The Cost of Incompetence

Once again County Manager Jim Dinneen has found the one issue over all others that is, “as serious as anything we’ve faced.”  Volusia County government wants to spend your money – a lot of it – and they need a really good ‘emergency du jour’ to sell it.

Sound the claxon, Jim!

Bolstered by the public hand-wringing of Volusia County Public Works Director John Anguilli and Road and Bridge Supervisor Judy Grim, Mr. Dinneen reports that our County facilities are in such utter disrepair that the structures can longer adequately serve the public’s needs.  Naturally, this has led our intrepid leaders to the foregone conclusion that a new $19-million consolidated Public Works campus is the best answer.

Really?

Sometime, somewhere in our history, someone thought it might be a good idea to strategically distribute Public Works facilities throughout the width and breadth of Volusia County.  Given the diversity of our infrastructure, our geographical susceptibility to catastrophic weather, wildfires, and other natural disasters combined with a service area of over 1,400 square miles, one might think that the decentralization of equipment and personnel makes sense.

Apparently not.

But more to the point, was anyone aware just how serious this situation has become?

In a recent article by Daytona Beach News-Journal Reporter Tony Holt, I learned for the first time that our dilapidated Public Works facilities have reached critical disrepair.  It appears the Volusia County Council was caught flat-footed by the news as well, given the fact that members recently rejected a $2.5 million staff request to purchase some 231-acres along State Road 44 for the centralized Public Works campus.

In the News-Journal report, Councilman Doug Daniels did his best to give the appearance of cognizance when he expressed concern that we might need more information than the Public Works Director’s gut instinct that consolidation is the way to go.

According to Daniels, “The public works buildings we have now may need to be replaced, but we don’t have anything that shows there would be any particular value in having a centralized location.”

Indeed.

In my view, this situation is classic Volusia County government.

Under Mr. Dinneen’s management, we allow public infrastructure to literally crumble into the ground as a means of demonstrating the need for another County-owned Taj Mahal.  Then, in this weird Twilight Zone where nothing is as it seems, we allow the very public officials responsible for creating the problem to tell us how best to correct their own gross mismanagement.

In Mr. Holt’s report, Road and Bridge Director Judy Grim reassures us that County employees continue to soldier-on despite their Third World work environment, “We don’t have anyone complain about the conditions.  We’re doers.”

Doers?  Right.  That’s the descriptor that first came to my mind. . .

Whatever it is Judy’s troops are responsible for, it obviously has nothing to do with facilities maintenance, strategic budgeting for critical infrastructure repair and replacement, or the development of governmental best practices for the distribution of Public Works assets for maximum efficiency in coastal Florida.

For most of my adult life I worked for a small municipal government in Volusia County.  Our core services were housed in a City Hall that is now some 75-years old and going strong.  How, you may ask, could a government building possibly remain serviceable for three-quarters of a century?  It’s called ‘preventive maintenance’ – much like your own home may require – and when spread over time is an economical way of ensuring your assets remain efficient and effective.

It’s also called taking pride in public service.

Once again a situation erupts that exposes the depth of dysfunction in County government and begs the obvious question: “When is it appropriate to hold public officials accountable”?

In the Dinneen administration the answer is never.

In government, as in most progressive private organizations, accountability exists when a responsible individual, and the services they provide, are subject to horizontal oversight.  This occurs when the responsible party is required to provide articulable justification for their actions, expenditures, and the performance of their subordinate staff.  A practice especially important for government officials at the executive level whose decisions can have wide-ranging and very expensive implications.

Despite overwhelming evidence that Mr. Dinneen is incapable of holding his senior staff responsible for their continuing pattern of gross mismanagement – a serious problem that has been the hallmark of his tenure – rather than demand accountability, our elected officials continue to praise Dinneen’s performance, and reinforce his behavior in the form of salary and benefit increases that have reached the point of ridiculousness.

Now, in some insane twist of reality, Mr. Dinneen would have us believe that his staff’s inability to properly manage and maintain their department’s facilities constitutes an emergency requiring a $19 million solution?

Perhaps more preposterous, we should expect that these same bumbling officials will somehow ensure that the new facilities are properly maintained?  Really?  REALLY?

The only bright spot in this latest farce is that Council members took a positive step in rejecting a dubious multi million dollar expenditure proposed by Mr. Dinneen and his incompetent toady’s in the Public Works Department.

I guess some things are just too blatant to ignore.

You want to know what’s truly the most serious issue Volusia County residents face? It’s the staggering level of incompetence, government waste and resource mismanagement during Mr. Dinneen’s administration – and a continuing, almost institutionalized, lack of substantive oversight by our elected officials that allows this atrocious course of conduct to continue.

That’s a problem that needs our attention this election season.

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