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Palm Coast Friday, Dec. 8, 2017 2 years ago

County officials’ antagonists to pay $312,000 in fees for frivolous complaints

Kimberle Weeks, Mark Richter Jr. and Dennis McDonald must reimburse officials for attorneys’ fees arising from the complaints.
by: Jonathan Simmons News Editor

Three people who filed a combined 25 complaints against county government officials since 2014 will have to reimburse those officials for money the officials spent fighting the complaints, the Florida Commission on Ethics ruled in a series of decisions Dec. 8.

The commission’s rulings upheld the orders of Administrative Law Judge Suzanne van Wyk.

The Commission on Ethics voted unanimously to uphold the order for fees arising from the complaints against County Commissioner Nate McLaughlin and the late county commissioner Frank Meeker. The commission voted 6-1, with Commissioner Michael Cox dissenting, to uphold the order for fees arising from complaints against County Commissioner Charlie Ericksen,  County Attorney Al Hadeed and former county commissioner George Hanns.

The three people who filed the complaints were Dennis McDonald, a Palm Coast resident who ran twice for County Commission and the husband of School Board member Janet McDonald; Mark Richter Jr., the son of former County Commission candidate Mark Richter; and Kimberle Weeks, the former county elections supervisor now facing a possible criminal trial on charges that she tape recorded people’s conversations without their consent.

Weeks was the only one of the three who addressed the Commission on Ethics at the Dec. 8 meeting. She called the fees “exorbitant” and the process “unfair and unbalanced.”

McDonald had filed complaints against then-county commissioner Hanns, and has been ordered to pay $59,042.

The younger Richter had filed complaints against Meeker, who died in July 2016, and against McLaughlin. Richter Jr. has been ordered to pay $59,942 for the complaint against Meeker and $63,110 for the complaint against McLaughlin.

Weeks had filed complaints against Hadeed and Ericksen. She has been ordered to pay $60,682 for a complaint filed against Hadeed and another $68,888 for the complaint against Ericksen.

Weeks, van Wyk wrote, had “maliciously filed Ethics Complaint 14-233 against Hadeed in order to damage Hadeed’s reputation and to advance the political aims of herself and the Triple Rs.”

The Ronald Reagan Republican Assembly of Flagler County —the “Triple Rs” — had backed McDonald and Richter when they ran for office.

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