Angels & Assholes for May 31, 2018

Hi, kids!

We’re a day early!

Sorry to spring it on you – but like the song says – everybody needs a little time away, and I’m travelling to the beautiful North Carolina Piedmont this morning – with a whoop-whoop stop on River Street in Savannah, Georgia – just to recharge the batteries.

Thanks for understanding!

What a week it’s been here on Florida’s Fun Coast, huh?

Before we get this hayride underway, I thought we might lighten things up with a round of the Halifax areas favorite pastime – a little game I like to call “What the Hell?”

 As always, I would like to cordially invite our friends at the Daytona Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Lodging and Hospitality Association of Volusia County and all our loyal fans over at the Regional Chamber of Commerce to play along!

Come on!  It’ll be Wide.  Open.  Fun!

 The rules are simple – study the photograph below and take a wild-ass guess if the scene depicted is:

A. Soviet-era panelki in some Eastern Bloc shithole?

B. The last days of a gang-encrusted mid-rise in Chicago’s Cabrini-Green housing project?

C. The first thing visitors to the World’s Most Famous Beach see when they hit the sand from the ISB beach ramp?

panelik 2

(Que the Jeopardy theme. . .)

Times up!

If you picked the hocked-out shell of another former resort hotel turned mold farm on Volusia’s premiere stretch of traffic-free beach, give yourself a Gold Star!

Wait?

Where is the “Happy days are here again, again!” prosperity they promised us would follow if we simply acquiesced to the desires of the “Rich & Powerful” and gave up our century-old heritage of beach driving?

For just $20.00 per day, you too can enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of a once grand strand of sand fronted by a long-suffering, down-at-the-heels beach community that’s slowly succumbed to the triple-whammy of blight, bureaucratic negligence and lack of strategic vision by those we have elected and appointed to represent our interests.

A shabby place where a select few wealthy insiders lavish hundreds of thousands of dollars on the political campaigns of more-of-the-same candidates who repay them with millions in public economic development funds and incentives while visitors – the one’s we spend millions to attract – are subjected to nightmares like this in our core tourist area.

If the Lodging and Hospitality Association want to know why they can no longer attract customers on Memorial Day weekend – trust me – it had nothing to do with the weather, or the “weak line-up” at the Country 500 hootenanny.

Listen up:  THE PRODUCT IS BECOMING REFRIED SHIT.

Despite what we are told by Evelyn Fine and the other marketing maharishis who are paid handsomely to tell our redundant marketing folks what they want to hear – the place is going to seed right in front of our eyes. 

 Look, I wasn’t a member of the Beachside Redevelopment Braintrust – but instead of throwing one red cent away on more surveys and out-of-state marketing companies to lure people to this deteriorating stoolstack – just maybe our tourism officials should pull their collective heads out of their keisters and take a walkabout – you know, see the place as others see us.

Won’t cost a dime.

Then – after they’ve pissed themselves from sheer guilt – perhaps our resident “experts” will realize that the core problem is that “the product” is being irreparably damaged – the “draw” is fading – and if they continue down this path of throwing Chanel No. 5 on a hog while trying to convince themselves “It ain’t as Barker the Bitcher makes it out to be, is it?” then there won’t be much left to market in a few short years.

In my view, all the round-a-bouts, pretty pavers and happy talk in the world won’t stop the inevitable – only a coordinated strategic plan which encourages entrepreneurial investment without giving away the unique amenities that make us a “destination” can do that.

But what do I know?  

Enjoy your day at the beach, kids!  (Pull forward and pay at the kiosk, please.)

It’s time once again to turn a jaundiced eye toward the newsmakers of the day – the winners and losers – who, in my cynical opinion, either contributed to our quality of life, or detracted from it, in some significant way.

Let’s look at who tried to screw us – and who tried to save us – during the week that was:

Asshole:          Volusia County Manager Jim Dinneen

During a long career in municipal government, I learned a few things about crisis management.

In every pursuit, “things” happen, some we bring on ourselves, others are unexpected – be it a single incident that causes widespread outrage or a series of blunders that cumulatively build – its how an organization’s leadership team respond in the early hours of the crisis that either builds public confidence or results in utter chaos.

