Defending the Indefensible in New Smyrna

There is an adage that says people can forgive what they can see themselves doing.  After all, we’re all human beings – subject to the same faults and foibles.

God knows I have my share.

Conversely, people cannot forgive that which is patently reprehensible.

For those who have been living on the dark side of the moon for the past decade, we live in an era where the very idea of privacy is as antiquated as the buggy whip.

In fact, literally everyone you meet on the street has the capability at hand to capture you and your environment on video – the good, the bad and the ugly of daily interactions – and then broadcast our every action or omission to the masses via social media.

How you are perceived by those anonymous masses will touch your life forever.

In many ways, cellphone video has become the Great Equalizer – especially when it comes to the people’s interaction with their government.  In police work, every officer worth his or her salt knows that their every word and move will be openly recorded by bystanders and posted on YouTube for later criticism.

In fact, it’s a key reason why the use of body-worn cameras has become so popular with law enforcement agencies throughout the nation.  Rather than capture evidence of misconduct – 9 times out of 10, these devices record mitigating evidence that confirms the officer’s version of events and exonerates them from false allegations.

Cameras don’t lie.

But they capture only one perspective in a three-dimensional environment, and we can never be sure of the exact context – you know, what happened just before or immediately after the camera was activated is known only to the participants.

That’s why I had second thoughts about opining on the growing uproar surrounding a 17-second video of New Smyrna City Manager Pam Brangaccio acting like an arrogant asshole in the hours following Hurricane Irma.

I just chalked it up as one of those, “it is what it is” unfortunate encounters during what was a stressful time for everyone.

Then, I read the Daytona Beach News-Journal’s article on the subject – which included Commissioner Judy Reiker’s defense of the indefensible – and I’m sure my reaction was much the same as yours.

This wasn’t an isolated incident at all.

This is clearly indicative of an organizational culture.

For those who have been experiencing 16th Century Florida without power for the past week – or occupied bringing your lives and livelihoods back to normal – here’s what went down:

Following the storm, Rev. Jeffrey Dove, the prominent pastor of Allen Chapel AME Church, sought permission from the City of New Smyrna for several area congregations to hold a community luncheon at the Babe James Center last Tuesday.

Initially, he was granted consent from Leisure Services Director Nancy Maddox.

Hours later, the Reverend Dove received a text message from an unidentified telephone number rescinding authorization for the meal.  It was later determined that City Manager Brangaccio had summarily commandeered the Babe James Center to host a lunch for city maintenance employees.

Confused as to why feeding public employees took precedence over, well – the public – Rev. Dove arrived at the community center and found Ms. Brangaccio – arms crossed/smirk fixed – standing in the doorway.

The Rev. Dove rightly took exception to the fact that residents were being denied access to cool air conditioning and a hot meal at a community center, to which Brangaccio replied – “It’s not the pastor’s center.  It’s my center” – to which Rev. Dove appropriately responded – “It’s the peoples center.  It ain’t your center.”  

 To make matters worse, when an off-camera voice reminds the City Manager that he pays taxes – Ms. Brangaccio openly challenges the resident with, “Sir, I don’t think you pay taxes.”

When those words escaped her mouth, Ms. Brangaccio exposed the operational values of the city’s administration that many would have preferred to keep hidden away.  It was, perhaps, the crudest, most brusque and openly humiliating public exchange I have ever witnessed between a municipal manager and an irate constituent.

(Notice I prefaced that with the word “public.”)

As news of the exchange between Dove and Brangaccio went “viral” – the City Manager wrote a memorandum (just ahead of a city commission meeting) apologizing for her “responses that were inappropriate,” blaming her boorish conduct on physical exhaustion after “38-hours” in the city’s emergency operations center.”

 Bullshit.

According to Brangaccio’s lukewarm mea culpa, her intent was to “provide a hot meal for 50 city maintenance employees.” 

