All five county commissioners and County Attorney Al Hadeed have been served with elections and ethics complaints by unsuccessful County Commission candidate Mark Richter, Flagler County Elections Supervisor Kimberle Weeks, or both.
Weeks is herself currently under investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Commission Chairman Frank Meeker was served with two ethics complaints and an election complaint by Richter and his son (also named Mark Richter); Commissioner Nate McLaughlin — Richter’s opponent in the recent County Commission election — was served with two elections complaints and an ethics complaint by Richter and his son, Commissioner Barbara Revels was served with one ethics complaint by Weeks, Commissioner George Hanns was served with one elections complaint by Weeks, and Commissioner Charlie Ericksen was served with an elections complaint and an ethics complaint by Weeks.
“It’s designed to do damage,” Meeker said of the complaint before a Dec. 15 County Commission meeting. In the newspapers, he said, “The complaint will be on page one. … When we’re exonerated, it will be this big on page eight. It’s designed to do damage to people’s reputations, and that’s all. And I don’t take it very well.” Meeker said the complaints contained “a broad discussion of a number of items from the Canvassing Board.”
Ericksen said the two complaints he’d been served — an ethics complaint and an elections complaint — were basically identical, except for the forms used.
“They were duplicates,” he said. “It basically was just like the FDLE investigation; it did talk about the tape.” The tape Ericksen was referring to was a recording Weeks took surreptitiously — and possibly illegally — of Ericksen conversing with Hadeed, in which Hadeed mentioned an apparent impropriety by a former board member — an incident that happened many elections ago, he later said in an interview with the Palm Coast Observer. Weeks has said that the fact that Hadeed and Ericksen didn’t report the incident was improper and unethical behavior on their part.
Ericksen said some of the information in the background for the complaints appeared to have been composed by the Ronald Reagan Republican Assembly, the right-wing group that both Richter and Dennis McDonald — another former County Commission candidate who has repeatedly defended Weeks in her clashes with county officials — are affiliated with. “ A lot of the information was stuff we had seen before, and had the same themes in it,” Ericksen said.
Ericksen and Hanns both served on the Flagler County Canvassing Board during the most recent election cycle. Ericksen served as Hanns’ alternate. Weeks clashed with both of them.
She requested Ericksen’s resignation from the Canvassing Board because of a $50 donation in his name to Meeker’s re-election campaign in July, and though the donation wasn’t illegal, Ericksen resigned.
Then she pushed for a vote to remove Hanns because he was quoted as endorsing Meeker in a Meeker campaign mailing. Both Hanns and Meeker said the quote was erroneous and Hanns never uttered it; Meeker said it had been a placeholder quote for one he was seeking from another official.
Still, Weeks, along with County Judge Melissa Moore Stens, voted to remove Hanns, the third Canvassing Board member at the time, from the Canvassing Board late on Election Night. Hanns was replaced on the board by Revels.
Hanns said after the Dec. 15 meeting that the complaint he’d received from Weeks dealt with the campaign mailing.
Hadeed said in a statement to the board at the end of the Dec. 15 County Commission meeting that the allegations brought in the complaints had been brought up before, and that the complaints and potential investigation give the county the opportunity to “have all the evidence presented” and put the allegations “to final closure.” At Hadeed's suggestion, the commissioners held a vote and affirmed three findings pertaining to the complaints: that the allegations arose from their carrying out of their official duties, that a public purpose was being served at the time of those actions, and that their participation in the proceedings serves a public purpose "to resolve elections-related questions that are being raised."
McLaughlin said the complaints had surprised him.
“We’re very careful — as careful as we can be,” he said. “And we honor the law. We try to go by what the statute requires, and we have.”