Volusia Politics: Just tell us the truth!

Let me apologize up-front.

I hate to always be the bearer of bad news – the hypercritical, faultfinding cynic who never seems happy about anything.  I think it’s all part of my karmic cycle – my samsara – the whole “wheel of life” thing.

At my core, I am a terribly flawed man cursed with the inability to simply turn my head and ignore.

Fall in line.  Conform.

Just can’t do it.

Some days I feel like old Diogenes of Sinope – the poor bastard who believed that virtue was best revealed in action, rather than theory – and he spent his days criticizing the fraudulent “social values,” corrupt politicians, and dishonest institutions of the day.

Suffice it to say, Diogenes was not well liked.

After all, he preached reason and virtue to so-called “leaders” who had lost the capacity for self-criticism and shame.

Many thought he was crazy.  Perhaps he was.

He had a scraggly white beard and roamed the streets making people feel uncomfortable.

Diogenes often slept in a large ceramic jar in a marketplace in downtown Athens, and was most famous for carrying a lamp around in the daytime, telling anyone who would listen that he was looking for ‘one honest man.’

He criticized and embarrassed the politicians of the day, disputed corrupt interpretations of the law, and disrupted the lectures of Socrates and other great academics and philosophers.

He also publicly mocked Alexander the Great.

Yep.  Diogenes was one weird dude. diogenes_looking_for_a_man_-_attributed_to_jhw_tischbein

He was ultimately captured by pirates while traveling to Aegina and sold as a slave in Crete to a Corinthian named Xeniades.  When Diogenes was asked how he made his living, he told his captors that he had no trade – other than governing men – and asked to be sold to a man who needed a master.

That’s rich.

Most of what we know about Diogenes is anecdotal, stories passed down through the ages.

Not all of them kind.

In fact, physicians have named a disorder after him – Diogenes Syndrome – also known as senile squalor syndrome; characterized by extreme self-neglect, domestic squalor, social withdrawal, apathy, compulsive hoarding of garbage or animals, and a lack of shame.

That’s a tough handle to drag through history.

Clearly, the thing Diogenes hated most was the stench of political lies.

I was reminded of this recently when I saw County Manager Jim Dinneen, and a few of his elected toadies on the county council, onanistically wallowing in self-congratulation for their soi-disant “A+” response to Hurricane Matthew.

In the heat and hubris of their celebration, Mr. Dinneen gave into his base instincts and blurted out the whopper that all storm-related debris would be collected within the next 20-days.

You read that right.

Per Daytona Beach’s WNDB radio, “Dinneen said it could take up to 20 days before all the debris is cleared.  The debris may be an eyesore, but it’s not a health or safety hazard.”

That was nine days ago.

In my view, Mr. Dinneen is either delusional, or he lied to us when the truth would serve him – and us – better.

People took the county manager at his word – and now they are pissed.

And they should be.

The fact is, it will be weeks before this mess is cleaned-up and we are back to normal – and Mr. Dinneen damn well knows it.

Why does he feel the intuitive need to lie to us so openly? 

Because he knows there will be no repercussions, that’s why.

A proper public communications strategy would have reminded us that crews are working hard to collect and dispose of the debris piles, and our roads and right-of-way’s will be cleared as soon as possible.

Simple.  Clear.  Concise.  And the truth.

In my view, Mr. Dinneen’s patently mendacious behavior is indicative of all that is wrong with county government.  If our highly paid county administrator will lie to us over seemingly insignificant matters – what is he capable of on more important issues?

I am sick and tired of being lied to by people who accept public funds to perform a public service.

How about you?

Where is Diogenes when we need him?






ERAU: It’s time for outside intervention

The outsized influence of the economic elite in Volusia County politics is best exposed during periods of transition.

Someone once told me that Volusia’s economy can best be described as five well-connected people passing the same nickel around.  But what happens when those same influential insiders begin artificially manipulating the allocation of public funds for private gain?

In my view, this weird election season has confirmed my theory that we live in a ‘benevolent dictatorship’ – a mini-oligarchy, controlled exclusively by Volusia’s uber-wealthy who buy and sell political candidates and shape public policy with unnatural infusions of cash and personal influence at the highest levels of government.

Clearly, there are many residents who have simply acquiesced to this make-believe form of democracy, and some simply owe their soul to the company store.

Let’s face it, a significant number of people either work directly for companies and institutions under the direct control of the Volusia Triumvirate of Mori Hosseini, Lesa France-Kennedy and J. Hyatt Brown; or are employed by their subsidiaries and sub-contractors.

To their credit, the Big Three have been extremely successful in their respective – and often overlapping – marketplaces, and they cast a wide shadow in Volusia County and beyond.

That influence begins each election cycle when Hosseini, France and Brown inject huge sums of money into the campaign war chests of hand-selected candidates for local offices through their countless corporate interests and business alliances.

While the spirit of quid pro quo corruption is ever-present in this bastardized political system, the threat seems to be ignored – or at least winked at – by election officials and Florida’s feeble ethics apparatus.

These individuals did not accumulate massive personal wealth without the ability to control their environment – that is exactly what the political influence they purchase provides.

It also places them at the very nexus of public funds and private interests.

Which is exactly where Mortenza “Mori” Hosseini operates.

Florida’s High Panjandrum of Political Power, the Emperor of Embry-Riddle, and reigning King of the Realm – Mr. Hosseini is the titan who built ICI Homes into one of the largest residential and commercial development interests in the nation.

He also serves on numerous influential governing and advisory boards – and is said to be the gatekeeper for Governor Rick Scott’s personal board appointments across the state.

Mr. Hosseini is also a graduate and current chairman of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Board of Trustees.

Like Volusia County, ERAU finds itself in transition; and the students, alumni, and disenfranchised faculty are beginning to pull back the curtain on the Oz-like omnipotence of Mr. Hosseini’s oversized influence on campus.

And from what I’ve seen – things aren’t pretty at our own Harvard of the Sky.

Why does it matter?

Here’s why:

In early August, Mr. Hosseini and interim university president Karen Holbrook, came before the Volusia County Council to order $1.5 million in public funds, ostensibly to assist “struggling startups” participating in ERAU’s new research park.

That’s the “John Mica Engineering and Aerospace Complex,” the multi-million-dollar research and technology facility that will – to-date – house elements of the International Speedway Corporation, DuvaSawko (medical business solutions), mega-law firm Cobb Cole, FireSpring Fund (startup funding), accountants James Moore and Company, Vann Data (information technology), and venVelo (venture capital).

Wait.  Talk about passing the same nickel around.

I mean, these are all established local companies with little, if any, direct connection to the aerospace industry.  So why are we being asked to fund them?

Cobb Cole?  ISC?  Am I missing something here?

And don’t give me that speculative babble about ‘economic development potential’ – if it were so lucrative, the big boys would be gambling with their own money – not ours.

Regardless, where’s the beef?

Where are all the big engineering and aerospace companies – Boeing, Lockheed, Northrop Grumman, Harris Corporation, General Electric, Raytheon, etc.?

