Nassau’s county attorney resigns, won’t be prosecuted

nassau county
The State Attorney's Office investigated Nassau County Attorney Mike Mullin following a civil suit.

Embattled Nassau County Attorney Mike Mullin resigned his post late Tuesday night, following a day of fallout after a memo from the 4th Judicial Circuit State Attorney’s Office indicated Mullin broke the law.

“The State Attorney’s Office began an investigation of Nassau County Attorney Mike Mullin … after allegations arose during civil litigation, strongly suggesting Mullin committed criminal acts by knowingly violating Florida’s public records and open government laws,” according to the memo.

“The state’s investigation found evidence that Mullin committed criminal acts by permitting Nassau County’s systemic failure to preserve public records, failing to truthfully and timely respond to (Rayonier subsidiary) Raydient’s public records request, and allowing deletion of text messages constituting public records.”

The issue arose in part because Mullin formerly worked for Rayonier and was key in its strategy regarding what has become the Wildlight development. Rayonier sued Mullin and Nassau County, accusing him of working for the county specifically to take advantage of his inside knowledge of the project. The evidence of this may be found in public records, the fight over which resulted in another lawsuit.

The state attorney also believes evidence supports Rayonier’s allegations.

“As noted previously, a public officer who commits a knowing violation of Chapter 119 is a criminal offense,” according to the memo.

Mullin’s response to the state attorney was that he unknowingly set up an automatic auto-delete for text messages on his phone and pointed to “an outdated public records policy” that had no specifications for texts.

“While Mullin could attempt to rely on this defense at trial, it is unreasonable to conclude that Mullin was not familiar with the requirements of public records laws,” according to the memo. “Mullin has been a practicing attorney for over 40 years and has now served in the role of county attorney for over 30 years.”

He agreed to resign rather than face prosecution, ending his time with the county on March 31. However, his resignation date moved up significantly after the day’s events and Mullin notified county officials of his intention Tuesday night.

Rayonier noted the county continues to pay for Mullin’s legal defense.

“Rayonier is disappointed that the county failed to act on their own to remove a clearly compromised county attorney, all the while wasting tax dollars litigating to defend his bad advice and him personally in multiple litigation matters,” Alejandro Barbero, Rayonier strategic communications director, said in a statement. “Even now, the county continues to waste significant resources defending Mullin, despite several judicial decisions finding his advice to be wrong and, according to the State Attorney’s Office, criminal.”

Mullin released a statement Tuesday evening through a communications firm, saying he stands by his reasons for retirement.

“I have reviewed the state attorney’s statement released today and with all due respect, I strongly disagree with the findings,” Mullin said. “The messages, which are the subject of the civil suits, were turned over to the requestors beginning in January 2019 and also provided to the State Attorney’s Office in March of 2019. In addition, I drafted new procedures for maintaining and addressing personal messages on private devices.

“The procedures are set forth in an ordinance adopted in the fall of 2019. The ordinance placed all public record requests and maintenance under the County Attorney’s Office. The procedures remain in effect today. While I do not want to be a distraction for the county, I do want to reiterate my appreciation to have represented Nassau County, Florida.”

 

Wes Wolfe

Wes Wolfe is a reporter who's worked for newspapers across the South, winning press association awards for his work in Georgia and the Carolinas. He lives in Jacksonville and previously covered state politics, environmental issues and courts for the News-Leader in Fernandina Beach. You can reach Wes at [email protected] and @WesWolfeFP. Facebook: facebook.com/wes.wolfe


One comment

  • Sharon Dyal

    March 16, 2022 at 5:28 pm

    Your writer has more info than story. Shsmedul reporting. We r a backward county with backward rooked commissioners attorneys etc.. overdevelopment etc has killed our lil haven here w money lining officisls pockets.

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