Sound crisis management begins with establishing strong service-based values and a commitment to transparency before trouble breaks.  It’s the organizational culture that ultimately allows a company or public entity to weather a calamity and protect their reputation.

In my experience, the role of a government administrator or department head is much like a circus performer who juggles chainsaws in the center ring – all eyes are on you, and mistakes can have spectacular results.

For the past few weeks, the headlines have been filled with a series of issues in Volusia County government – from the eleventh-hour removal of the much ballyhooed half-cent sales tax referendum, revelations of internal dysfunction by Sheriff Mike Chitwood, the debacle at the Medical Examiner’s Office, the near total collapse of our ambulance service and now reports of unresolved sexual harassment issues in the Beach Safety Department – suffice it to say, it hasn’t been a good month for County Manager Jim Dinneen.

Regardless of the circumstances, once an organization under fire gets behind the curve – or attempts to deflect blame with counter-accusations and denials – suspicion builds, and the public begins to rightfully question the veracity of its leadership.

Nothing builds more ill will, or negative press, than a lack of transparency and honesty.

Of course, most important, it pays to ensure that your company or government organization is reasonably well-managed in the first place – and that essential services are being provided in the most effective and efficient means possible.

That’s called oversight.

Any good manager understands that despite your best efforts, sometimes you just have to take it on the chin, accept responsibility, take ownership of your mistakes and work hard to correct the underlying problems while supporting your subordinates and constituents.

A good leader should also know when to take his or her leave.

People respect that.

The aftermath of these myriad issues in Volusia County is a horrific example of executive ineptitude and incompetence run wild – a gross exposure of the failures of leadership and organizational misfocus that has haunted the Dinneen administration and cost our county government the respect and trust of its constituents.

Then, our elected officials – the very people charged with providing politically accountable oversight of the all-powerful County Manager – immediately go on the defensive in some bizarre lycanthropic transformation, ripping the throat out of anyone who dares blow the whistle on the abject negligence that continues to jeopardize essential services.

In a clearly orchestrated campaign to discredit Sheriff Chitwood, Dr. Sara Zydowicz – and anyone else who questions the motivations of an administration that has clearly come off the rails – our besieged ‘powers that be’ trot out a few washed-up political hacks who expend clouds of hot air defending the omnipotent Volusia County Charter – always protecting the status quo that consolidates absolute power in the hands of an unelected manager with no oversight or accountability – and ensures all the right last names have unobstructed access to the public trough.

Meanwhile, they fail to recognize that those of us who pay the bills are getting damn sick and tired of being lied to, and treated like an afterthought, by those we elect and appoint to represent our interests.

As I said earlier this week, I’m often asked why I “hate” Jim Dinneen – a natural assumption based upon my frequent screeds taking him to task for the seemingly endless parade of management catastrophes that dominate the news these days.

The fact is, I don’t hate Mr. Dinneen – I’ve never met the man.

Only a small-minded bigot hates someone they don’t know or understand; however, I intensely dislike his cheapjack means to an end and manipulation of our system of governance and public funds to meet the private profit motives of political insiders.

I understand Mr. Dinneen’s methods all too well.

In our representative democracy, the only thing standing in the way of a city or county manager transmogrifying into a tyrannical despot is the elected body – policymakers charged with the direct oversight of an extremely powerful individual.

Unfortunately, the bought-and-paid-for chattel that passes for elected representatives on the dais of power in DeLand have compromised themselves by coming down on the wrong side of a crisis of enormous proportions – and in doing so, have painted themselves into a very narrow corner.

For instance, no rational person with two brain synapses still firing believes that the “independent” audit of the ME function, as orchestrated by Mr. Dinneen, is going to produce any credible findings to support Dr. Zydowicz’ scathing allegations to the state regulatory commission which oversees medical examiners in Florida.