While we’re on the topic, where are the endowed chairs, corporate scholarships and research opportunities from these major industry leaders at ERAU?

Apparently, these aerospace and technology giants are rapidly partnering with other colleges –  such as the Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne – institutions that aren’t known as the personal fiefdom of Mortenza Hosseini.

FIT, a private, nonprofit college, recently met many of the same challenges facing ERAU through a “strategic shift from outward expansion to inward improvement,” and in doing so, raised over $123 million in private endowments and corporate giving.

You know, they did what a Board of Trustees is supposed to do.

At ERAU, rather than raise funds and build an endowment, I guess it’s easier to just play three-card-monte with taxpayer dollars.

Not only did the County Council pony-up the $1.5 million at the snap of Mori’s fingers – they also authorized the sale of public property near Clyde Morris Boulevard and Bellevue to the university for half its appraised value.

You read that right – your elected representatives sold public property to a private entity knowing in advance it would result in a 50% net loss to the taxpayer.

The college also requested that the county consider lowering the cost of some of its current lease structures and providing future grants for construction projects.

(Oh, did I mention that between 2010 and 2012, Hosseini owned Intervest Construction took that exact amount – $1.5 million dollars – out of the university in office leases, utilities, and aircraft charter services?) 

Now, I’m just spitballing here, but what gives?  Can that be legal?

ERAU is whole.  Mori is whole.  And you and I are left holding the bag.

So why do I care about the inner-workings of ERAU?

Because now I’m a Patron of the University.  A benefactor, baby.

That’s right.

Now I have actual skin in the game – and so does every hardworking resident who struggles and sacrifices to pay taxes in support of Volusia County’s bloated, caustic and horribly mismanaged plutocracy.

I don’t know about you, but I intend on ensuring that my investment is properly managed.

From what I’ve seen thus far, Mori’s Machiavellian attempts to control virtually every aspect of university operations – including unilaterally selecting the next president – has not been well received by those that matter.

In April, student government representatives going back 15-years issued an open letter denouncing the actions of the current board of trustees and expressing their collective concern for the future of the University.

Then, in August, the faculty senate took the courageous step of issuing a vote of no confidence against the board of trustees – the most powerful statement of disapproval available to faculty members – who must feel increasingly marginalized under Mr. Hosseini’s dictatorship.

That’s a big deal.  Or at least it should be.

Unfortunately, it appears both desperate cries for help have melted into the obscurity of a closed system – flippantly dismissed by Mori and his sycophantic minions on the board, and ignored in the executive suites of the expansive Jim W. Henderson Administration and Welcome Center, a 42,000-square foot Taj Mahal where just a handful of ‘very important’ – and very well paid – administrators work. . .

Did I mention that the building’s namesake is Mori’s Vice Chairman of the Board of Trustees and former Chief Operating Officer of J. Hyatt’s own Brown & Brown Insurance?

Clearly, Boss Hosseini could care less about the opinions of those whose tuition pays the bills – or the professors and staff who produce and present the very curriculum that has made ERAU top in its class.

In Mori’s World, he controls organizations and institutions with the dominance of a feudal lord – and those that get crossways with the big man suffer the personal and professional consequences.

It’s Mori’s way or the highway – and his benevolence only goes so far.

Well, shit on that.

You’re playing with MY money now – and I, for one, demand transparency.

In my opinion, its risky business infusing $1.5 million in public funds into an organization with a developing reputation for lavish, over-the-top spending so board members can luxuriate in a chateau at the Paris Air Show, extravagant accommodations at New York’s finest hotels, dubious moves by anointed administrators, and the dysfunctional game of musical chairs that has been the interim leadership process.

(In my view, if Mori and the board want to stay at the Four Seasons – they can do it on their own dime.  But when my tax dollars – or your kid’s tuition – is involved, they can bunk at the Motel 6 just like the rest of us. . .)

Add to that the exorbitant salaries paid to top administrators (for instance, over $1 million in annual salary for the past president) and Mr. Hosseini’s backdoor siphoning of “office leases, utility payments and aircraft charters,” and you get the idea that ERAU’s  moral compass has precessed.

Frankly, it’s a slap in the face to every strapped parent who scrimps to send their kid to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

If Mr. Hosseini and his friends on the board of trustees want to use the university as their private playground – or as a means of accessing public funds with private profit motives – then I strongly suggest it is time for close external oversight by an entity with the independence and authority to affect positive change.

(And, for the record, allowing Mr. Hosseini to simply reinstall his lackey, Dr. John Watret, will not inspire confidence in students, faculty, alumni – or the long-suffering taxpayers of Volusia County who increasingly fund various aspects of the operation.)

I’m not an academician – just a hillbilly with a limited vocabulary – but now that I’m a benefactor of a prestigious aerospace and engineering university, I think it’s important to roll up my sleeves and lend a helping hand.

In my view, it is high time that the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools/Commission on Colleges – the agency which accredits ERAU – took a close look at this festering situation.

According to the SACS Principles of Accreditation:

“Integrity, essential to the purpose of higher education, functions as the basic contract defining the relationship between the Commission and each of its member and candidate institutions. It is a relationship in which all parties agree to deal honestly and openly with their constituencies and with one another. Without this commitment, no relationship can exist or be sustained between the Commission and its accredited and candidate institutions.”

 Given the on-going discord between the board of trustees and their student, faculty and alumni constituencies, one might think it important for the Commission to reevaluate the nature of their “relationship” with Embry-Riddle.

After all, SACS demands that accredited institutions make “reasonable and responsible decisions consistent with the spirit of integrity in all matters.”

I agree.

I’m no expert, but I’ll just bet funneling $1.5 million to a company owned by the chairman of the board of trustees – or allowing one man carte blanche rule of a university – is considered an ethical no-no by SACS, and everyone else with the ability to think for themselves.

Look, I could give a rat’s ass who gets the goofy ego-massage of putting their name on the campus lunchroom.

But I’ll be dipped if I’m going to stand by and watch our precious tax dollars squandered by Mori Hosseini, his board of trustees, Volusia County officials, or anyone else.

There are two people I never forget: A friend who stands with me – and someone who steals from me.

If you don’t want the scrutiny – then keep your damned hands out of my pocket.

In my view, it is time for the university’s oversight authority to commission an independent external review of ERAU’s governance practices – to include an investigation of Volusia County’s strange relationship with Mr. Hosseini and the wholesale giveaway of public funds.

The students and faculty deserve better.  And so do the rest of us.

Stay tuned, kids.  I’ll have more on this important issue later.


Volusia Politics: Too soon? You bet it is.

When I was training for the FAA commercial pilot certificate – after a particularly good landing, or a well-performed maneuver – I would often take a moment to point out to my long-suffering flight instructor just how good I thought I was.

In my opinion, Chuck Yeager couldn’t have done it better.

Whenever I felt the need to toast an accomplishment, my instructor, in his own quiet and completely unflappable way, would remind me: “A good pilot never congratulates his own performance.”

Cautious pilots constantly monitor and mitigate potential risks during all phases of flight.

