“NOW this is the law of the jungle, as old and as true as the sky, And the wolf that shall keep it may prosper, but the wolf that shall break it must die.
As the creeper that girdles the tree trunk, the law runneth forward and back; For the strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack.”
Rudyard Kipling – The Jungle Book
In a recent installment of this blog I wrote extensively about the maneuverings of the Henin Group – an unscrupulous developer operating like a festering Guinea worm under the skin of the City of DeBary – who shamelessly, and apparently without any serious regulatory impediment, scoured nearly 30-acres of pristine old-growth forest and sensitive wildlife habitat from the face of the earth without any official permit or authorization.
In my opinion, they did it because they could.
The curse of professional boxers is Dementia Pugilistica, “Punch Drunk” syndrome.
The condition is brought about by repetitive blows to the head and symptoms manifest as neurological disturbances, delusions, a dulling of the senses – and ultimately the inability to think, reason, or care for oneself.
In my experience, your body can take a lot of abuse – but if you hammer on the old coconut hard enough, and long enough, bad things are going to happen.
The body politic is no different.
The Henin Group – like any good freebooting opportunist – took full advantage of the stupor and confusion that has engulfed the City of DeBary like “Mountain” McClintock in Requiem for a Heavyweight.
While the jury is still out on the manner and cause of the city’s rapid descent into this fetid quagmire of corruption and mismanagement, it is clear that the trauma of the experience has left the municipality unable to defend itself.
Bullies, thieves and opportunistic leeches thrive in that environment.
When an individual or organization is left maimed, devious and unprincipled assholes will always flock to the scene. They prey on the wounded and fleece the shell-shocked – or just plunder as much as they can before the dust settles.
What the City of DeBary is experiencing is the law of the jungle.
A system in which only the strong survive and the sick, the stupid and the helpless are culled to preserve the herd. In nature, if you are vulnerable and caught out in the dark, wolves will smell the stench of weakness in the air and daybreak will find them gnawing on what’s left of your skull.
It’s Natural Selection in action, and when the sheepdogs are neutered, distracted, or paid-off – the wolves will begin to circle.
Mother Nature abhors dumbness. Fools do not last long in the wild.
In an excellent article by the Daytona Beach News-Journal, “The Cost of Controversy – DeBary’s legal bill hits $160K and still growing, exceeds budget,” we learned the net cost of the serious and deepening instability at City Hall.
I suppose it should come as no surprise to anyone that DeBary is actively and agonizingly being exsanguinated by parasitic attorneys, but once again the city council appears to have been caught flatfooted.
According to Councilman Rick Dwyer, (who is the only cast member in this ugly drama who has shown even a scintilla of leadership) “We need to look at what has caused us to exceed our budget and take the appropriate measures to either amend it or get the costs under control.”
Why is it that Mr. Dwyer always comes off sounding like Rip Van Winkle awakening in an Ambien stupor to discover the house is on fire?
Are you serious? Do you really need to LOOK AT WHAT CAUSED THIS!?
Here’s a wake-up call – you don’t have time to “study on it,” Jethro!
Your community is in the midst of a conflagration – a five alarm fuck-up – and you must stop the hemorrhaging. Now!
I don’t mean to sound hysterical – but when is someone, anyone, in a position of responsibility going to come to the very serious realization that DeBary is in real trouble here?
Apparently, the reoccurring problem stems from the city’s ludicrous pursuit of Mayor Clint Johnson.
The bills related to this hound-and-hare spectacle are approaching $25,000 and growing.
That includes $13,831 in legal fees incurred in the lead-up to the now postponed “forfeiture hearing” designed to oust Mayor Johnson for dubious “charter violations.” As I understand it, two attorneys greedily accumulated some 56-hours of billable work on what they – and everyone else knew – was a damnable fool’s errand.
Rather than use sound judgment and simply advise the council that there is clearly no logical evidence – or even basis – to remove the Mayor for silly tweets, obnoxious Facebook posts, and operational communications with the city manager; instead, the City’s legal firm indulged the clearly unstable Dan Parrott in his maniacal and increasingly desperate scheme to take Clint Johnson down.
It’s like a doctor taking a hypochondriac’s word for it that he has cancer. “Well, then. There’s nothing left to do but amputate the leg. Pay the receptionist on your way out…”
Apparently this figure does not include the work of a second law firm hired to prosecute this nonsense before Parrott’s kangaroo court – or the $20,000 the Mayor’s attorney, Doug Daniels, plans to submit to the city in the matter of Johnson’s defense.