We know that because earlier this week, our doddering fool of a County Chair, Ed Kelley, announced in the Daytona Beach News-Journal his eerily clairvoyant premonition that the outside assessment of the medical examiner’s office will exonerate Volusia County, further discredit Dr. Z, and serve as a terrifying example of how whistleblowers are dealt no quarter in Volusia County government.

Then, on Wednesday the News-Journal ran a startling revelation that the Volusia County Beach Safety Department failed to properly investigate a credible allegation of gross sexual misconduct – a male employee who sent an explicit photograph of his genitals to a female coworker – citing the fact the victim didn’t want an inquiry.

Say what?  I don’t make this shit up, folks.

The accusations also include the use of disgusting homophobic slurs and obvious bias in the workplace by the same offender – claims that we’re told are now under investigation by beach safety officials.

Is it just me, or did Volusia County have at least a moral obligation to ensure that other employees were adequately protected from similar conduct by this employee – and that their constituents, you know, us poor saps who pay the bills – were protected from potential liability?

I mean, let’s face it, Volusia County Beach Safety doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to sexual harassment, exploitation and discrimination.

In fact, it’s abominable.

And you don’t have to be a highly compensated beach management administrator to know there should have been a higher standard of scrutiny, supervision and management oversight in the aftermath of the previous scandals.

The protection and morale of their officers and staff should be paramount.

But it isn’t.

My God. 

I’m fond of the adage that most people can forgive what they can see themselves doing.  How long would a person last in your business or workplace who sent a picture of his junk to a married female coworker?

I’m asking.  Because we didn’t tolerate that shit where I worked.

Now, I can’t wait to see how long it takes the three stooges – the always arrogant Councilwoman Deb Denys, “Sleepy” Pat Patterson and Old Ed Kelley – to find a way to smear and marginalize the victims of these gross violations of county human resource policies and the tenets of basic human dignity – all while protecting Mr. Dinneen’s backside.

I’ve said it repeatedly – a good leader knows when its time to take his or her leave – and even a bad leader should see the handwriting on the wall.

I have it on good authority – from at least two independent sources – that our beleaguered County Manager’s days at the helm of this foundering ship of fools we call Volusia County government are coming to a close.

While I’m not sure what form his departure will take – or even if what I’m hearing is true – I think we can all agree that the fat lady has sung herself hoarse.

Frankly, the problems are getting too big, and too numerous, to ignore.

How much longer are the long-suffering taxpayers of Volusia County going to be subjected to this shitstorm?

Only our elected officials on the Volusia County Council can answer that question.

Angel:             Holly Hill City Manager Joe Forte

If you need your hope and confidence in government restored – know that there are true professionals serving in positions of great responsibility in countless communities throughout our state and nation – none better that Holly Hill City Manager Joe Forte.

I have had the pleasure of knowing Joe as a dear friend and esteemed colleague for over twenty-years now.

Last week, the Volusia League of Cities had the good sense to honor Mr. Forte as their “Executive of the Year” – a fitting tribute to a man who embodies the attributes of a true servant-leader –  always putting the needs of those he serves at the forefront of everything he does.

Joe Forte began his extraordinary career in the City of Holly Hill in 1990 as a Driver/Engineer in the Fire Department before being appointed Fire Chief in 1995.  Mid-career, he was appointed Acting City Manager, and later City Manager, a position he held until 2007 when he became Deputy County Manager in Seminole County, Florida.

Like most law enforcement officers, during my professional life I was, as Joseph Conrad once said, “difficult to lead, but easy to inspire.”  Joe Forte inspired me – and I would follow him anywhere.

That is the highest compliment I can pay – and it is well-deserved.

In the best decision ever made by sitting political body, in September 2014, the Holly Hill City Commission rehired Mr. Forte as City Manager.

My only regret in a 31-year career in public service is that I retired too soon, never having had the opportunity to serve under this outstanding leader again.

The apt citation accompanying this prestigious award said, “Joe provides solutions and cost-savings on a daily basis to the elected officials and the citizens.  He is always looking for what is best for the citizens of Holly Hill and its employees.”

“Today, the city is now in the best financial state it has ever been in.  This is directly attributed to many policies he set forward.”

