Through the years I’ve had my share of life’s up’s-and-down’s, but I can honestly say, I’ve led a charmed life – so incredibly blessed.
I’ve always put a lot of stock in the immortal words of the great Key West legend, saloonkeeper, bootlegger, gunrunner and politician, Captain Tony Tarracino, who once remarked:
“All you need in this life is a tremendous sex drive and a great ego, brains don’t mean a shit.”
I’ll admit, Captain Tony’s advice can make for an expensive education – and a very interesting life – but on balance, I’ve found it’s true.
Ego I’ve got – brains, not so much. I’m certainly not the smartest guy in the room.
Like a wise old boss of mine used to say when I was a rookie police officer, “Barker, you’re about as sharp as a sack of wet mice.”
In my professional life, I epitomized the Dilbert Principle – the theory that organizations tend to systematically promote incompetent employees to management as a means of limiting the amount of damage they are capable of doing. . .
By some divine intervention, a few incredibly kind people took a chance on me at pivotal points along my path, and their friendship, faith and confidence has meant everything to me.
Count yourself among those who have had a very positive impact on my life.
When I first began this experiment in alternative opinion blogging, I was amazed when a couple-dozen people would actually take the time to seek out and read my disjointed take on the issues of the day.
Imagine how I felt earlier this week when Barker’s View closed the month of May with over 21,400 views!
Wow! Thank you!
I’ve said this before – when I retired from law enforcement, I lost a sense of purpose and personal satisfaction that I thought would never come my way again.
My profession had become a bigger part of my identity than I cared to admit.
It made for some pretty dark times initially, but I’m not one to get trapped in the spiral of melancholia, so my silent mantra became, “Barker, Begin Again.”
The result of that reaffirming refrain was this cathartic exercise in voicing my goofy opinions of our political leadership and collective direction here on Florida’s Fun Coast.
These screeds are not right nor wrong – neither total fact or utter fiction – just one man’s not-so-humble opinion on the news and newsmakers of the day. But they seem to resonate with an increasingly larger audience.
Please know that I am forever grateful to you – the loyal members of the Barker’s View tribe – for taking time from your busy day to digest my take on the latest political intrigues in Volusia County and beyond.
I sincerely appreciate your support of alternative local points of view – and our right as interested citizens to speak out and seek the positive change we so richly deserve.
I am eternally grateful for your readership – and your kindness.
Well, 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: County of Volusia
NOTICE TO ALL VOLUSIA COUNTY EMPLOYEES AND CITIZENS:
Should you discover evidence of government malfeasance, ineptitude, corruption or mismanagement – word to the wise – keep your frigging mouth shut.
This is the very clear message sent to anyone with a working conscience this week by the not-so-subtle political protection racket operating under the guise of an elected body on the dais of power in DeLand.
After watching the County Council’s despicable maneuvering on Tuesday, we learned the chilling fate of whistleblowers and maverick elected officials who break ranks and seek to hold County Manager Jim Dinneen accountable for his continuing course of conduct at the helm of this foundering ship of fools.
Seriously – after watching what happened to Dr. Sara Zydowicz – the only appointed senior county administrator with the courage to point out glaring negligence and mismanagement in perhaps Volusia County’s most sensitive area of budgetary responsibility – why would anyone take the risk again?
Her dark allegations include overcrowding, critical understaffing, a macabre suggestion that dead bodies be stored under cooling blankets and handled by county prisoners – along with a shocking backlog of some 200 autopsy reports, a substandard facility and a former Chief Medical Examiner who simply stopped testifying in court proceedings.
In fact, Dr. Z reported that conditions at the morgue had deteriorated to the point of being “potentially dangerous,” a fact she made clear to the state regulatory commission which oversees medical examiners when she said, “I don’t wish harm to my well-being.”
The cost of attempting to shine a light on the inner workings of a county government run amok included withering, well-orchestrated attacks on her personal character – and the wholesale obliteration of her professional reputation – by the very elected and appointed officials she relied upon for budget and administrative support.
Tragically, Dr. Z’s concerns fell on deaf ears – both at the state ME commission and in the executive suites of the Thomas C. Kelly Administration Building.
But more ominously, when our ‘powers that be’ sensed a real exposure – they began circling the wagons and mounted a very effective counter-attack that painted Zydowicz as a reckless liar who made up wild allegations out of whole cloth.
In short, they vilified her.
And sent a clear message to anyone who dares question the machinations of a politically insulated administration – totally devoid of ethics, oversight or accountability – that exposing the system will result in your personal and professional destruction.
Abandon hope all ye who enter here.
The status quo WILL be protected – damn the cost.
Don’t believe me?
