014 election.
Of the two current dismissals, the Commission on Ethics concluded that each “consists of a lengthy narrative and multiple attachments, much of which concerns officials or persons other than the Respondent, describes various alleged happenings of county government and officials…”
McLaughlin was accused of misusing his public position to benefit himself personally by allowing the previous claim against him to be submitted to the county’s insurance provider. The commission concluded, “such conduct would seem prudent and to serve a public purpose, regardless of whether a benefit also might accrue to the board members.”
“It’s a relief to have this behind me,” McLaughlin said. “I have the business at hand to take care of the residents in this county.”
Ruffalo’s complaint against Hadeed – more than 180 pages of accusations and exhibits – claimed that, as county attorney, he should have known it was illegal to submit the claims because the commissioners were individually named. The Commission on Ethics disagreed.
“It is not inconsistent with the proper performance of public duty or wrongful (it is not ‘corrupt’) for a county attorney to bring the issue of publicly-provided defense, and related matters, to the attention of the county’s governing board and to seek the board’s input,” said Stanley M. Weston, chairman of the Florida Commission of Ethics, in the signed order.
To view the orders of dismissal, click here.