There is an undeniable crisis in Volusia County government.
This week we got a remarkable glimpse at how our elected and appointed officials in the halls of power in DeLand react when that dysfunction is revealed – and it exposed the fact that self-preservation and political insulation are institutional instincts in an organizational culture that puts protection of the “system” over the needs of constituents every time.
Look, no person or group is perfect.
So long as the faults and frailties of human beings are part of a process – there will always be the possibility of legitimate error.
But there is a difference between an honest mistake and negligence in the often-difficult work of providing essential government services. In my experience, the people who pay for those services will often forgive things they can see themselves doing.
What they will never accept is abdication of responsibility and deflection of accountability by public officials who are paid handsomely to exhibit those important attributes of leadership.
When the Daytona Beach News-Journal reported on the abrupt resignation of Dr. Sara Zydowicz – the District 7 Medical Examiner who had been in office for just one-month before she resigned and penned a scathing critique of the substandard facilities and inadequate staffing she endured to the state regulatory committee which oversees this important service to the citizens of Florida – the Dinneen administration immediately began circling the wagons.
Within hours of the revelation, a virulent siege mindset spread like wildfire through the halls of the Thomas C. Kelly Administration Building. That happens in an organization that has had any creativity, elasticity or independent thought micromanaged out of it by an all-powerful autocrat.
Initially, Deputy County Manager George Recktenwald was selected to become the point man for a burgeoning scandal which sent shock-waves through a community.
In a weird performance that I have described as the most embarrassing digitally recorded interview of a sitting public official ever recorded – Mr. Recktenwald came off like a prototypical bureaucrat trying valiantly to save his own ass while protecting those above his paygrade who are ultimately responsible for the debacle.
This ugly custom will become known in government circles as being “Recktenwalded” – the practice of a senior manager being shoved between a rock and a hard place – sacrificed on the altar of public opinion – while County Manager Jim Dinneen sequestered himself behind closed doors with a coterie of like-types, all getting their sordid stories together while figuring a means to marginalize the messenger.
It happens so frequently these days that one can almost anticipate the process.
First, the news of yet another colossal gaffe is met by vehement denials by our elected officials on the Volusia County Council – lumps who have once again been caught red-faced – totally blindsided by the County Manager’s disaster du jour – followed closely by counter-accusations from county mouthpieces and middle-management.
Then, with the stench of lies heavy on the breeze – Mr. Dinneen conjures blatant falsehoods and uses political sleight-of-hand in a crass and cowardly attempt to discredit the whistleblower and sidestep personal culpability.
This charade is reprehensible – and must be utterly embarrassing for politically vulnerable council members – yet, they permit the same vignette to play out time-and-again.
It’s also getting tiresome.
Now, with the undeniable facts of the deplorable conditions at the Medical Examiner’s Office laid bare – those who were elected to represent our interests once again show their true colors, deny any direct knowledge of the issues leading to the crisis and seem to have a clairvoyant premonition of the findings of an “independent” outside auditor who was hand-selected by Mr. Dinneen.
How stupid do these hapless assholes think we are?
In the most bald-faced scam since, oh, last week, our doddering fool of a County Chair, Ed Kelley, and the patently compromised Jim Dinneen, would have us believe that a cursory review by Pasco County medical examiner, John Thogmartin – which apparently consisted of a walk-through of the morgue last Friday – will refute Dr. Z’s allegations and result in a glowing review of the county’s forensic services.
“I don’t think it’s dangerous or that it’s mismanaged,” said Dinneen, adding that he’d never heard any complaints from the doctor. “I want the third-party person to see realistically where we are and if there’s anything we are lacking, I will make sure it gets done.”
Of course, Kelley agreed with his boss – looking for all the world like a panting little lapdog desperately protecting his master.
“It won’t be anywhere close to what she wrote,” Kelley predicted. “Let’s just wait and see what the inspection says.”
How in the hell do these two buffoons know in advance what the result of Dr. Thogmartin’s audit will produce?
Unless. . .
Every thinking person knows that the fox simply cannot select and oversee an inspection of the henhouse – not if there is to be a modicum of credibility in the process – and God knows we could really use some transparency right now.
To add insult to injury, the third stooge – our own elected Rip Van Winkle, “Sleepy” Pat Patterson – took the opportunity to marginalize Dr. Zydowicz (the only soul in this sordid mess who had the personal and professional ethics to report this abject negligence to outside authority) saying that her complaint “damaged the county’s image.”
Note to Sleepy Pat: What remains of the “county’s image” couldn’t be marred more deeply with a 10-pound shit-hammer.
Inexplicably, Sleepy went on to exclaim in the newspaper, “I haven’t heard a single word or complaint about this until this story,” said Patterson, referring to a News-Journal report about the letter last week. “This whole thing boggles my mind because I haven’t heard any complaints. I think Dr. Z has tarnished us because of the way she handled this.” He also called The News-Journal’s story about the letter “bull—-.”
I’ll tell you what’s bullshit – sitting public officials vainly attempting to convince We, The People – the long-suffering taxpayers of Volusia County – that they didn’t know as early as 2015 when the ME lost professional accreditation that there were serious problems at the morgue, or 2017, when News-Journal reporter Dustin Wyatt wrote an eye-opening exposé which described the odor of decomposition wafting down an interior corridor, among other “challenges.”
Besides, “boggling” Sleepy Pat’s mind isn’t that difficult. . .
These lying sacks of shit should be ashamed of themselves – besmirching the reputation of a dedicated professional with the best interests of her constituents and subordinates at heart – as they work overtime to save their own sorry asses.
These craven assholes disgust me – and every truth-seeking resident of Volusia County who are sick and tired of being openly lied to by this bought-and-paid-for rabble.
In the News-Journal’s spot-on editorial, “No excuses on ME office,” the newspaper opined:
“Over the past three years, has nobody complained to a council member about the facility, and no one followed through? Chair Ed Kelley told Wyatt, “It was explained to me that (the morgue) wasn’t that bad.” He acknowledges that he did not request a tour of the facility to confirm that.”
“Perhaps the council has been putting too much faith in official sources.”
Gentle readers, when elected officials lose faith and confidence in their chief executive to administrate the essential services of our government – they are duty-bound to protect their constituents from further ineptitude and embarrassment.
That’s how the system – our venerated “home rule charter” form of government – is supposed to work.
No more excuses, cover-ups and tail-wagging-the-dog.
Jim Dinneen has once again been publicly exposed as an overpaid foul ball who deftly manages the County Council – but fails miserably in his sworn duties to effectively and efficiently oversee the important administrative and operational aspects of Volusia County government.
It is time for our elected representatives to act decisively – to once and for all demonstrate strong leadership – and jettison this weak link for the good of the herd.
It is past time for Little Jimmy to make his exit.