There are a lot of things about government that don’t quite make sense.
That’s why most rational people just ignore it.
Trying to figure out the moves and motivations of the Volusia County Council is like buying a factory reject jigsaw puzzle – you’re just setting yourself up for frustration.
I’ve often equated Volusia to a Shadow Government, where nothing is truly as it seems.
A dark, mysterious place where power was taken from the people long ago and consolidated in the hands of a supreme being – the county manager.
For instance, the Office of Sheriff – a person We, The People elect every four-years to serve as our county’s chief law enforcement officer. A constitutionally established office with the power to enforce state law and county ordinances, who acts as the Executive Officer of the court system, serving process and enforcing orders.
At least that’s what most people think they voted for.
Although the constitution requires that each county elect a sheriff, it also allows counties with a home rule charter approved by the electorate to eliminate, transfer, or substantially alter the duties of the office.
When the Volusia County charter was established by special law in 1970, the Office of Sheriff was abolished – along with the other traditional constitutional offices of tax collector, property appraiser, supervisor of elections and clerk of the circuit court – and their power and duties were transferred to new charter offices.
The duties of sheriff were transferred to, and divided between, the department of public safety and the department of corrections.
Our duly elected sheriff is essentially a de facto elected department head – technically classified as the Director of the Department of Public Safety under the direct control of the County Manager.
The State of Florida is considering legislation which would allow voters to return constitutional sovereignty and traditional authority to the Office of Sheriff in charter counties.
Our county manager, Little Jimmy Dinneen, wants no part of it – and he’s willing to lie to you, me and our elected officials – and spend our hard-earned tax dollars – to retain his Napoleonic power over his Kingdom in Deland.
That shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Earlier this month, during a meeting of the Volusia County Council, Jim Dinneen and his bootlicking toady, county attorney Dan Eckert – in an open display of premeditated treachery – orchestrated a vote to allow Dinneen and his staff to work with the county’s highly-paid lobbying firm to exclude Volusia County from the pending legislation on the dubious grounds of protecting home rule and “the right of the people to vote.”
Considering Mr. Eckert spent most of last year suing his constituents with their own tax dollars specifically to prevent their right to vote.
Interestingly, the backroom work to exclude Volusia County from the sheriff’s legislation began in Tallahassee a week before the County Council even considered it.
Our elected officials acted without consulting – or even notifying – Sheriff Chitwood, soliciting his input, or announcing their intentions on the public agenda.
Still think your county council wants or needs your involvement in your government?
So much for those haughty campaign promises, huh?
Without undertaking any independent review of the proposed legislation – Ed Kelley, that doddering fool we elected to the important role of Chairman – and the other stuffed suits on the dais – voted unanimously to support Dinneen’s Machiavellian horseshit.
Unfortunately, we would later learn that this wasn’t the only bald-assed sleight-of-hand perpetrated by the County Manager during that fateful meeting.
This was the same session during which Jim Dinneen purposefully concealed vital information regarding the nearly $1-million-dollar purchase of a parcel of land fronting Main Street in the City of Daytona Beach from our elected officials.
In turn, our county council – the very people we elected to represent our interests – once again voted blindly, like the good little rubber stamps they are – before being excruciatingly exposed as pitiful victims of their own astonishing lack of preparation, political intuition or basic intelligence.
Last Friday, Sheriff Mike Chitwood did what those bought-and-paid-for cowards on the council dais couldn’t when he publicly called for Jim Dinneen to be fired.
In an incredibly pointed interview on local talk radio, Chitwood described Mr. Dinneen as a “disingenuous human being,” a “megalomaniac” and courageously warned us that it is time to give the county manager and county attorney’s offices an “enema.”
According to reporter Dustin Wyatt’s excellent overview in Sunday’s Daytona Beach News-Journal, Chitwood noted, “He (Dinneen) lies and misleads the council,” referencing the land deal situation: “How do you know he’s lying? His lips are moving.”
Truer words were never spoken.
The response from several members of the council was predictable – and exemplified how quickly the power brokers can circle-the-wagons when their cash cow is threatened.
Take Councilman “Sleepy” Pat Patterson’s mean-spirited admonition to a fellow elected official:
“If he’s unhappy with the way things are going,” Patterson said of Chitwood, “maybe he should resign.”
Asked why he didn’t so much as talk to Sheriff Chitwood before the recent council discussion, Patterson said: “It’s not all about Chitwood.
Apparently, it’s not about you and me either – you know, the people who overwhelmingly voted Mike Chitwood into office?
In my view, this building blood feud best exemplifies the depth to which our county government has been compromised by big money special interests who now control every aspect of the current administration.
Sheriff Chitwood is right – as our duly elected sheriff his constitutionally created office should be free of the bondage and dictatorship of a screw-job appointed official who is wholly controlled and protected by the shadow figures who manipulate government through massive campaign contributions and outsized personal influence.
Our home rule charter has many important benefits – but make no mistake, it is tailor made to permit powerful external forces to sway the system.
Why do you think the same faces appear on the Charter Review Commission time, and time, and time again?
Somewhere along the line, Jim Dinneen forgot the one irrefutable fact of public service: His power to administrate our county government is derived from the will and trust of the people – not a select few uber-wealthy puppet masters with a profit motive.
Perhaps more disturbing is the fact that Sheriff Chitwood – a man of proven integrity with the first set of fresh eyes we’ve had in years – is sounding the Klaxon on Little Jimmy’s micromanagement, strategic deception and unadulterated dishonesty – while our elected officials ignore the dire warnings and publicly chastise the messenger.
It’s how things are done in the Kingdom of the Strawman – a place where an appointed manager with no political accountability can publicly humiliate the people’s elected officials, openly obfuscate the facts, and completely alienate the democratic concept of public input and fair debate.
In my view, a partial repeal of the county charter to exempt the high office of sheriff from the tyrannical control of a foul ball like Jim Dinneen is both warranted and necessary.
And, despite the bleating and quibbling of our horribly compromised County Attorney, it is infinitely possible.
In the meantime, our elected officials can take the first important step to restore public trust by terminating Mr. Dinneen’s reign of abject incompetence and deceit.
We’ve had enough.
Only when this Little Caesar with a God complex has been removed from power can we begin the difficult process of rebuilding reputational confidence in those we have elected to represent our interests – and bring back fundamental trust in our terribly wounded system of governance.