There is simply no room for hubris, self-importance or foolish pride.

It was one of the best lessons my flight instructor taught me – and anytime I fly, I try hard to live up to his high standards of humble professionalism and good airmanship.

A good pilot is always learning – from his or her own mistakes, and from those of others.

While being self-assured is an important trait in a good aviator, cocksure overconfidence can lead to devastating results for an arrogant pilot and his unfortunate passengers.

I suspect that holds true for other professions as well.

Volusia County Manager Jim Dinneen is a man of extremes.

One of life’s lessons that I have come to embrace is that things are rarely as good, or as bad, as we think they are.

I don’t believe Mr. Dinneen subscribes to that theory.

Perhaps Jim simply has the worst communications skills in the known history of governmental management – or maybe he truly is the “tell ‘em what they want to hear” shyster I’ve always believed him to be.

Regardless, under the circumstances, he might want to tone down his patented “This is the best/worst thing I’ve ever seen” shtick.

There is a definite Boy Who Cried Wolf component to Mr. Dinneen’s public pronouncements that cannot be ignored.  And in the aftermath of a major natural disaster, residents who are still reeling from the devastating results prefer facts – not wild emotional speculation and self-congratulatory tut-tutting from their elected and appointed “leaders.”

It’s simply too soon.

The fact is, many people in Volusia County suffered devastating personal and professional losses during Hurricane Matthew – homes destroyed or seriously damaged, businesses lost or disrupted – and many of our neighbors have mounting expenses that will never be fully recoverable.

I would hazard a guess that the majority who have filed storm-related claims have yet to see an adjuster – let alone a settlement offer from their insurance company.

Several motels and restaurants in the Halifax area have announced closings – some for months – to allow for restoration.  This means that employees have been laid-off or had their hours cut back.

The trickle-down effect is grim – especially for families trying to survive in a service economy.

Most of us still have massive piles of rotting tree debris, yard trash, and splintered fencing ringing our homes like huge beaver dams; and anyone who believes that these festering corridors of rubble don’t pose a significant public safety hazard haven’t tried to navigate local streets, walk to school, or maneuver in or out of a driveway.

Add to that the fact FEMA just approved Volusia residents for individual and household assistance – two-weeks post incident – and you get the idea that it’s going to be awhile before we collectively get back to what passes for ‘normal’ on the Fun Coast.

I guess that’s why I’m sick and tired of hearing local emergency managers – people who know better – drone on about how we “dodged a bullet” on this one.

It can always be worse. I get it.

But that doesn’t mitigate the fact that we are dealing with the significant aftereffects of a major hurricane.

In my view, marginalizing this experience is patently irresponsible.

This offensive brow-mopping by public officials does nothing to alleviate the fears and financial realities of folks with an oak tree still sitting in their living room.

Frankly, I could give a damn about their ‘what could have been’ doomsday scenarios.

How about we focus on the here and now – work the reality of our common situation – and stop using goofy metaphors to describe how fortunate we all are that the beachside isn’t a moonscape.

For instance, Volusia County Emergency Management Director Jim Judge recently weighed in with, “We got lucky.  We didn’t dodge a bullet, we dodged a cannonball.”

What exactly does that statement add to the discussion?  Or the recovery efforts?

More importantly, with some 38 homes destroyed, thousands of structures seriously damaged, and power just being restored in some areas, why is our feckless Volusia County Council stopping to congratulate their own performance?

As former Volusia County Emergency Management Director Jim Ryan – the hard-charging former Marine Corps officer who, in 2004, led our county through three Presidential disaster declarations, would say in these situations – “Now is not the time to let our packs hit the ground.”

Clearly, Director Ryan was an extraordinary leader – and his insight and inspiration was sorely missed this time around.

Using his ‘best/worst’ spiel to full effect, Jim Dinneen recently told local media outlets that the County’s response to Hurricane Matthew was, “The best effort he’s ever seen in his career.”

Really?  The best he’s ever seen?

Normally, once response and recovery operations are complete, governmental and private agencies involved in managing an emergency will conduct what’s known as a “hotwash” – essentially a candid and open review of the good, the bad, and the ugly – a thorough self-critique that tells all levels of the organization what went well, and what can be improved upon.

I have direct personal knowledge that the County’s first responders did an outstanding job before, during and after the storm.

They performed their duties under difficult and dangerous conditions with a true commitment and personal dedication, and all citizens of Volusia County can be exceptionally proud of their Sheriff’s deputies, public protection officers, emergency management staff, EMS personnel and the team at VCSO Communications.

However, many things about the Dinneen administration’s emergency response efforts were less than “the best I’ve ever seen” – starting with the timely dissemination of public information to frightened residents – and important preparedness measures that were lacking.

For instance, by any measure, the confusion and delay caused by “voluntary” and “mandatory” evacuation orders were counterproductive.

Although Monday Morning Quarterbacking is kind of my ‘thing’ – given the gravity of what we all experienced, it serves no good purpose to point out the obvious to those who lived it.

Now, like clockwork, on Thursday our county’s elected and appointed officials took their first opportunity to slap each other on the back and tell themselves just how awesome they are.

County Chair Jason Davis gives the response an “A+” – while that sniveling sycophant Councilman Josh Wagner all but gushed over Jim Dinneen while elevating him to superhero status.

The pomposity of these big-headed shitgibbons never ceases to amaze me.

Although our county officials may be satisfied – I sense a growing public cynicism with every whiff of decomposing vegetation.

I’ve got a novel idea for our elected public servants in Deland:  Let’s focus on telling the truth, setting realistic goals, and effectively communicating strategic recovery plans to residents.

And most important – let’s use all available resources to help those who were most affected.

Trust me – there will be plenty of time for over-the-top accolades and awards for every politician on the dais.  But for the moment, how about we stick to the task at hand?

At the end of the day, Volusia government should evaluate ongoing recovery efforts based upon established performance metrics and use the positives and negatives to increase our understanding of what works, and what doesn’t, in a vulnerable coastal county.

This is best accomplished by officials with the capacity to humble themselves to the important and difficult process of becoming better – not by the self-satisfied blathering and systemic arrogance exemplified by Jim Dinneen and his finger-puppets on the county council.











The Debacle in DeBary: Buying more lawyers? Caveat Emptor…

Anyone ever buy a used car?

I have.

In fact, I didn’t own a “new” car until I was well in my 40’s – that means I bought my share of clunkers through the years.  The problem is, I’m a sucker for a good salesman – they have me over the barrel, be it a Kirby vacuum or a ’79 Ford Torino, I’ll fall for a good pitch every time.

I’ve been fleeced more times than a Galway sheep.

For those who aren’t familiar, the Latin phrase – Caveat Emptor – which translates, “let the buyer beware,” is the principle that the purchaser is responsible for checking the quality and suitability of goods before a sale is made.

Truth be told, it was probably coined right after Julius Caesar drove away from some “buy here, pay here” lot on the outskirts of Rome and a wheel fell off his slightly used chariot.

