The Debacle in DeBary: The cover-up is always worse than the crime

As naturally happens on a foul day like today, friends and family are asking, “How about those primary results?”

How about them.

While some of the races came out to my liking – for instance, I think Arthur Byrnes is a great servant-leader who puts his whole heart into serving the citizens of Holly Hill – and Bill Hall is going to be a great mayor in South Daytona – I was blindsided by the outcome of the County Chair contest.

As typically happens in Volusia County, we are now left with the awful choice between the two special interest puppets, Jason Davis and Ed Kelley.

I’ve always lived by Mae West’s maxim, “When choosing between two evils, I always like to try the one I’ve never tried before.”  The problem is, we’ve seen both of these political hacks in action before.

When all is said and done, I will vote for Jason Davis – for the simple fact that he had the guts to call out Volusia Republican Executive Committee Chairman and first class weasel, Tony Ledbetter, for his arrogance and open dishonesty in attempting to manipulate the process in favor of Ed Kelley.

I will then walk pensively into the restroom and throw-up.

The more things change, the more they stay the same in Volusia County.  We are like a weird sadomasochistic tribe who derive our collective gratification from repetitive degradation and public humiliation.

I equate the recycling of politicians in Volusia County to the same phenomena that has given rise to something called “Bro Country” (which some actually classify as “music”) and the prevalence of “safe spaces” and “free speech zones” on college campuses.  And I recently read a poll that said a certain segment of the population believe that the moon is actually made of green cheese.

I recognize it, but I’ll be damned if I understand it.

Maybe we truly have grown too dumb to think for ourselves.  Is it possible that our society has become too disinterested and self-absorbed?  Do we no longer have the inclination to educate ourselves on the issues, or the records of the candidates who will govern our lives and livelihoods?

Perhaps that’s why we are constantly victimized by unchecked political corruption and hopeless greed here in the Sunshine State.

It’s déjà vu all over again. . .

This spring I became engrossed in the Daytona Beach News-Journal’s outstanding effort to unmask a fishy land deal in a small backwater of West Volusia.

As I read reporter Dinah Voyles-Pulver’s Pulitzer-worthy exposé on the City of DeBary’s attempt to incorporate 102-acres of sensitive conservation lands into a proposed transit oriented development near the SunRail station, I realized that there was more to this story than just run-of-the-mill small town incompetence.

It is apparent that Ms. Pulver has actually kicked over a filthy chamber pot of massive corruption that goes all the way to the very top of a powerful state regulatory agency – the very organization we trust to protect our most precious and important natural resources.

What I euphemistically call the ‘Debacle in DeBary’ is like a weird Spanish telenovela where the main characters are brought to personal and professional ruin by moral weakness, and their inability to control their own emotions or the devious maneuverings of those they trusted most.

It is an on-going disaster drama of epic proportions, and each week an unfortunate new development peels another layer off this rotten onion.

You couldn’t find these characters if you searched the bowels of Hollywood’s central casting.

Take for instance the strange and savage tale of the ill-fated and arguably insane Mayor Clint Johnson, who was summarily executed by his fellow elected officials; or the painfully hopeless vice-mayor – Lita Handy-Peters – whose convenient memory, political clumsiness and unfortunate stupidity are rapidly conspiring to make her the very face of this catastrophe.

Or Mike Brady, Chris Carson and Rick Dwyer – the ineffectual councilmen who sit on the dais in a catatonic state, immobilized by fear and a lack of any real situational awareness – desperately looking for leadership and guidance like a drowning man grasping for a life ring that is just out of reach.

Add to this mix the likes of A. Kurt Ardaman, Esquire – DeBary’s caricature of a city attorney and registered developer’s lobbyist – who acts like a lawyer that speaks English as a second language.  He instinctively thinks in terms of how his legal advice will best benefit him and his co-conspirators – then translates that into convincing terms the hapless dupes who pay for his counsel will want to hear.

And don’t forget the sub-plot of Mr. Ardaman’s secret business relationship with John Miklos – the slimy quid pro quo grifter who neatly ramrods the special interests of his private clients past the very state regulatory agency that he oversees.

Neither history – nor the criminal justice system – will be kind to John Miklos.

The bit players and rogues in this theater of the absurd include the developer’s shill masquerading in a manufactured public position called a “Transit Oriented Development Marketing Director,” Roger Van Auker.

Only in government would you find such a title.

He was hand-selected by disgraced former city manager Dan Parrott, a contemptuous little shit who did more to damage the future and reputation of DeBary than anyone.  When he allowed Van Auker’s head in the tent, Parrott and others in a position to do something about it knew, or should have known, that Roger was a demonstrably unethical shill for mega-developer Jerome Henin and others.

That’s right – the same Jerome Henin that in one of the most perverse scenes in this bizarre soap opera openly strip-cleared some 30-acres of old growth forest without permission or permit.  Just bulldozed 100-year old trees and churned the ground into a primordial ooze right under the noses of DeBary officials who were either completely clueless – or intentionally looked the other way.

In my view, at the end of the day, Van Auker will ultimately be exposed as the chief architect of this political disaster – and he will find that people who matter will quit taking his phone calls in the very near future.

Hey, Roger – the power-haunts of old money Winter Park can be pretty lonely places once you’re outside the circle of trust.  The big boys and pretty girls on Park Avenue have no use for the weak or the dumb – and you’re becoming the poster boy for everything they hate.

If it’s any consolation – you were never a player.  Just a tool.