 Joe Forte leads from the heart.

Smart, quick-witted and determined, he is the embodiment of personal integrity, and he demonstrates the best qualities of his important profession is everything he does.

I am incredibly proud of Joe’s outstanding accomplishment – and the citizens of Holly Hill are fortunate to have him leading their beautiful community into a very bright future.

Angel:             Giuseppe’s Steel City Pizza, 3658 Nova Road, Port Orange, Florida

Last week, the officers and staff of the Daytona Beach Police Department – under the extraordinary leadership of Chief Craig Capri – had the solemn duty of laying one of their own to rest.

And they did it with incredible grace, dignity and respect in the highest traditions of the police service.

Officer Thomas Coulter, a young recruit who realized his dream of becoming a law enforcement officer, died after falling ill during a training exercise at DBPD headquarters.

Following his funeral with full honors, members of the agency contacted Giuseppe’s Pizza and ordered food for approximately 40 members of the Coulter family.

After placing the order, the agency received a call advising that the owner of Giuseppe’s would be donating the full order as a token of his appreciation and condolences.

It is my honor to confer this well-deserved Angel Status on the owners and staff of Giuseppe’s Steel City Pizza for their outstanding contribution to the family of a fallen officer – and their respect for law enforcement officers everywhere.

This act of kindness is the essence of community spirit, and I hope the next time your family is in the mood for pizza – you’ll consider Giuseppe’s!

Quote of the Week:

 “An organization the size of county government — with more than 3,400 employees — shouldn’t operate on a good-ol’-boy backroom basis.  All complaints — even those that come from someone other than the reported victim — should be addressed swiftly, formally and independently, with an eye toward curbing behavior and ensuring a safe workplace for everyone.”

–The Daytona Beach News-Journal editorial, “Don’t stall on harassment,” May 29, 2018

The News-Journal is right.

Volusia County lacks a clear process for addressing serious complaints of employee misconduct.

In my view, the result of this maladministration of even basic personnel protocols fosters a culture of dysfunction that will ultimately lead to deteriorating morale, employee distrust of a system that inherently promotes the perception of a double-standard – and potential liability to taxpayers.

In an organization of over 3,000 employees who provide vital services to our communities, this cavalier dismissal of serious complaints of official misconduct is counter to the values and culture citizens expect in their government (seriously, this kind of conduct wouldn’t be acceptable in a New Orleans whorehouse).

It’s time Volusia County government receives that enema Sheriff Chitwood keeps telling us about.

A political high colonic to give a top-to-bottom purge of these creeps who accept public funds and benefits to provide effective service delivery – yet abdicate their sworn responsibilities in virtually every functional area.

Go ahead – try and point to one department in Volusia County government that’s hitting on all cylinders?

In fact, the only function that works first-time, every-time – with the reliability of a Swiss watch – is the transfer of public funds to political insiders in the form of tens-of-millions in “economic incentives,” tax abatement’s and infrastructure improvements.

Terrible.

And Another Thing!

 In the past, I’ve been hypercritical County Councilwoman Heather Post.

She deserved every bit of it. . .

After all, our elected officials have sat on their collective thumbs while everything from our emergency medical services to county-owned real estate crumbles into a void of negligence and ineptitude.

And nobody on the dais of power seemed to give a tinker’s damn.

However, I have recently seen a distinct change in Ms. Post’s enthusiasm and approach to representing the good folks here in District 4 with competence and transparency.

If you haven’t yet, I encourage everyone to visit Ms. Post’s social media page on Facebook and watch her most recent shocking video reports – one on the mounting controversy at the medical examiner’s office – the other providing details on how critical information is doled out sparingly like dollops of rotten porridge to a hungry waif, rather than willingly pushed to sitting public officials with a true need-to-know by the Dinneen administration.

Clearly, it’s a control technique – and Ms. Post appears to have finally come to that sobering realization after months of being beaten into submission and forced into a self-imposed silence by her “colleagues” who long ago learned to get along and go along.

Good work, Councilwoman Post – I admire your efforts!

That’s all for me, folks!

Have a great weekend!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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