It essentially means that if you don’t do your homework, or fail to perform the due diligence required to ensure the item you are buying is sound, then you have no recourse once you drive it off the lot.

‘As is’ means – It is what it is.  Take it or leave it.

I guess it’s why some used car salesmen get such a bad rap.  But the fact is, most people decide their own fate whenever they perceive a “good deal.”  However, there are a few ‘pre-owned’ dealers who go out of their way to give the rest a bad name.  Their bread-and-butter is feeding off the gullible and the foolish.

Like P.T. Barnum said, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”

Some lawyers work much the same way.

On Monday evening, the Fraudulent Four of the DeBary City Council were once again openly complicit in City Attorney Kurt Ardaman’s increasingly obvious plan to stock the larders of every parasitic law firm in Central Florida as he recommended hiring not one, but two, high-end attorneys to defend a lawsuit filed by elected Mayor Clint Johnson.

To his credit, Mayor Johnson has decided that he’s not going to simply lay down and take this political buggering without a fight.  Love him or hate him, you have to respect Johnson’s chutzpah in standing up for that which he feels is right and just.

After meeting in Executive Session – a fancy term meaning the council, attorney, and city manager met in private, you know, outside the prying eyes of the public – Kurt Ardaman shamelessly suggested Drew Smith (a second time winner of a trip to the public trough), and Orlando-based attorney Anthony Garganese, as the tag team of high-priced squawk-boxes who will represent the city.

Oh, did I mention that self-anointed Mayor Lita Handy-Peters and the boys also authorized Smith and Garganese to gorge at a rate of $190.00 taxpayer dollars per hour?

That’s right: $190.00 per hour.  Each.  No limit.

Interestingly, during the special session a citizen (someone who is obviously paying attention) had the cheek to question the council on the myriad of additional expenses Smith and Garganese will no doubt charge the city in addition to their exorbitant hourly fee, such as – court presentations, mileage, incidentals, copying, etc.

As usual, Ardaman answered on behalf of the citizen’s elected representatives and gave a half-assed explanation that the motion would also authorize the city to pay for what he described as other “standard expenses” incurred by the attorney’s which would, of course, be paid above and beyond the hourly rate.

These added costs were never mentioned during public discussions as transparency would require.

In other words, the city attorney and council members attempted to pull another fast one, but this time they got caught like the cheap sneak thieves they are by an astute taxpayer.

Now, in his own cowardly way, Ardaman attempted to insulate himself by suggesting to the public that the hapless Interim City Manager, Ron McLemore, actually assisted him in the selection process.

Perhaps that’s true.

However, anyone with a still-firing brain synapse understands that the spineless McLemore, and that rabble on the council, have essentially turned the city’s throttle over to Mr. Ardaman, and everyone else is just on a very expensive ride.

As usual, the events were almost too painful to watch.

Maestro Ardaman could be seen whispering direction regarding the conduct of the meeting to pseudo-mayor Lita Handy-Peters, who ham-handedly stumbled through the proceedings like some deranged lost child.

I suspect even Ron McLemore knew this doubling-down on expensive lawyers wouldn’t be an easy sell.  He just sat there, awkwardly rocking and swaying in his swivel chair, no doubt pondering how his career hit the bottom of the porcelain bowl and trying to keep his supper down.

At one point, Handy-Peters looked even more confused than normal as she openly asked Ardaman if the council should hear public comments before voting on the issue.


Lita – You are out of your depth.  You are unprepared.  And it shows.

Stumbling and bumbling your way through an important public meeting does not inspire confidence – it exposes your base ineptitude – and the people of DeBary deserve better.

These self-aggrandizing rubes have lost all capacity for shame.  And, more importantly, they have lost the ability to understand how shaken their frightened constituents feel now that they have lost faith in the sanctity of their vote.

The one constant at DeBary City Hall is that nothing changes.

These elected fools wade from one internal shit-storm to another, attempting in vain to distract each other from the fact they have lorded over the most colossal political train wreck in the known history of Volusia County.

Don’t they get it? 

Rather than recognize that their hired leech of a city attorney has clearly taken control of the reins and is now running amok, openly showering those in his sub-species with public funds at a rate not seen in the history of municipal fleecing’s, the remaining “elected officials” who haven’t yet been cannibalized stand idle, paralyzed by their own fear and dumbness.

Is that rude?  I hope to hell it is.

Because at the end of the day, the role of the cursed citizens of the City of DeBary is limited exclusively to paying the massive bills these arrogant shit-heels continue to accumulate.

Public involvement and legitimate oversight is anathema to this adulterated and utterly illegitimate form of “governance” they continue to foist on the good people of this long-suffering community.

The Fraudulent Four and their money-hungry pied piper, Kurt Ardaman – with the acquiescence of retired dingbat Ron McLemore, and the help of a few painfully corrupt senior staff members – will long be reviled as the architects of the most expensive screw-job ever perpetrated upon the City of DeBary’s unsuspecting citizenry.

And nobody will feel sorry for them.

Good luck, DeBarians.

National Affairs: We’ve got trouble

The history of “leaking” information to the press as a means of shaping public policy is nothing new.

As far back as George Washington’s administration, Thomas Jefferson and his party surreptitiously provided media outlets of the day with information regarding a secret treaty as a means of stirring mass outrage.

Today, leaks of misappropriated private information or purloined government documents can be facilitated at the speed of light, and disseminated to millions, literally at the touch of a button.

Raw information – unfiltered by the slant and opinion of media moguls with a political agenda.

And for good or for ill – the revelation of bare and unvarnished facts often changes minds – and it helps explain what Justice Brandeis meant when he said, “Sunlight is the best disinfectant.”

In Barker’s World, I am fortunate to have a precious few very smart and extremely loyal friends who enjoy engaging in wide-ranging, critical discussions of the topical issues of the day.  They serve as a resilient sounding board for my thoughts, fears and delusions; and they are intelligent enough to point out the error in my thought process – and have been with me long enough to correctly identify the origin of a particular bias.

Although my confidants and I rarely dabble in national or international politics, a close friend has been prompting me to write down my thoughts on the current presidential election.

After several fits and starts, you know, sitting down at the desk and staring at a blank page, wondering what in the hell I could possibly add to this godforsaken mess, I think I may have finally found a message:

If nothing else, this bizarre contest has cutaway our self-denial and exposed the rancid malignancy on the American political system by mega-media conglomerates – and nothing will ever be quite the same again.

 Love him or hate him, Julian Assange – the editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks – has changed the rules of the game forever.

We now live in an age where hackers and fringe outlets with misappropriated information may well replace traditional media sources as disillusioned citizens are incipiently drawn to these increasingly “trusted” alternate information sources.

In years past, whistleblowers went to The Washington Post or the New York Times, now those august media outlets have lost all credibility – co-opted by their blatant skewing of the facts in an attempt to protect the establishment and promote select candidates – like Hillary Clinton.

In my view, when once venerated media outlets begin misrepresenting the facts in a coordinated effort to sway the outcome of a national election – the future of our democracy is in jeopardy.