Just ask Dr. Z how it worked out for her.
As real pressure mounted, County Manager Jim Dinneen reached out to Dr. Jon Thogmartin – a noted forensic pathologist and contract medical examiner for hire of the “Have scalpel, Will travel” variety.
With an impressive curriculum vitae and a true gift for extemporaneous bullshit – Thogmartin deftly dismissed each of Dr. Z’s allegations based upon a single-day walk-through of the morgue and an even shorter written report of his “findings” issued six-days later.
However, as both Dinneen and Dr. Thogmartin pointed out – at least he did the evaluation for free.
(I don’t know about you, but whenever someone offers me a free lunch – I instinctively gird my loins for the inevitable. . .)
In turn, at Mr. Dinneen’s request, Thogmartin appeared before the County Council Tuesday – and in a fast-talking monologue right out of the Quincy, M.E. episode, “The Case of the Mucked-Up Morgue” – our “independent” out-of-town expert systematically poo-pooed each of Dr. Z’s allegations as the ravings of an inexperienced newbie – and calmed the waters with anecdotes like, “You think this is fucked-up? You should see what I found during my inspection of the Rue Morgue – now that was fucked-up!”
Like any good government contractor, Dr. Thogmartin frightened everyone with a “all’s well for now – BUT – your ME’s office is going over the cliff come Friday…” scary story – then strategically launched into an incredibly well-rehearsed sales pitch for his apparently indispensable brand of proprietary autopsy protocols and super-human administrative skills.
In fact, he all but promised that not only could he right the ship, but he would restore professional accreditation – then time-travel the office back to those bucolic days of 1997 – before big pharma began killing more people on a daily basis than smallpox, and the workload wasn’t near what it is today.
Remarkable man. Just ask him.
Even more remarkable was the fact that, after Thogmartin brushed off the issues at the morgue as little more than a minor inconvenience for a man of his superior skills – Jim Dinneen told the council that he offered the good Doctor a job as interim medical examiner.
That revelation didn’t sit well with most – it fact, it had the whiff of payback to it.
Then on Tuesday, after Thogmartin finished his marketing spiel – his appointment was approved (with Councilwoman Heather Post opposing) before a contract had even been written(?)
(Our weaponized County Attorney, Dan Eckert, had something to say about this facet of the crisis – but he always hems-and-haws like a horse trying to recite the Lord’s Prayer – so, I’ll be dipped if I couldn’t interpret his point. . .)
Not unexpectedly, what passed for the council’s “questioning” of Dr. Thogmartin – dissolved into a carefully choreographed farce refereed by our doddering fool of a County Chair, Ed Kelley – who repeatedly shouted, “Your out of order!” like some demented Justice of the Court of the Absurd in a powdered wig – rudely interrupting and shutting down Ms. Post anytime she got close to a complete material question.
All Old Ed wanted to do was “move forward” – and by that, I mean he wanted to get home to supper and a nap. Literally.
I think District 4 Councilwoman Heather Post acquitted herself extremely well under very difficult circumstances.
Look, given her voting record – and my natural suspicion – I’m not ready to canonize Ms. Post as “The People’s Champion” just yet, but I’m warming up.
The fact is, she stood tall – and alone – on Tuesday. I respect that.
Despite the odds, Ms. Post made a valiant effort to get to the bottom of this steaming quagmire and expose Jim Dinneen as the person solely responsible for this, and myriad other debacles, that have haunted county government like a golem.
Sadly, rather than let Ms. Post do the people’s business, Ed Kelley sat smugly in the catbird’s seat, angrily questioning her motivations, as our appointed County Manager insolently barked at her like a rabid chihuahua – crudely deflecting questions and angrily downgrading Post’s valid concerns.
His treatment of a sitting elected official was rude, disrespectful and wrong – and Mr. Dinneen knows it crossed a very clear line. But he doesn’t care.
Unfortunately, despite her best efforts to keep focus on accountability, it was clear Ms. Post was no match for these low-class thugs with a pack mentality that recognizes no boundaries when it comes to keeping their choke-hold on power and the public purse strings.
I thought District 1 candidate Jeff Brower did his best to support Heather Post from the floor – but it’s hard to spar with folks who control the tilt of the ring – and Old Ed quickly painted Mr. Brower into a very narrow box, brusquely limiting his comments to one tiny sliver of a very complex issue.
However, Mr. Brower cleverly demonstrated how the average citizen is treated at the podium by our incredibly arrogant elected officials when they seek to address uncomfortable issues of public concern.
Most important, Mr. Brower made the bold call for an outside investigation of this debacle by the Florida Attorney Generals Office – a move quickly seconded by Sheriff Chitwood and many others.