During Wednesday’s commission meeting, Brangaccio gave a half-hearted attempt to make self-depreciating fun when she told the elected officials, “You all know I stepped in it pretty well around noontime Tuesday.  I’m quite the viral sensation – and not in a good way.”

Then – apparently not content to just have it on her shoes – Brangaccio got down on the floor and wallowed in it by offering the galactically stupid excuse that she “didn’t know she was being taped.”

 In other words, “if I had known a record was being made, I would never have exposed the real me – the super-arrogant asshole that denies homeless persons a hot meal, questions the motives of taxpaying citizens – and takes over community centers to put the needs of public employees in front of those who pay the bills.”

Look, I served in municipal government for over three-decades.  The City of New Smyrna has any number of non-public locations within the infrastructure of government that could have comfortably hosted 50 maintenance employees – especially after the Babe James Center had been reserved by faith-based organizations to feed exhausted residents and the homeless population.

I guess what added insult to injury was the fact that in the immediate aftermath – with hundreds of signatures on a petition to remove Brangaccio from office still wet on the paper, and hundreds more still legitimately offended by her treatment of those less fortunate – Commissioner Judy Reiker takes the low-road in defending the City Manager’s self-described “inappropriate” conduct in an open public meeting.

“To post something like that on social media, I feel, is unforgivable, particularly from someone who is a Christian and a pastor, because to ruin someone’s reputation that way is an abomination.”

Really?  An abomination?

Were you stuck in the head by flying debris, Judy?

For the record, Ms. Reiker, your painfully arrogant City Manager – the city’s chief executive – publicly berates a prominent pastor and several residents – to include a passel of homeless persons just looking for a hot meal – and the fact her disgusting conduct was captured for posterity and posted for her constituents to see her true colors is an “abomination”?

You cannot be serious?

Note to Commissioner Reiker:  Resign.

Take Brangaccio by the hand and just leave the building by the nearest side-door.

You have – in one colossally absurd statement – exposed yourself as a clueless asshole.  You just identified as part of the problem – and I guarantee the citizens of New Smyrna will make you part of the solution at the polls.

In my view, public apologies by influential public officials should come from the heart – not be watered-down with the stench of excuses and lame explanations – or ignorantly supported by elected officials who are supposed to hold the appointed powerful accountable.

The mark of a leader is how he or she conducts themselves in the heat of the fray, and Pam Brangaccio proved she just doesn’t measure up.

It’s easy to show strong leadership in fair winds and sunshine – it’s quite another to demonstrate strength of character, honor and compassion when the chips are down – in the immediate aftermath of a maelstrom that has affected everyone in your community – when you are mentally and physically exhausted.

That is when the true nature of the person – and their organization – is exposed.

 

 

 

 

16 thoughts on “Defending the Indefensible in New Smyrna

  1. City Manager Brangaccio could of just added a few chairs to a planned luncheon and been a hero to the homeless; instead, she showed her cold hearted disposition and should be shown the appropriate door to usher it out of New Smyrna polotics.

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    1. Yes, Pam should’ve added the chairs & tables necessary to accommodate everyone. & yes, Judy Reiker also misspoke. I just think asking for to people to resign because, like the rest of us, they acted like an ass or made a stupid statement, is far less effective in making the social changes that most of us agree we need! Like i posted earlier, maybe I’ve just acted like an ass so many times that it’s easier for me to forgive. What a fantastic lunch it would’ve been if all had been included!

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  2. Thank you for always giving great information. I enjoy reading real articles that don’t give a shit about politics and “feelings”. Keep up the fantastic work!

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  3. Just a thought, but why couldn’t everyone have eaten together, maintenance employees and the residence, I mean if the purpose was to feed people, why not break bread all together?

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    1. Exactly!! I can only imagine the seeds of unity that would’ve been planted! Let’s not miss our next opportunity to effect the emotional paradigm shift that could bring this community closer & stronger!

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  4. Jeez, and the City of New Smyrna Beach offers to throw a bar b que for the west side residents. Throw em some ribs and chicken to calm em down. How degrading. Pam and Judy got to go. Thanks Barker.

