Wednesday, September 23, 2020

No Censure for Commissioner Joe Mullins; Bumptious Bully Allowed to Vote on Censure Motion

Charter member of the Smirking Turkey Society (STS), Flagler County Commissioner Joe Mullins is seated next to former St. Johns County Assistant County Administrator Jerry Thomas Cameron, now the Flagler County Administrator.  (Photo credit: Flagler Live).

It deserves a ballad, like the song that accompanied the 1960s television program, The Beverly Hillbillies.  In 2015, a losing Georgia state legislature candidate had a vision: move to Flagler County and run for County Commissioner as a Dull Republican. 

Obliging Flagler County residents elected the dirty trickster and are stuck with him until at least 2022.  

In a fit of conflict of interest Commissioner Mullins purchased property (former "Tires for Jesus" location south of St. Augustine on U.S. 1) from County Administrator Jerry Thomas Cameron, a/k/a "Conman," with no consequences.

Mullins' nasty antics have even extended to harassing his dissenting constituents. Mullins even harassed me, resulting in my filing a no trespass warning. 

Under Roberts' Rules of Order, the subject of a censure motion should not vote. In Flagler County, the Dull Republican Commission allowed histrionic Joe Mullins to vote on his own censure, defeating it 3-2. From Daytona Beach News-Journal:

Mask outburst: Flagler County Commission admonishes, doesn't censure Joseph Mullins

By Nikki Ross
Daytona Beach News Journal
September 22, 2020

The Flagler County Commission moved to censure Commissioner Joseph Mullins in response to his actions at the Sept. 9 meeting, where he verbally attacked two commissioners and stormed out of the chambers. 

While the commission ultimately voted 3-to-2 on Monday against the motion, commissioners and multiple members of the public voiced their displeasure with Mullins' behavior. 

“He willfully disregarded instructions from the chair, he left his position and menacingly approached his fellow commissioners, used threatening and abusive (language),” said Commissioner Greg Hansen, who made the motion to censure Mullins and was one of the two commissioners targeted.

“His actions were not only uncalled for, they have left an indelible stain on the fabric of Flagler County government,” Hansen said.

Throughout its history, Flagler County has never censured a board member, something County Chair David Sullivan wasn’t eager to change. 

“I agree it was a severe thing that happened and was horrible for all of us,” Sullivan said. “I would rather do something around the lines of a consensus, agree it was a bad action. Personally, as chairman, I don’t want to be the first chairman to vote to censure someone.”

This isn’t the first time Mullins has lashed out at a fellow commissioner.

Commissioner Charles Ericksen Jr., who was also singled out by Mullins at the last meeting, said that a few months ago he thought he and Mullins were going to throw punches at each other. He did not elaborate on the situation. 

“I went to the sheriff about being threatened,” Ericksen said. “I think things have gotten better in our communications, but I want to see it continue to improve.”

Erikson and Hansen voted in favor of the motion, while Sullivan, Mullins and Commissioner Donald O'Brien Jr. voted against it.

Mullins storms out

The motion stemmed from the Sept. 9 meeting, following an outburst in response to an uproar created by an anti-mask group.

The anti-mask group, part of the Flagler County Liberty Coalition, was opposed to wearing masks and objected to Sullivan's and County Administrator Jerry Cameron’s instructions to either wear masks or leave the premises. Sullivan told audience members the meeting would not start until everyone was wearing a mask.  

But the group stayed put and refused to don masks. So the commissioners asked Sheriff Rick Staly to intervene, which further escalated the situation. 

Mullins didn't want to involve the sheriff or deputies. He wanted to speak to the group himself and when the other commissioners said to let Staly handle it, Mullins decided to leave with the group.

He returned minutes later, as the sheriff was trying to clear the room, and acted aggressively toward Hansen and Ericksen

Ericksen said Mullins called him the “easy, old guy.”

“I’ve been on the brunt end of some bad language,” Ericksen said. “I know I’m the oldest, but hell that hurts.”

Mullins' outburst has Commissioner Donald O’Brien Jr. worried that having unruly commissioners will make it more difficult for the county to connect with state representatives and legislators, and will ultimately impact funding. 

“I can’t help but wonder if maybe they won’t pick up the phone so fast because they don’t want to deal with a dysfunctional government in a local county,” O’Brien said. “If we keep going down this path and continue to act and behave like petulant children in public again maybe we won’t get some of the funding and the grants so fast.” 

Residents take Mullins to task

But, as indicated by commissioners and residents who spoke out against Mullins during the meeting Monday, his behavior was “unprofessional,” “insulting,” “despicable,” “abusive” and “aggressive.” 

“You need to do something about it,” said resident Mark Jude. “You can vote to remove Mr. Mullins from his position. I’m not going to ask Mr. Mullins for an apology because I’m not going to get one.”

More:Flagler Commissioner Mullins apologizes to commissioners following anti-maskers' uproar

Mullins sat maskless on the dais for the first 30 minutes of Monday night's meeting, before resident Michael Cocchiola, chairman of the Flagler County Democrats Executive Committee, called him out during the public comments portion. 

"You have asked everyone in this room to wear masks, but our own vice chair is not wearing a mask," Cocchiola said. "Now whether the vice chair wishes to risk his life, that’s fine, but not wearing a mask risks our lives, the citizens of Flagler ... If we have to wear masks, everyone should wear a mask."

Cocchiola's comments came just two weeks after the sheriff was called into chambers to require all attendees to wear masks.

"The rule in this room is that everyone has to have a mask on," Sullivan said. "That’s the building rule and it applies to all of us."

Mullins then put on his mask.

Cocchiola, along with a number of other residents, pleaded with the board to not elect Mullins as commission chair come November. 

"You’re going to have to make a choice in November of your own as to who will lead this body, who will be chair," Cocchiola said. "And you’re going to have to make a choice between further dividing Flagler County, to bring hate, fear and chaos to Flagler County, or to try to heal the wounds of this election."

Diana Labron agreed.

"I am a victim of online abuse and disrespect from Mr. Mullins," she said. "This behavior reflects badly on this county and on the board of county commissioners. He should be reprimanded and not elevated to the chair." 

A handful of residents also spoke on Mullins' behalf. 

"I’m here to support Joe Mullins because in the short time I’ve met him, two years, I feel that he’s been very responsible and doing really well with the Republican Party and everything," Gina Stokes said. "But my point is, what I’m hearing in the audience, today everybody is trying to berate Joe and I feel like it’s fake news.”

Mullins did not address any individual comments, but instead read aloud the emailed apology he sent to fellow commissioners last Friday. Then he took to his Facebook page Tuesday morning to thank residents and his staff members who came out to speak on his behalf Monday night. 

“All I have ever wanted is to give you my best and make my community proud of me. I want to work hard and not let you or my team down,” Mullins wrote in his Facebook post. “I sincerely apologize to Commissioners Greg Hansen and Charlie Ericksen for my actions at the prior meeting. They are two of the finest men I have ever worked with and deserve respect.”

O’Brien did commend Mullins for apologizing and owning up to his actions, but also said it was embarrassing, hurtful and there was no excuse for his behavior. 

“This isn’t a Navy ship where you run roughshod over pimpled little sailors,” O’Brien said. “We’re equals over here, we don't just snap to attention and do whatever we’re told. Rank doesn't mean anything on this board. I think that we are all adults and we should start acting like that.”

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