In perhaps the most tragic moment of this sickening spectacle – an impassioned young lady, Tiffany King, approached the lectern and lambasted Mr. Dinneen and our hapless council members for their collective ignorance of a heart-wrenching misstep at the ME’s office that goes beyond the pale of decency.
The Daytona Beach News-Journal reporter Dustin Wyatt captured the moment well:
“When the remains of a 16-year-old girl were found in DeLand off Gasline Road in May, family members of Justis Garrett, who’d been missing for days, feared the worst. Her parents called the morgue and asked if the body was their daughter’s, said Tiffany King of Edgewater, a neighbor and close friend of the family.”
“They were relieved to be told the body wasn’t their daughter. A week later, however, they learned it was, in fact, Garrett.”
“Can you imagine going through that?” King told the council through tears. “This is a big deal. This is important. This is every parent’s worst nightmare.”
“Everybody behind the dais should be held accountable, she added.”
I know the recurring theme on Tuesday was that Mr. Dinneen was too stupid to oversee the medical examiner’s function – even if he wanted to – arguing that he doesn’t possess the medicolegal knowledge to keep watch, and maybe he doesn’t. (Something tells me that’s what accreditation is for. . .)
But you don’t have to be a forensic pathologist to understand that what happened to the Garrett family is unconscionable – or take definitive action to prevent it from ever happening again.
Under these horrific circumstances, how dare Ed Kelley and Jim Dinneen give us this cavalier, “show’s over, folks – nothing to see here – move along” bullshit in the face of this flagrant and disgusting example of the ineptitude so passionately and courageously exposed by Dr. Zydowicz.
It is beyond shameful.
At the end of the day, Ms. Post was simply outmaneuvered by an entrenched system intent on self-protection – but at least she tried, dammit – and that’s infinitely more than her craven “colleagues” did for us.
To her credit, Post made a yeoman’s effort to get at the truth and hold Mr. Dinneen accountable for allowing an essential service to wither on the budgetary vine, then spinelessly lie to his council and their constituents to avoid culpability.
And just like that, the medical examiner’s debacle died (pun intended).
Or did it?
Last evening, Sheriff Mike Chitwood made public on social media a copy of an internal email from Jim Dinneen to State Attorney R.J. Larizza dated May 25, 2018 at 12:24pm – announcing that Dr. Thogmartin would be serving as interim Medical Examiner until a process could be put in place to find a new chief.
Interestingly, that document directly contradicts Mr. Dinneen’s written and verbal statements to the Volusia County Council wherein he states, “After his positive review of our medical examiner’s facility, which he performed on Friday, May 25, 2018, I asked Dr. Thogmartin if he would consider assisting our county by temporarily acting as our interim medical examiner from June 8 to December 31, 2018. He agreed to help out Volusia County as the Interim Medical Examiner and to manage the contract under his medical license for the contract doctors that would be utilized until we can hire new staff.”
Folks, unless the good Doctor completed his “positive review” of a very busy medical examiner’s facility by lunchtime on May 25th – Jim Dinneen lied to us – because Dr. Thogmartin’s written report is dated May 31, 2018.
If that’s not a ‘smoking gun’ I don’t know what is.
Clearly, Jim Dinneen has been caught in yet another bald-assed whopper.
The man is an unconscionable liar who has lost the moral authority to lead – and he clearly doesn’t have the guts or good sense to resign.
In my view, it is past time for our elected officials to jettison this lying sack of shit for the good of county government – and to preserve what little remains of the public trust and their own political reputations.
In over 30-years of local government experience I have never witnessed this whale-turd level of no-class base cowardice and gross irresponsibility by an elected body.
That’s scary – and speaks to a level of institutionalized corruption and an organizational culture that permits the county’s chief executive to openly lie to us whenever it serves his timorous interests.
And no one who is paid to care seems to give a damn – in fact, they tacitly condone the practice through their strategic ignorance and acquiescence.
Gentle readers, I fear we are truly lost – and because I care more than I like to admit – it saddens me terribly.
Please remember this at the ballot box this November. Please.
Angel: City of Holly Hill
Kudos to Holly Hill’s Economic Development Coordinator Nick Conte on his recent big catch – Florida Health Care Plan’s “Pharmacy of Tomorrow” – which, after extensive renovation, will occupy the former SunTrust Bank building on Ridgewood Avenue!
One of the largest employers in Volusia County, Florida Health Care Plans – headquartered in Holly Hill for over two decades – plans a state-of-the-art pharmacy with expanded parking, advanced technology and other customer conveniences in the now vacant building the insurer recently purchased for $1.15 million.