After all, once this base form of mass deceit has been exposed, the national press corps will never again enjoy the public’s trust, and that is a dangerous proposition for our Grand Experiment in democracy.

While there has always been a subtle lean to most media outlets – for example, The Washington Post to the left, The Washington Times to the right – based upon recent events, it appears once respected media organizations, and even individual reporters, have simply thrown off the self-regulatory traces and openly breached journalistic ethics and standards under some weird “the ends justify the means” strategy of protecting us from ourselves.

Regardless, these emerging ‘media’ sources aren’t squeaky clean either.

It is well known that WikiLeaks has been the subject of a continuing federal investigation into various international cyber crimes – to include publishing information held secret by the United States government – and Assange himself has been named in a rape indictment in Sweden (a crime which he denies.)

In early October, Assange vowed to publish leaked emails from the Clinton campaign “every week” leading up to election day.

This hasn’t gone without response.

Among other attempts to kill the messenger, the Clinton’s campaign has speculated that WikiLeaks has been working directly with the Russian government to help Trump secure victory in November.

I don’t know if reading the WikiLeaks Clinton document dump makes me part of the problem (as CNN claims), but the information has damn sure shined a bright light on the inner workings of our nation’s political elite when the stakes are high – and they don’t get much higher than the Presidency of the United States.

From the emails that I have read, the prevailing and continuing theme of these misappropriated communiques continues to reveal the overweening bias and wholesale complicity of the mainstream media – not to mention the ugly quid pro quo negotiations of high-ranking members of our government to limit Mrs. Clinton’s exposure in her gross mishandling of classified material during her service as Secretary of State – among other distasteful revelations.

Clearly, our most trusted news sources have been exposed as mere shills for a political campaign.

They have worked hand-in-hand to stage both the political landscape, and position stories that show Mrs. Clinton in a favorable light, while denigrating all things Trump.

In my view, it doesn’t matter which candidate you support, this wholesale revelation of coordinated media prejudice and favoritism should chill you to the bone.

Will you ever trust anything you read, watch or hear from corporate media again?

How can you?

Regular readers of this forum know how I squawk-on, ad nauseum, about the basic unfairness of our local electoral process – a bastardized system where uber-rich insiders pump unnatural sums of money into municipal and county elections as a means of controlling their personal and professional environment.

Well, bump that up to the national level and add the open collusion and power of once trusted information sources and you get the idea that we are in real trouble here.

The public’s trust in traditional media is lower than whale shit and has been for some time – that’s not breaking news.  But, in my view, the open manipulation of the American political system by billionaire media moguls is.

This campaign coverage is not like watching sausage being made – it’s like watching the corpse of Walter Cronkite being exhumed and hung by the ankles in front of CBS News headquarters in Washington – it is the death of a national “trust” playing out before our eyes, and it is horrifying.

If this is how our nation’s political elite react when the status quo is challenged, imagine what else they are capable of?

To say they have stacked the deck is an understatement – national media outlets, both print and electronic, have exposed themselves for what they truly are – and there is no going back to the way things were “before.”

As reporter Jordan Chariton, writing for the online political commentary, The Young Turks, so aptly pointed out:

“In the end, corporate journalists receiving checks from multi-billion dollar conglomerates have become just as out-of-touch as politicians receiving hundreds of millions from billionaire plutocrats.”

And that may well be the biggest story of this, or any other, presidential election in our lifetime.


It really is up to us. . .

As regular readers of this forum know, I take a pretty dim view of those who rape the land for personal profit – specifically, unscrupulous real estate developers and the sutlery of lawyers, fixers and political insiders who facilitate their massive and continuing environmental crimes.

These parasitic bastards have descended on the Sunshine State like a shit-storm of predatory, gluttonous money-hogs – corrupting local elected rubes with grandiose ideas and open quid pro quo bribery, all while taking full advantage of the Scott administrations complete disemboweling of Florida’s environmental regulatory and oversight agencies.

Florida has become a surreal place where the wolves are allowed to greedily gorge themselves, churn sensitive wildlife habitat and conservation areas into primordial ooze, and build even more strip centers, cookie-cutter condo’s and gaudy housing developments with absurdly pretentious names like “Riviera Bella” and “Magnolia Preserve,” all strategically designed by real estate marketers to better fleece retirees and refugees from the northeast.

And under the current “economic development” scheme employed by most local governments, they do it almost entirely with our tax dollars.

If you still need proof that these insatiable thieves are actively feeding on the very soul of our state despite dire warnings of the consequences to our natural resources, please read Dr. Robert Knight’s outstanding piece in the Daytona Beach News-Journal, “Building a springs restoration road map.”

Dr. Knight is the director of the Howard T. Odum Florida Springs Institute, a not-for-profit research organization focused on improving our understanding of springs ecology and fostering the development of science-based education and management actions needed to restore and protect springs throughout Florida.

Suffice it to say, Dr. Knight is no lightweight – he’s been studying the ecology and hydrology of Florida’s aquifer for over 35-years.

The crux of his message: Florida’s springs are dying due to excessive development and lax enforcement of environmental laws, and this train wreck can only be stopped by the coordinated efforts of the concerned public and state officials.”

In my view, our current “state officials” have created an environment where abject avarice rules the day, and our regulatory agencies have been neutered down to mere rubber stamps – if not blatant co-conspirators – for facilitating environmental crimes by well-connected developers.

We live in a place where scumbags like John Miklos – the uber-powerful chairman of the St. John’s River Water Management District’s governing board – you know, the very watchdog charged with protecting our water supply – can openly sell both his soul, and his huge influence, by representing private clients of his obscene “environmental consultancy” in front of the very agency he is sworn to oversee.

It is beyond ludicrous – its criminal – and the City of DeBary’s recent attempt to surreptitiously acquire and develop the Gemini Springs Annex is a shining local example of how, and why, this environmental thuggery has become so prevalent in Florida.

According to Dr. Knights piece, during a recent symposium on issues adversely affecting our springs, former employees of the state’s environmental agencies made it clear that the current leadership, both in Tallahassee and the water management districts, cannot be relied upon to enforce existing environmental laws intended to protect springs. “Political pressure to accelerate development is just too great for agency staff to oppose.”

I think that sums it up.

If you think Governor Rick Scott gives two-shits, you’re fooling yourself – he’s the poster boy for this gross form of quid pro quo corruption – a reptilian asshole with no qualms about selling the whole damn state to anyone who throws a buck in his direction.

Governor Scott and his wealthy cronies will couch it as “economic development” (our state’s code word for open graft, political corruption and ethical morbidity) but he knows as well as you do that it’s common thievery.

As most of you know, I’m not an optimist.  In fact, I am dark and brooding.  Most people can’t be around that level of gloom for very long, and I have come to understand and accept that.

But if you seek the truth, it is necessary to take the self-protective blinders off.

I am convinced that our system of governance in Florida has transmogrified into an open kleptocracy – a Turkish Bazaar where big money and corporate oligarchs rule and political influence is bought and sold to the highest bidder.

