Candidate says says free meals covered his fees
BROOKSVILLE — Chicken and spiritual advice.
That’s the compensation School Board candidate Richard McDermott said he earned for consulting this year at Chick-fil-A.
The company denies paying even that much.
Since July, when McDermott qualified as a Hernando County School Board candidate in District 1, he’s described himself as a marketing director and consultant for the fast food company.
He mentioned it in campaign literature, and told the St. Petersburg Times about the job in several recent interviews. He even cited it in a resignation letter he wrote to Nature Coast Technical High School last month, shortly before he was fired by the district for mishandling funds.
This week he said he might not have clearly explained his switch from marketing director to consultant last February at the Spring Hill store — “If I misrepresented it, I apologize,” he said — but insisted that he’s still on the payroll.
Asked about his compensation since February, he said: “Food. It balanced itself out in meals and stuff like that.”
But a company official said McDermott had not been paid — either in money or chicken — since last winter.
“McDermott was my marketing director for about a year-and-a-half, almost two years,” said John Mitten, owner and operator of the Spring Hill store. “But he has not been on the payroll since February of this year.”
When pressed to explain how fast food could pay a hefty consultant’s fee, McDermott said he was contributing his services on the cheap, and receiving other benefits.
“I go to Chick-fil-A at times just to get spiritual counseling from (Mitten,)” McDermott said. “There has been other compensation, let’s just leave it at that.”
Founded in 1946, the company has made no secret of its Christian principles. According to its mission statement, the company exists in order “to glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us and to have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A.”
Mitten said he considers McDermott a friend, someone who has made helpful suggestions and even organized the restaurant’s Thursday car shows.
“(But) there has been no remuneration whatsoever for his kind gestures,” Mitten added. “There is no consulting obligation whatsoever. “
McDermott said last week that his multiple responsibilities — teaching, running his own skin-cream business, consulting for Chick-fil-A and campaigning for School Board — had made him “overwhelmed” and led to his violation of district cash-handling policies.
He was also briefly arrested Oct. 24 on a misdemeanor charge of passing a bad check. And his driver’s license was suspended for 15 days for falling behind on child support payments.
But Mitten said any mention of his company as a factor in those troubles was inaccurate.
“We had absolutely nothing to do with it,” he said.
As for the compensation claim, Mitten said it was possible McDermott had misconstrued the occasional freebie, or his open-door policy for former employees.
“I give free food because I want to,” Mitten said. “I think people who come by will find that I do that for everybody. And I’ve given him food.”
-- By Tom Marshall