Last week, I filed a formal public records request with the City of DeBary seeking a copy of a non-disclosure agreement between Roger Van Auker and an “unnamed developer” whose existence has been discussed at several public meetings.

Given the fact that the TOD as originally envisioned has been effectively halted with the transfer of the Gemini Springs Annex to the County of Volusia, I was certain that the confidentiality agreement would be considered null and void at this point.

Nope.

I received a missive from DeBary’s Public Records Manager, Eric Frankton, who assured me that – while there was no “secret developer” for the 102-acres (his words, not mine) – the city attorney has determined that the agreement remains exempt and I am not entitled to it under Florida’s Public Records law

Now, I don’t want to argue with Eric – he’s a very sensitive guy – but isn’t the fact that the identity of the land developer is being held confidential the textbook definition of a “secret developer”?

And what compelling public interest is possibly served by keeping a now unnecessary document exempt and out of the public eye?

According to Mr. Ardaman, we, the people, are simply supposed to take his word for it.

And why shouldn’t we?

Because this is the same Kurt Ardaman that came under fire for his participation in an October 2014 ‘secret meeting’ with Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs in his role as a registered lobbyist for “developers and auto auctions.”

The same person who represented the City of DeBary during the time city hall was raided by FDLE and the Office of the State Attorney following credible allegations that Dan Parrott and other officials may have violated public records law.

The same Kurt Ardaman who is engaged in a highly suspect business relationship with John Miklos in a mysterious corporation known only as “Medjool Investments” – something he willfully and conveniently failed to disclose to his clients at the City of DeBary.

The same Kurt Ardaman who is known in Orange County political circles as a “quarterback” for his ability to approach big money campaign donors – I believe while also serving as Governor Rick Scott’s personal appointment as a trustee of the West Orange Healthcare District.

(I find it interesting that two gubernatorial appointees to separate governing boards – Ardaman and Miklos – find themselves in business together?  How ‘bout you?)

Besides, how many public offices can one man hold in this state?

The fact is, Kurt Ardaman is so personally invested in high-level politics and speculative land development in Central Florida that he has no business being within a country mile of a city attorney’s seat – yet, there he is.

Yep.  Nothing to see here, folks.  Keep moving.

Now, I’m just spit-balling here, but unless we, the people, are permitted to examine documents that prove otherwise – how do we know with certainty that DeBary’s “unnamed developer” isn’t a current or former client of Mr. Ardaman?

An “investor” in Medjool Investments?

Or a commercial developer that he serves as a highly paid registered lobbyist?

How do we know it’s not a business entity that once employed Roger Van Auker?

Hell, how do we know that Ardaman isn’t in business with this “unnamed developer”?

(Do you think he would tell us if he was?)

The fact is, we don’t know.  And if the powers that be have anything to say about it – we won’t.

In Crazy Town you are expected to take the foxes word for the security of the hen house.

He sets the rules and you don’t.

In my view, Kurt Ardaman and his unscrupulous co-conspirators at the City of DeBary are doing exactly what it appears they are doing:  They are hiding evidence of their misdeeds from the public’s prying eyes through dubious exemptions and political slight-of-hand.

Vorpius de liporius octo.

I hope these shitheels understand that federal and state investigators won’t be as easy to dismiss.

I suspect Ardaman’s partners at Fishback Dominick are secretly studying their options.  After all, just how much bad publicity does a very old and very prestigious law firm need, eh?

Someone should probably tell the DeBary City Council that when the ship is sinking – and it is most definitely in peril – the prudent thing to do is instruct your goofy staff to be as open, transparent and responsive as possible.

Throw the doors and windows open, roll up your sleeves, let some air and sunlight in, and let everyone see for themselves that you have absolutely nothing to hide.

I assure you that your constituents will consider anything less as prima facie evidence of a cheap political cover-up – despite what Kurt Ardaman might lead you to believe.

But, like I said, this group isn’t that smart.

At the end of the day, these miserable wretches deserve the political fate that awaits them, and they should all be put in an iron cage, if for no other reason than to keep their special brand of squalid dumbness out of local politics.

If you still don’t think it’s important who we elect to public office, wait until the depth of the corruption is exposed and the curtain comes down on this farce in DeBary.

Then think again.

 

11 thoughts on “The Debacle in DeBary: The cover-up is always worse than the crime

  1. Thank you for this informative writing. It only strengthens the resolve of my movement at kickthecouncil.com keep doing what you are doing my friend.

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  2. Well Mark, perhaps Ardaman is reluctant to release this information because the deal is still in play. Just waiting for the “Strum and Drang” to quiet down.

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  3. Heard you on the radio today. It was enjoyable to listen to. In talking about how nothing changes with elections may I direct you to DeBary politics? In Mayor Johnsons short tenure here he had many good ideas and tried to bring a 5 million dollar project that about 20 people adamantly opposed. The council didn’t even let him finish his presentation and Lita called the question on him, silencing him and killing the project. These same people manufactured several scandles and the city manager didn’t copy him in over 900 emails to the council during the “conservation land grab” and other city business. Guess they figured he would quit after being called a liar, thief and lunatic in the media. When he didn’t quit (perhaps proving the lunatic accusation) they fountd a five month old email and together with some angry tweets manufactured charter violations which reached their goal. Moral of the story? Do not try to bring change and do not expose wrongs you witness behind the dark doors of city hall. And if you don’t want you and your family to be humiliated and embarrassed, play nice or take your ball and go home.

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