However, it appears that Dr. Knight believes our priceless natural springs can still be saved from total destruction.

He trusts that a “knowledgeable and concerned public” still has the power to counteract what he so aptly describes as “the seemingly invincible influence of dark money.”

I hope to God he’s right.

I encourage everyone to take a moment to sign the petition for “Floridian’s Clean Water Declaration Campaign.”

This grassroots effort is committed to the simple premise that the people of Florida have an inalienable right to:

Clean drinking water whether that water is drawn from public sources or private wells.

Safe lakes, streams, springs, rivers, canals and coastal waters for swimming and fishing.

Protection from water pollution and its effects.

Know the sources of pollution that threaten Florida’s waters.

Protection from water privatization and its effects.

Abundant water for drinking, fishing and recreation.

And that the people of Florida, the state government, and the industries that benefit from Florida’s natural resources have the responsibility to:

Stop pollution at its source rather than allowing it to enter our waters.

Protect Florida’s waters, as well as the people who depend on them, from over-consumption and privatization.

Protect the natural environment which is critical to the health of Florida’s people, wildlife and economy.

Provide clean water for future generations.

Unfortunately, we live in a strange time and place where our elected officials – and the regulatory agents who are sworn to protect our precious natural resources – blatantly steal from those they are sworn to serve, while federal officials in a position to do something about it stand idle.

As Dr. Knight suggests – it really is up to us.

In my view, joining quality efforts like the Floridian’s Clean Water Declaration campaign is a thumb in the eye – a proud middle-finger to the face – of powerful greed-hogs and corrupt politicians.

Please find the petition here:  We Want Clean Water



Volusia Politics: Is coleslaw wrestling really what we need right now?

As Volusia and Flagler County residents continue the arduous process of digging out following the vicious onslaught of Hurricane Matthew, many in our community have differing opinions on whether the annual bacchanalia of Biketoberfest should be cancelled, or welcomed.

The answer is – you’re both right.

I agree with those who argue that adding 100,000 motorcycles to this witch’s brew of downed power lines, rotting debris piles, sporadic electricity, twisted signs and awnings, and large sections of roadway that are still in ruins.

As the Daytona Beach News-Journal’s Eileen Zaffiro-Kean so insightfully pointed out, Biketoberfest is all about two-wheeled fun on the roads, and some intersections still don’t have functioning lights.”

Not to mention the privations of friends and family who have been displaced, or those living primitively without power, hot showers, or the ability to refrigerate food or prepare meals – especially the elderly and infirm.

Earlier this week, in the immediate aftermath of the storm, I saw a pack of early-bird bikers from Ontario rolling two abreast on A-1-A, slowing down to sight-see, as several out-of-state utility crews trailed behind them in a valiant attempt to restore power to weary residents.

My blood boiled – not at the bikers, they planned a vacation and here they are.  I get it.

I was angry at the abject stupidity of the Daytona Beach Area Convention & Visitors Bureau who failed to see the wisdom in cancelling or postponing an event that requires massive and intensive government resources from east Volusia municipalities and the sheriff’s office – police, fire, EMS, code enforcement, traffic control, permitting, etc., etc. – while our citizens are still in shock; still reeling and cleaning-up from the devastating effects of a Category 3 storm.

It’s almost heartless.  Even cruel.

Putting the wants and desires of those who stand to benefit financially from this annual event ahead of the humanitarian needs and personal convenience of struggling residents is beyond shocking – but it best epitomizes how we do things here on the “Fun Coast.”

But then I consider the other side of the argument.

For years we have allowed our elected and appointed officials – at the direction and urging of their uber-wealthy handlers – to cobble together a fragile, one-dimensional economy based almost completely on the uncertainty and instability of various “special events.”

It’s bikes, beer, and automobile racing.

I understand when that is all you have going for you – the difference between feeding your family or not – it’s important to take advantage of these limited opportunities when you can.

As I’ve said before, our county government has become a plutocracy – ruled exclusively by oligarchs – who know that any form of economic progress or expansion will diminish their influence and span of control.

They know the masses can only be controlled if you keep them hungry.

That’s equally heartless.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record – our area needs deep and comprehensive revitalization with an emphasis on rebuilding our broken tourism industry, stabilizing our governance and leadership, and initiating massive reform of our almost criminal corporate welfare scheme.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, many areas of Volusia County stand at the crossroad of opportunity and transformation.

The third leg of that stool is strategic vision.

In short, now is the time to foster an environment that will attract outside investment and create diverse opportunities – not just those that benefit the well-connected few.

Whether or not our elected officials have the foresight and strength of character to seize the moment without a laser focus on lining their pockets, and those of their friends, remains to be seen.

In my view, now is the time to begin building a local economy that isn’t completely reliant on biker rallies, service jobs, and the largess of a few Machiavellian millionaires with personal profit motives.




The Debacle in DeBary: After the Circus

“I remain just one thing, and one thing only, and that is a clown.  It places me on a far higher plane than any politician.”

–Charlie Chaplin

By any measure, we are living in strange times.

News reports from around the nation continue to document the bizarre phenomenon of people dressing in creepy clown maquillage and loitering ominously in residential areas, wooded lots and urban downtown’s, generally making folks uneasy and scaring the bejesus out of small children.

(Given the times they are growing up in, I really didn’t think there was anything that could frighten kids anymore. . .)

In true American fashion, now legitimate clowns are taking it squarely on their big red noses as business tapers off on the children’s birthday party circuit.

As the “Killer Clown” hysteria continues to build, some professional Klumpys and Bozos have taken to staging “Clown Lives Matter” marches in major metropolitan areas.

Who thought we would ever see Ringling Brothers/Barnum and Bailey join the professional victim set?

Could riots be next?  Wild bands of rainbow-haired, harlequin-wearing circus performers piling out of clown cars, en masse, blocking traffic by juggling cigar boxes in intersections and throwing buckets of confetti at stone faced, armor-clad police officers?

Don’t get me wrong, I understand the concept of a performer covering one’s true identity and pretending to be something you’re not – I’ve done it for years.

After all, over-the-top carnival spectacles and the ludicrous pageantry of the circus is alive and well in the halls of governments all over Volusia County.

But let’s face it – when it comes to creepy clowns masquerading as public officials, the City of DeBary takes the pie squarely in the face.

Last week, as we collectively prepared for the approach of Hurricane Matthew, I caught a blurb in the Daytona Beach News-Journal reporting yet another attempt by the Fraudulent Four to kick DeBary’s duly elected Mayor Clint Johnson while he’s down.

In a scene that could only be acted out by the krazy klown troop at DeBary City Hall, the remaining members of the city council – you know, those who haven’t yet been cannibalized by the others over petty political disagreements and personality clashes – voted to allow the ethically crippled Interim City Manager Ron McLemore to march down to the State Attorney’s Office and file criminal charges against Mayor Johnson if he fails to turnover certain records that the council wants to get their hands on.

That’s the same State Attorney’s Office that is actively investigating the actions of former City Manager Dan Parrott, certain city staffers, and the Fraudulent Four on potential public records violations.

