One of life’s great accomplishments is the ability to look back on a career of service – public or private – and know that you did your best, tried hard, and made a positive contribution to your industry or community.
It is the very essence of personal satisfaction and self-actualization.
One of the great privileges in my life was the honor of serving others while working with some of the most wonderful people in the world.
Now, I would be lying if I said each of my 31-years in government service was smooth sailing.
Like every career, periodically dark clouds form, honest mistakes are made, or situations conspire to make for tough times. Sorting through these humps and bumps makes you stronger, and the sense of pride that comes from working together to find creative solutions and overcome difficulties is the best team builder I know.
During my working years, I was extremely fortunate to have some wonderful mentors enter my path who inspired me to great things – people who taught by example – and created a positive and supportive environment.
They were also very forgiving of my stupid mistakes – the best, but most expensive, form of experiential learning there is.
I have also had the displeasure of working for some of the most worthless human scum ever to insinuate themselves into the civil service. Tyrants and confidence artists who lowered the ethical bar just by their very presence – liars, cheats and duplicitous assholes – who caused more damage and abject destruction than an iron wrecking ball.
For some reason, government service tends to attract certain types of people.
There are the overwhelming majority who dedicate themselves to a cause greater than their own self-interest and work hard to serve their constituents with fairness and compassion.
Unfortunately, there are also bureaucratic sycophants and incompetent shit-heels – flim-flam masters with a good line of bullshit – and treacherous turds who burrow into a public organization like a parasitic tick and protect their position with political favors and mercurial situational ethics.
When administrators are successful in ferreting out corrupt oddballs or malcontents with a destructive agenda – these miscreants often simply pick up and move along to another lucrative position with yet another government entity – as if nothing ever happened.
This is especially true with city and county managers – who seem to have more professional lives than a degenerate ally cat.
I have followed the disturbing allegations of gender and race-based discrimination and retaliation by the City of Daytona Beach.
Given my experience, I understand the maneuvers and mentalities at play – and in my view, City Manager Jim Chisholm has some serious problems at City Hall.
Is there an institutionalized culture of sexual harassment and racial discrimination in certain municipal departments?
I don’t know, but there are rumblings that more victims may be coming forward soon.
If half of what has been reported in the press is accurate, it is past time for a fundamental change in the organization’s leadership and values.
For instance, in 2014, Sonja Wiles – a 23-year career public servant with an exemplary record – filed credible charges of sexual harassment against former City Architect James Hanis – claims that we’re told were later sustained by an internal investigation.
Interestingly, in his resignation letter, Hanis said he was leaving after accomplishing everything he wanted to in his 10-years as city architect – apparently without ever accepting responsibility for the actions that led to his departure.
In my view, the fact that such claims were accepted by Mr. Chisholm in a formal letter of resignation – a document that remains part of the public record – speaks volumes.
In addition, Wiles also filed harassment charges against then deputy city manager – and current City of DeBary interim city manager – Ron McLemore.
According to a December 2015 article by the Daytona Beach News-Journal, disturbingly entitled, “Disgruntled employees file harassment, discrimination complaints at Daytona City Hall,” reporter Eileen Zaffiro-Kean, wrote:
“McLemore resigned before an investigation got underway, according to city records.”
Like Hanis, McLemore was allowed to resign in February 2016, claiming that he planned to retire the following month anyway.
“Yawn. Nothing to see here, folks. Just taking up the old rocking chair a few weeks early, that’s all. . .”
After his self-described retirement, McLemore went to work for the City of Cocoa Beach – and later, the City of DeBary.
Unfortunately, things didn’t work out as well for Ms. Wiles.
She was summarily terminated by Mr. Chisholm after she filed a third complaint of racial animus by a Daytona Beach city official. An in-house human resources investigation found that Wiles “falsely and maliciously” accused the staff member leading to his resignation.
Later, an “independent” outside investigator – hired by the City of Daytona Beach – apparently marginalized Ms. Wiles and her previously sustained claims even further.
Ms. Wiles has filed suit, claiming that her termination was retaliation, and the City of Daytona Beach has denied any wrongdoing.
A judge will decide.
I am proud of Ms. Wiles for standing up for herself – and others who may be similarly situated.
Doing the right thing takes a lot of guts.
Which brings me to the matter at hand.
Last summer, during the shit-storm of political corruption and abject greed that overtook DeBary City Hall like a filthy fog – the terribly fractured city commission voted unanimously to hire Mr. McLemore as interim city manager.
As I recall, only the duly-elected Mayor, Clint Johnson, had reservations – but agreed to go-along in the interest of building “consensus.”
Well, I think Mayor Johnson would agree that strategy didn’t work out so well.
McLemore was hailed as a “clean-up man” who, unfortunately, turned out to be just another dimwitted ham-n-egger with malleable loyalties.
In the lead-up to his appointment, I thought the rather relaxed Q-&-A between McLemore and the commission, although sloppy in form, was rather cathartic for an elected body wracked by brutal dysfunction, criminal investigations, and the unholy collusions of disgraced former city manager Dan Parrott and others in positions of trust.
Then, things got muddy.
When asked directly by DeBary officials to explain the allegations of sexual harassment during his tenure with Daytona Beach, McLemore told the rubes on the city commission that he had been ‘exonerated’ by an investigation – then, in my view, re-offended by stating publicly, “I was very disappointed,” he said of the issue. “It hurt because I really tried to help this person…. That’s probably all I can say right now other than the fact that we went through the process, the allegations were looked at in detail by a third-party investigation.”
More recently, McLemore stated publicly in the News-Journal that Ms. Wiles’ claims are “unconscionable lies” – crowing that he is “deeply saddened by the degree of erroneous and inaccurate claims in the allegations.”
I suspect Ms. Wiles might have something to say about that.
In my mind, the question remains, did Ron McLemore actively participate in Daytona Beach’s “investigation” of Ms. Wile’s complaints following his resignation?
Was he, in fact, personally ‘exonerated’ of the charges as he claims?
And what, if any, substantive background investigation was performed by the City of DeBary prior to McLemore’s employment to the community’s most powerful office?
After all, DeBary has more high-end lawyers on the payroll than most Fortune 500 companies – did at least one of them think to dig into candidate McLemore’s history and qualifications – you know, actually explore these rather serious formal allegations that came almost immediately before his “retirement” – or did they just accept his homespun answers at face value?
Good questions, huh?
In my view, the citizens of Daytona Beach – and the City of DeBary – deserve answers.
They also deserve better.
2 thoughts on “What do DeBary and Daytona Beach have in common?”
Thank you, Mark, you hit that nail on the head, and yes, we do deserve better here in DeBary.
I have known Sonja Wiles for close to 20 years. She was an outstanding municipal employee. She gets tossd out the door by these recycled cruds who jump from one municipality to another. Mark Barker, thank you for standing tall for Ms. Wiles here. Let me be perfectly clear: I will take your lead here soon with my brand of award-winning journalism: Even as James Hanis lays low, the volume will be turned up as they are brought into the Sunshine…