State turns ACT! Jacksonville president’s debt to collections agency
By Matt Dixon
Florida is facing a $3.6 billion budget deficit, but, despite his sizeable debt to the state, bookkeepers should not expect Randy McDaniels to help fill that gap anytime soon.
The head of ACT! Jacksonville, a local chapter of a national anti-Islamist group, was fined $624,000, including collections fees, by the state between 2006 and 2008, related to his time as a contractor. Documents indicate he accepted $170,316 in partial, up-front payments for jobs he never started or didn’t finish to satisfaction. The state fined McDaniels, whose license was revoked, for 10 of those incidents, records show. His largest individual fine is $123,129.
McDaniels has yet to make any payments, and last week the matter was turned over to a third-party collections agency.
ACT! Jacksonville took a very public stance last year against University of North Florida professor Parvez Ahmed’s nomination to the Jacksonville Human Rights Commission. The group’s efforts brought attention to what is usually a routine process, and helped persuade six City Council members to oppose Ahmed’s nomination to the volunteer commission.
In an e-mail to the Times-Union, McDaniels said his business went belly-up due to a bad economy, and he criticized the newspaper’s coverage of his group.
“I and thousands of other businesses in Florida failed … during the recent economic downturn,” he wrote. “Each story you run and attack you make while favoring Parvez Ahmed swells our membership and support in the city, thank you.”
The newspaper first reported McDaniels’ troubled past as a contractor in December, when a state official characterized the harm done to McDaniels’ customers as “quite significant.”
ACT! opposed Ahmed’s nomination because it says that the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the organization Ahmed chaired for three years, is a propaganda arm for Hamas, which the federal government has designated a terrorist organization. CAIR has denied those claims.
McDaniels, who characterized the Times-Union’s stories as a “witch hunt,” said the work was not fulfilled because his company folded after contracts were signed.
“It is regretful that some of our clients were hurt,” he wrote. “Regarding the fines, had I been more concerned with my personal position and that of the company and taken time and precious monies to hire an attorney and leave working projects, our violations and fines may have been lower.”
He gave no indication that he planned on paying the fines, and the state probably will not be able to force payment.
“There is a certain percentage of debtors who have no assets, and nothing to be gotten. At that point it’s a loss,” said Fran Landau, who has been a collections attorney for 31 years, and owns Accelerated Receivables Management. She was speaking in generalities, not specifically about McDaniels’ case.
She said a lot of letters will be sent, phone calls will be made, and, if payment is not made, it will hurt McDaniels’ credit rating.
“For some, credit rating matters, for others it really does not mean a whole lot,” Landau said.
Sandi Copes, a spokeswoman for the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, said if the state does not see the money it will have to write off the debt.
“This would be taken into consideration,” she said, “if Mr. McDaniels ever applied to reinstate his license.”
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