It’s part of the city’s continuing nutso strategy – no doubt dreamt-up by their dirty-handed accomplice and city attorney Kurt Ardaman – of “admit nothing, deny everything, make counter-accusations.”

Unfortunately, as history has proven time-and-again, that dubious plan only works for a little while.

Look, it is time for DeBary officials to come to the sobering realization that D.B. Cooper got away with it because he acted alone.  No collusion lasts beyond the first round of interrogations.

Trust me.

(Just for the record – I’m not a criminal defense lawyer, but I suspect it is time to start cooperating with investigators.  Better to be identified as an unindicted co-conspirator than go down with the rest of the rabble.  Right, Lita?)

In Clint Johnson’s inimitable style, when pressed for the records, he responded with an invoice to the City of DeBary demanding over $3,000.00 in reimbursement for “extensive use of information technology and a great deal of clerical or supervisory time.”

Tit for Tat.

Just like when the city’s sniveling public records manager, Eric Frankton, submitted an outlandish bill for some $17,000.00 in response to attorney Doug Daniel’s request for records in Mayor Johnson’s defense.

So, in true DeBary form, the council hired yet another Fishback Dominick attorney, Lance King, to send Mr. Daniels a blowhard opinion that Johnson’s obviously facetious demand for payment is different than a request for public records where fees are statutorily authorized.

You might remember that Lance King is the same law partner of Kurt Ardaman who carted off $4,280.00 in taxpayer dollars in the lead-up to Mayor Johnson’s ridiculous “forfeiture hearing.”

Anyone care to guess what Counselor King made on this latest make-work, cut-and-paste project?

I don’t make this stuff up folks.

(Isn’t there an alarm that sounds at the Florida Bar whenever a small community is being actively raped by a series of predatory Winter Park law firms?  If not, maybe they should get one budgeted for the good of what remains of the legal profession’s reputation.)

As usual, Mr. Daniels was forced to point out the patently obvious to council members, and their cash-bloated legal representatives, when he advised that the city assessing costs to Mayor Johnson’s requests when he was an elected official is just as wrong as Johnson charging for records.

“Clint was making the point that it was wrong,” Daniels said.

No kidding.

As I’ve said before, the Office of the State Attorney does some of their best work at the nexus of politics and criminal conduct.  They have the unique ability to sort the wheat from the chaff.

I have no doubt State Attorney R. J. Larizza and his smart staff will see Mr. McLemore skulking into the office from a mile away.  They have seen it all before, and are not easily fooled.

In his best Emmett Kelly’s “Weary Willie” act, Council Member Rick Dwyer said, “We just want to bring closure,” regarding this raging shit-storm that has haunted this besieged community like a golem for months.

From the painfully obvious column: Mr. Dwyer and his fellow tragic figures on the DeBary City Council are living in some weird parallel universe where no one is held accountable for their actions – a cirque de l’absurde – where the deranged and openly exposed illusionists still desperately want you to believe their act is real.

The fact is, the Big Top is about to come down in DeBary.  And when the make-up is removed and the manure swept away, the good citizens of DeBary will be left with the realization that, in the end, this very expensive and elaborately staged farce really was on them after all.










Hurricane Matthew: Passing the Baton

For those of us who live in Florida, impending weather disasters cause extreme stress as we anxiously go through our own mental checklists.

Is my home protected?  Are family members vulnerable to harm, and what can I do to mitigate the threats?   Have we prepared for what comes next?

Am I up to the test?

During the approach of major Hurricane Matthew – at one point a Category 4 monster with the potential for catastrophic destruction and extreme loss of life – I had a conversation with a fellow retired law enforcement colleague who noted that this was the day we had trained for our entire lives.

He was right.

For as long as I can remember I have been involved in public safety.

As a young boy I joined the Police Explorer’s, a wonderful values-based program that imparts the important traditions of the police service – honor, integrity and dedication – to impressionable young people.  It also allows an all-important personal interaction between law enforcement officers and kids in the community as they teach basic skills such as traffic stops, crime scene investigation, criminal law, and emergency first aid measures.

I suppose this program was the genesis of a career that would last over 33 years now.

At 19 years old, I enlisted in the United States Army Reserve and completed basic training and Military Police School at Fort McClellan, Alabama – the beautifully set, but controversial former home of the Army’s chemical warfare school – and current home to what is believed to be one of the largest concentration of environmental contamination in the country.

In my view, the United States Army’s Military Police School provides the finest basic law enforcement training in the world.  Those who graduate from this physically and mentally demanding course leave with a variety of skills, but the one thing they can do better than anyone else is traffic direction and control.

Countless hours are devoted to imparting the art, skill and logistics of moving large volumes of vehicular traffic by hand.  An MP buck private with a brass whistle and a pair of white cotton gloves can take over any intersection in the world and move traffic more effectively and efficiently than any computerized signaling system known to man.

At age 22, I was sponsored to attend Basic Law Enforcement Recruit Training at Daytona Beach Community College and subsequently hired as a sworn officer by the Holly Hill Police Department.

As my career progressed, I was promoted through the ranks to positions of increasing responsibility and I have hundreds of interesting “war stories” and funny anecdotes that get taller and more fabulous with each telling.

With each assignment, I realized that beyond protecting and serving a community, the real work of a law enforcement agency is crisis management.  We show up on the worst day of your life and try, in some small way, to make things better.

That’s an extremely tall task – and because most of the ‘problem solving’ arrows in our quiver consist of taking someone to jail – we’re often misunderstood, if not openly maligned.

In August 1992, I was deployed to South Florida under state mutual aid agreements in support of recovery efforts in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Andrew.  I led a group of five officers assigned to the Liberty City area of Northwest Dade County.

It was during this important work that I first became interested in the command and control strategies of emergency management operations – a fascinating and highly dynamic function that combines a variety of skills across the public safety spectrum.

In 1996, I was accepted to the prestigious Federal Bureau of Investigation’s National Academy at Quantico, Virginia.  The National Academy prides itself on admitting only the top one-half of one percent of law enforcement officers internationally by nomination.

How I was accepted to this elite program can only be explained as a clerical error – regardless, it remains a mystery.

The National Academy allowed me to work and train with colleagues from around the world on issues of great importance.  The closer we became, the clearer it was that police officers the world over face essentially the same basic issues. (Through a foreign colleague, I also learned that the enhanced interrogation techniques used on suspected kidnappers in the Philippines are very different than those we employ in the United States. . .)

Later in my career I was fortunate to attend the Department of Homeland Security/FEMA National Emergency Training Center at Emmetsburg, Maryland.  An extraordinary campus located near beautiful Catoctin Mountain and the Presidential Retreat at Camp David.

This incredibly advanced training environment provides first responders, emergency managers, elected officials and tribal governments the opportunity to learn and exercise state-of-the-art disaster management and response techniques.

I continued to study the emergency management discipline and ultimately earned the FEMA Advanced Career Development Certificate through the Emergency Management Institute.

Studying techniques in a controlled environment is one thing – putting them to practical use is something else.

