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Jax Daily Record Tuesday, Mar. 15, 202205:06 PM EST

Nassau County Attorney Michael Mullin resigning

A State Attorney’s Office investigation found evidence he violated Florida’s public records laws.
by: Max Marbut Associate Editor

Nassau County Attorney Michael Mullin is resigning effective March 31 after an investigation by the State Attorney for the 4th Judicial Circuit determined he violated Florida’s public records laws.

The allegations are related to pending civil complaints Rayonier filed against the Nassau County Board of County Commissioners concerning property development regulations it applied to Rayonier’s Wildlight master planned commercial and residential project near Yulee being developed by Rayonire subsidiary Radient.

A memorandum made public March 15 by the state attorney’s office states the 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 Raydient’s public records request and allowing the deletion of text messages constituting public records.”

Mullin sent a letter March 14 to board Chair Aaron Bell notifying the commissioners he plans to retire March 31. Mullin states his goal was to retire when someone was qualified and ready to take over his post and recommends Assistant County Attorney Denise May to be his successor.

Mullin provided a statement March 15 after the state attorney’s office memo was released:

“My decision to retire and the reasons set forth in my letter of March 14, 2022 stand as stated. I have reviewed the state attorney’s statement released today and with all due respect, I strongly disagree with those findings.

“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. These 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,” Mullin said.

The state attorney’s office says the evidence supports that Mullin committed the violations of the public records law to give Nassau County what he must have believed was an advantage in the dispute with Rayonier and to hinder Raydient’s efforts to discover the truth associated with his actions as a public official.

Mullin will resign “in order to achieve the necessary result of separating Mullin from his position as the County Attorney; by agreement and to avoid protracted litigation in criminal courts, and in acknowledgment of Mullin’s lack of any prior criminal record, the State of Florida has agreed to forego the initiation of formal prosecution and resolve the matter,” the state attorney’s memorandum states.

Knowingly violating Florida’s public records laws is a first degree misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison, a $1,000 fine or both.

“Rayonier continues to look for ways to move past this dark episode for the greater benefit of the citizens of Nassau County. We are optimistic that with the forced removal of the County Attorney, the County will now move forward in a more constructive and transparent way,” Alejandro Barbero, Rayonier spokesman, said in an email.

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