What happened to the city attorney’s moral and ethical obligation of loyalty and independent judgment?
Are Mayor Johnson’s hands squeaky-clean? Hell no.
He bears a lot of responsibility in this debacle – but Parrott and the remaining members of the council had no right to subvert the process and remove Mr. Johnson from elective office.
And everyone – except, apparently, the city’s attorneys – knew it.
The News-Journal also reported that the city incurred $17,868 in general legal expenses, including the other Johnson-related issues (public records, ethics complaint, etc.) and advice on “how to respond to questions from The News-Journal as it investigated the city’s plans to try to build a stormwater pond and other development on 102 acres of conservation land.”
Really? You used the taxpayer’s money to spin answers to the newspaper?
You might recall that the city hired Bio-Tech Consulting, a company owned by John Miklos, the chairman of the St. Johns Water Management District, which owned the land in question and controlled the permitting process required for the proposed transit-oriented development.
Interestingly, Miklos and DeBary City Attorney Kurt Ardaman are listed as officers in a corporation registered with the state called Medjool Investments.
That’s right – the city attorney and the double-dealing, utterly corrupt, quid pro quo beneficiary John Miklos are in business together!
A fact Mr. Ardaman conveniently forgot to mention to his clients – the citizens and elected officials of DeBary.
In my view, Ardaman sold his soul in some Faustian deal with the congenitally corrupt Miklos, and for that he should be disbarred – if not hung by his ankles like a piñata from one of the last remaining pine trees in Bella Riviera East and publicly humiliated for his crimes.
I can’t help but feel that these attorneys are actively taking advantage of this mess.
Don’t you see that?
For a community the size of DeBary to even consider budgeting $200,000 for legal services is, in my view, over the top. One would think that the city could hire a full-time, in-house city attorney for far less than that.
It is not appropriate or fair to suggest that all lawyers are parasitic scumbags who prey on the weak and vulnerable. I have friends who practice law, and I have personally benefited from their willingness to do the right thing, for the right reasons.
I have watched them work tirelessly to get it right – prosecutors, civil litigation and criminal defense attorney’s alike – men and women who are a true credit to their profession and the backbone of our justice system.
However, in my view, the City of DeBary is in the midst of the perfect storm – the community is essentially adrift without any strong or positive leadership, vulnerable to abuse and exploitation, and the members of the city council – the ones elected by the citizens to protect and steward their interests – are engaged in a painful Battle Royale among themselves and their critics, totally oblivious to the conflagration growing around them.
On Wednesday evening, the council will consider Ronald McLemore to serve temporarily as their interim city manager.
Mr. McLemore has been involved in some shady issues in Daytona Beach and elsewhere – and whether his hands are completely clean in these past public imbroglios is open to speculation.
What we do know is that the City of DeBary can’t afford many more blows to the head.
McLemore better damn well be who – and what – he claims to be.
This is why it is incumbent upon the city council to work diligently, and in the public interest, to recruit and select the best possible candidate to serve as chief executive of this beautiful but imperiled community.
It is also time for Mayor Johnson and the members of the DeBary city council to pull their head out of their ass, gain some situational awareness, and immediately put a stop to the financial hemorrhaging and exploitation that is rapidly draining the public coffers dry.
I’m not sure if anyone told them this when they ran for public office – but as elected officials these people have a sworn fiduciary responsibility to act solely in the best interests of their principals – the citizens of the City of DeBary.
The sad fact is, the city’s various attorneys – those who are paid handsomely to serve in the public interest – know this.
An attorney is also a fiduciary of his client – in this case, the City of DeBary.
As a recipient of public funds, the city’s legal team has an obligation to place the needs and interests of the community above their own. They must make full and fair disclosure about the nature and direction of their representation – including potential conflicts of interest – and they cannot take advantage of their position to gain a profit at the expense of the client.
It is increasingly clear that the city council and their staff do not effectively communicate on matters important to the financial and operational health of the community. This is clearly exacerbated by the lack of strong, stable leadership in an organization in crisis.
Now is the time for the DeBary City Council to pull together – to actually serve in the best interest of their constituents – and begin the process of healing and restoring their broken community.
I fear it’s now, or never.
(Photo Credit: AMC Entertainment Network, LLC)