I had the opportunity to respond to a variety of natural disasters over the years, including the 1998 Florida Fire Storms; then responsibility for commanding law enforcement operations during the 2004 Atlantic Hurricane Season, which resulted in three Presidential disaster declarations in two months.

I also had the great honor of serving as Chairman of the Volusia/Flagler Police Chief’s Associations Standardized Emergency Management Protocol Committee for multi-jurisdictional incident command.

During the City of Holly Hill’s response to unprecedented flooding in May 2009 – a disaster that resulted in yet another Presidential disaster declaration – I was assigned as Incident Commander with additional responsibility for logistical planning and operational support for a regional FEMA Disaster Recovery Center.

Later, I was appointed as Chief of Police and also served as the City’s Emergency Management Coordinator with responsibility for the development and maintenance of response, contingency, and continuity of operations plans and the strategic command and control of emergency response and recovery operations.

Based upon this training and operational experience, I became eligible for the Florida Professional Emergency Manager designation through the Florida Emergency Preparedness Association – a title that requires compilation of an exhaustive peer-reviewed training and operational portfolio.

The point of this weird resume review is to show you that the City of Holly Hill spent a ton of time and money to provide me with a solid base of knowledge to best serve the citizens of my community during mass threats to their safety.

I never forgot that – and I never will.

Although I retired as Chief of Police in the spring of 2014, I was very honored to remain active with the agency as a Reserve Police Officer, a sworn position that requires I maintain the same training and certifications as all full-time personnel.

So, when a Category 4 buzz saw was barreling down on the community that provided me with literally everything I have, or ever will have, I knew where I would be for the duration of the storm.

I wanted desperately for everyone to be safe.  I wanted the community to survive what could have been a devastating blow to life and property – and most of all, I wanted to know that the team I left behind when I retired was up to the task of serving and protecting during the worst-of-the-worst.

During the response to Hurricane Matthew, I was honored to serve in the field providing operational support and law enforcement services before, during, and immediately after the storm.

I learned a lot about myself – mostly that I’m not a young officer anymore, in more ways than one.

But the most important thing I learned is that when they were tested to the maximum – the very imminent threat of a major Category 3 hurricane less than 100 miles away – the administration and staff of the City of Holly Hill performed with incredible dedication and perseverance to provide second-to-none emergency response and recovery operations.

Anytime you relinquish control of something you care deeply about, you have a lingering worry that perhaps the “new” person in charge won’t pay as much attention as you did.

Those fears were immediately and forever purged from my mind when I observed the incredible leadership and stability under pressure demonstrated by Holly Hill Police Chief Stephen Aldrich, Deputy Chief Jeffrey Miller, Lieutenant Chris Yates, and Fire Chief James Bland.

They conducted themselves as true professionals and provided outstanding command and control of emergency operations during dangerous and difficult conditions.

Most important, the courageous first responders of the Holly Hill Police and Fire Department put themselves in harm’s way, staying out in the elements responding to calls for service far beyond what was safe.  They are incredibly inspiring and remain my personal heroes.

In addition, the unsung crews of the Public Works Department were at their very best, and quite literally prevented catastrophe on several occasions under the expert guidance of Director Mark Juliano.

I also want to mention the extraordinary leadership of City Manager Joe Forte – a former fire chief who so adroitly handled the comprehensive management of both city government and emergency operations with such incredible precision and professionalism.

To say that I am proud of Mr. Forte’s contributions to the community is an understatement, and I am so blessed to call him my friend.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that somewhere during 32-sleepless hours of working with these professionals among the howling wind, destruction and torrential rain, I was finally able to mentally pass the baton – to stop worrying – and come to the realization that the young men and women I left in charge when I retired are more capable, adept and mentally equipped than I ever was.

These fine men and women more than passed the ultimate test – and they have earned my enduring respect and admiration.

I cannot tell you how proud I am of these incredible professionals.

God bless all first responders, and those who serve in the center of the maelstrom every day to ensure that others may live.


Photo Credit: The Daytona Beach News-Journal


Hurricane Matthew: Preparation is the Key

Here in coastal northeast Florida, we face the potentially devastating effects of Hurricane Matthew beginning as early as tomorrow evening.  Rushing your personal hurricane preparedness measures to conclusion is extremely important.

During my professional career, I received the Florida Professional Emergency Manager designation and have served as incident commander for response and recovery operations during three hurricanes and unprecedented flooding in eastern Volusia County.

As much as I harp on the foibles of government – emergency management is something our local, county and state officials do extremely well.  Please stay tuned to local media outlets for official information regarding potential evacuations and other lifesaving preparedness measures.

Remember – it is never too early to evacuate if you live on the barrier island or in flood prone areas.  In fact, leaving before evacuation orders are issued can help you avoid heavy traffic congestion and long delays.

Please remember the Five P’s of Evacuation:


Consider the needs of each member of your family – especially young children and persons with special needs.  Pets are family too – make sure your furry friends evacuate safely with you.  Many shelters accept pets – please remember shot records, leashes, pet food and bowls.    


Prescriptions, with dosages; medicines; medical equipment; batteries or power cords; eyeglasses; and hearing aids.   


Important papers and documents (including hard copies and/or electronic copies saved on external hard drives or thumb drives.)

Personal Needs:

Personal needs – such as clothes, food, water, first-aid kits, cash, phones and electronics chargers – and items for people with disabilities, children, older adults and those with limited English proficiency.  Pet food and bowls.        

Priceless Items:

Priceless items, including a few pictures, irreplaceable mementos, and extremely valuable items.

When you return:

Only return home when authorities say that it is safe to do so.

If your home sustained structural damage – do not enter – and avoid entering any structure that is surrounded by flood water.

Never touch downed electrical lines or damaged equipment or appliances until you are certain that utilities have been shut off.

Never use lanterns, torches, open flame or matches to examine damaged buildings – always use flashlights and keep extra batteries available.

Carbon monoxide kills. Use a generator or other gasoline-powered machine ONLY outdoors and away from windows so fumes do not get inside. The same goes for camping stoves. Fumes from charcoal are also deadly; cook with charcoal ONLY outdoors.

Avoid wading in floodwater, which may be contaminated with oil, gasoline, or raw sewage.

Watch for dangerous debris (e.g., broken glass, metal fragments), dead animals, or venomous snakes in floodwaters.

Before walking through debris, check for hidden dangers.

Underground or downed power lines may electrically charge the water.

Care for yourself and each other:

Look for signs of depression or anxiety related to this experience, such as feeling physically and mentally drained; having difficulty making decisions or staying focused; becoming easily frustrated on a more frequent basis; feeling tired, sad, numb, lonely, or worried; or experiencing changes in appetite or sleep patterns. After the storm, seek help from local mental health providers if you detect these signs in yourself or others.

Most of all, remain calm and help yourself, your family, and your neighbors prepare for this potentially catastrophic weather event.

If you live on the coast – or in an area prone to flooding – consider evacuating now.

Getting to a shelter just a few miles inland can make a big difference.

Remember – we will get through this together.

God Bless.