“Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman.”
Justice Louis Brandeis
As a recovering government employee, I read and interpret things differently than others.
I suppose it’s much like an illusionist watching a magic show – when you know the mechanics of the tricks and understand how the practitioner manipulates reality for a desired outcome – it becomes an exercise in judging the performance, rather than being mystified by the magician’s sleight of hand.
As regular readers of this forum know, I have very little regard for elected and appointed public officials, or parasitic political insiders, who intentionally manipulate our sacred system of governance for their own self-interests.
Please understand, I’m not talking about honest mistakes.
Government has far too many moving parts to get it right every time. God knows I made my fair share of errors and omissions – episodes that still make me cringe when I think about them. But I always tried to keep my good call/bad call ratio at about 60-40 – and I was blessed with a very forgiving community who knew my heart was pure and in the right place.
The civil service is a hard dollar, even on a good day.
You take near constant criticism from carping boors like me, and everybody has a hard opinion on how you could have done things better, cheaper, more efficiently. The fact is, most public servants – and even some elected officials – are extremely hardworking, dedicated and very smart people who carry out their duties with a pure commitment to values-based service.
Unfortunately, on occasion, the stars align in some weird celestial improbability and you find yourself in a dark time and place where nothing makes sense. Up is down. Down is up. White is Black – and it seems like you’re watching a never ending game of “Can you top this?”
Of course, I’m talking about the Debacle in Debary – an avaricious shit-storm of controversy, human greed and base treachery set in a quaint riverside community in West Volusia.
The fetid stench of this horrific mess has left even hardened political observers queasy and off their feed.
In August, four members of the current city council completed the circuit wired months earlier by the misogynistic power-monger and personally disgraced former city manager Dan Parrott, when they voted unanimously to oust duly elected Mayor Clint Johnson.
You know the story. The ceremonial elected head of the community had very strong opinions on the myriad issues facing the City of DeBary – and to say he was outspoken is an understatement.
He frequently took to social media to vent his frustrations, air his thoughts and foster a useful dialog with his constituency.
The Mayor’s openness, limpidity, and personal commitment to the highest ideals of participatory governance flew in the face of a city administration that was actively attempting to hide the fact that they were engaged in a sleazy deal to develop 102-acres of sensitive conservation lands as part of a much larger transit-oriented development adjacent to the SunRail depot.
If they were successful, the right people stood to make a lot of money.
The city’s utter lack of transparency in that now exposed disaster has resulted in an active criminal investigation by the Office of the State Attorney and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement – complaints to the United States Attorney for the Middle District of Florida – and suspicions of abject quid pro quo corruption by the powerful chairman of the St. Johns River Water Management District’s governing board, the secret influence of mysterious developers, and the possible complicity of certain city staff members continue to swirl.
I’m not going to rehash it. It hurts my head, and besides, the circumstances of that screw-job are well established.
If you’ve been in a medically induced coma for the past several months, please come up to speed with the outstanding investigative reporting of the Daytona Beach News-Journal’s intrepid Dinah Voyes-Pulver – and you can find my goofy opinions on the topic here at Barker’s View.
Suffice it to say that things came to a head for Mayor Johnson when Dan Parrott and the depraved city attorney, Kurt Ardaman, cobbled together a list of self-described “charter violations” which, after many fits and starts, they prosecuted in a ridiculously orchestrated kangaroo court comprised of a hired-gun outside attorney (who did his best to keep his supper down) and the four remaining elected officials sitting in the supercilious role of judge, jury, executioner – and hypocritical co-conspirators.
At the end of the day, four ostensibly smart people openly voted to amputate the people’s duly elected mayor on the flimsy evidence of a few tweets and the warped “testimony” of the city’s pitiful records manager, Eric Frankton, and the congenitally corrupt TOD “marketing director,” Roger Van Auker.
It was the most bizarre tribunal ever witnessed in the annals of quasi-judicial shams – and the word “DeBary” will soon be adopted by Henry Campbell Black’s law dictionary as the unabridged legal definition of hypocrisy.
Now, this utterly farcical council has directed interim City Manager Ron McLemore (who is rapidly burrowing himself into this controversy like the sycophantic little Guinea worm he is) to contact the State Attorney regarding possible criminal charges against Mayor Johnson for his refusal to release records staffers and council members are seeking.
My God. These people have completely lost the capacity for shame. How much more of the taxpayer’s money are they willing to piss away to personally persecute and humiliate Clint Johnson?
But the worm is beginning to turn.
Last week Mayor Johnson’s attorney, the bright and aggressive Volusia County councilman Doug Daniels, filed an elegantly constructed Petition for Writ of Certiorari in Circuit Court seeking judicial review and reversal of this low-rent travesty.
In summary, Mr. Daniels rightly holds that:
“DeBary interpreted its charter prohibitions so broadly as to include speech routinely required of elected officials, speech necessary to make policy and hold the city staff accountable. It violated Johnson’s right to free speech under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution and his rights to due process and equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment. Perhaps worse, it made it yet more difficult for DeBary citizens to hold its troubled city government accountable.”
Just reading this restored my faith in the system. My mood has taken a drastic turn for the better.
It won’t be long now before an actual jurist has the opportunity to get their mind – and the law – around this rotten turd and reverse the damage to the extent possible.
These jabbering fools on the city council are about to learn that the whole dynamic of the game changes when the Piñata hits back.
The sad reality is that, when all is said and done, the citizens of DeBary will be left holding a crippling – and totally avoidable – bill for massive legal fees, as their treacherous city attorney lines his pockets, and those of his friends at select law firms on the tree lined streets of old Winter Park.
If anyone thinks this is over – hide and watch.
As Robert Burton said, “He who goes to the law takes a wolf by the ears” – a sage proverb the powers-that-be in DeBary are about to learn firsthand.
If nothing else, perhaps the good people of DeBary can forever use this catastrophe as the ne plus ultra example of how a criminally bent city manager, a few greed-crazed staff members, and a compromised and complicit council can change the soul of a once proud and progressive community forever.