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  5. I agree that you are spot on! Thank you for bringing this to our attention. If these elected officials have these opinions of the less fortunate there must be many others here that voted for them. It seems like the time is right for the community to come together and have a discussion about race, homelessness and what other isms are here. Maybe Rev Dove could host it at his church and make sure flies are made so everyone knows about it. Sometimes it takes understanding by having a hard conversation. I have some ideas.

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  6. “didn’t know she was being taped.” Bullshit.
    The courts have consistently ruled there is no reasonable expectation of privacy in a public place. No notice is required. No permission is required. News photographers and TV videographers have been working that way for decades.
    The city manager and commissioner need to go.

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  7. The article first says that “residents” were being denied access to air conditioning and a hot meal.

    Then it says Reverend Dove had sought permission for several churches to hold a “community luncheon”.

    Neither of these things imply anything about homeless anyone, which is what some people were upset about

    Then the article starts talking about residents and the homeless.

    I still don’t understand the facts of what happened here, or who all was involved.

    Did Reverend Dove seek permission to feed the homeless, which is what I and most people have been led to believe in the posts on FB?

    Or as this article says, did Reverend Dove make arrangements for several churches to hold a “community luncheon”, which by implication agrees with the original statement about “residents”, as none of that implies homeless.

    I have been asking for Reverend Dove’s correspondence with the city and their response, as one post allegedly made by Reverend Dove said it included the city’s alleged response to him, but in fact it only contained a single partial incomplete sentence.

    Inspite of asking for it as it was supposed to have been posted, I have yet to see an actual full response, or even Reverend Dove’s request, or any correspondence.

    As far as I can tell, the city denied NO ONE a hot meal as their meal supposedly came with the Reverend in the form of donated pizzas, that the Reverend’s group had, and not that the city.

    Whether those pizzas were hot or cold doesn’t seem to me to be within the scope of the city’s power. AND the city manager was merely denying them entry to the building, not the ability to eat their pizza.

    Also, what exactly did the Reverend allegedly arrange with the city to do?

    It seems that every thing I have read about this incident is missing large amounts of information or contradictory information.

    As far as I can tell from the information I have read from this article and another two posted to Facebook is that the Reverend literally had NO arrangement with the city ahead of him coming to the community center with those people.

    And since the email or text correspondence in their entirety has not been posted in those places or any other place I am aware if, we do not know what actually was discussed between the city and Reverend Dove in the first place.

    My biggest concerns are contained in the unanswered questions in my mind, both above and below…

    Did Reverend Dove intentionally drag all those poor people – homeless or resident – down to the community center KNOWING AHEAD OF TIME the community center had been reserved by the other group, IN ORDER TO CREATE a situation he could then exploit for his own purposes?

    IF THAT IS WHAT HAPPENED, what kind of a person would use and manipulate other people for whatever reason, intentionally creating a situation to cause division and strife…

    Why?

    Perhaps to make themselves look like a social justice warrior when really all they are is a sneaky, devisive manipulator?

    And as if that were not bad enough, attempt to destroy another person’s job with their manipulation…?

    Looking at all the information, questions need to be asked to more people than any city employee, and certainly, until those questions are answered, no thought should be given to someone losing their job.

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  8. What’s wrong with this work? Just read the article and all the comments . I don’t believe any of you are “christians” . Read your own words ., you are sll just looking dor something to complain about. Guess none of you had enough damage or loss to appreciate what you do have . Shame on all of you including Reverend Dove . Shame on yall

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    1. Sue – I never claimed to be a good Christian. I’m an unrepentant sinner at best. But I do know right from wrong. In my view, turning away hungry people – homeless or otherwise from a community center – then questioning someone’s status as a resident or taxpayer (as a requisite for a hot meal) by a public employee paid with public funds just seemed, well, wrong.

      Thanks for taking the time to read – and for expressing your thoughtful opinion.

      Mark

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