The City of Holly Hill has the largest concentration of light industry in Volusia County, and – as the News-Journal’s Clayton Parks reported, “. . .is home to a number of thriving manufacturers, including Metra Electronics, Product Quest Manufacturing and arcade game maker Bob’s Space Racers.”
Folks, “Manufacturing” = “Jobs” – and that forms the basis for a strong and vibrant community.
I am incredibly proud of Nick – and all the elected and appointed officials in my beloved “City with a Heart” – who, despite the challenges, continue to transform this quaint riverside community in so many wonderful ways.
In my view, this represents the possibilities inherent in the many vacant buildings and properties that dot the Halifax area.
All it takes is vision and ingenuity – attributes that Mr. Conte clearly brings to his important role.
Asshole: International Speedway Corporation
It seems ISC suffers from a split-personality disorder – a schizophrenic identity that greedily accepts massive amounts of public funds (read: Our Money) to mitigate overhead on “synergistic” projects like the One Daytona complex – even operates a quasi-governmental Community Development District to fund, maintain and operate public infrastructure at the shopping and entertainment multiplex – yet, they abhor the transparency that naturally comes with tax dollars.
I think they call that a corporate-created grey area. . .
They aren’t very forthcoming with attendance figures for their various racing and entertainment events either.
It’s no secret that NASCAR has seen dwindling attendance over the past few years – and by “dwindling” I mean some televised races appear to have so few fans in the stands I’m surprised they even bothered to check tickets.
Of course, no one governed by the France dynasty will release gate figures – or information on anything else – that would shine a light on the company’s finances, operation or future.
Apparently, it’s against “company policy” to share with your fans and investors in an open, fair and unguarded way – things that build confidence and a sense of ownership in the sport. I mean, it’s not like ISC has many competitors in the very narrow marketplace of stockcar racing.
But what do I know?
I wasn’t surprised when the Daytona Beach News-Journal reported earlier this week that the speedway was refusing to release attendance figures for the big Memorial Day weekend Country 500 hoedown.
Although some in the local hospitality industry have criticized the festival for what they describe as a “weak line-up” – the fact is, the show included Dierks Bentley, Chris Stapleton, Billy Currington, Toby Keith and the popular duo Sugarland – not exactly lightweights in what passes for “country” music today.
Then, our tax-funded Masters of Wisdom at Volusia’s redundant tourism leadership circles cited the weather forecast – anything but publicly acknowledge the abject blight, dilapidation, omnipresent homeless, political stagnation and overwhelming sense of hopelessness that is crippling our beachside and seriously compromising “the brand.”
According to a report by the News-Journal’s Austin Fuller and Jim Abbott, “Spokesman Andrew Booth cited “company policy” in not releasing the attendance figures for the three-day festival in its third year. The first two years of the event, New Orleans-based Festival Productions, Inc. — producer of the event with concert industry giant AEG Live — had released attendance figures of 75,000 each year. Spokespeople for Festival Productions did not respond to News-Journal questions about attendance at this year’s event and instead forwarded them to Booth.”
“While estimates have been provided in the first two years, that was to give perspective to the scope and size of the event,” Booth wrote in an email.”
I can read between the lines – and so can you.
When government and corporations attempt to shield themselves in matters of great public interest, they simply prime the well of speculation, rumor and conjecture. After all, when a reporter asks the soft-soap question, “How many people showed up, Andrew?” – a reflexive “no comment” just seems weird.
Clearly, attendance figures at the Country 500 were down this year – so why not say so?
I’m no expert, but the music business is a hard dollar – and concert promotion is double-tough, with a big risk/reward trade off and incredibly tight margins.
Trust me – if a simple mathematical comparison shows a declining three-year trend – I’m afraid the handwriting is on the wall.
Unfortunately, I think we can all gather in the north parking lot of DIS next Memorial Day and wave a mournful goodbye to another promising annual festival come and gone.
I know, maybe the speedway can double-down on another transient Monster Truck event?
That seemed to work out well for them. . .
Angel: Bethune-Cookman University Athletics
From the Barker’s View sports desk – more good news for our own B-CU ‘Fighting Wildcats’ last week when they took two of the top four conference-wide honors at the 2018 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) Spring Meeting!
Bethune-Cookman was honored with the prestigious Talmadge Layman Hill Men’s All-Sports Award for the third time in four years.
In addition, B-CU’s women’s sports teams were named runners-up for the Mary McLeod Bethune Women’s All-Sport’s Award.
In recognition of the university’s outstanding athletic programs, Conference Commissioner Dr. Dennis E. Thomas presented a check in the amount of $20,000 – along with his congratulations to B-CU interim President Hubert Grimes, and all administrators, coaches, student-athletes and support staff for their extraordinary commitment to excellence in college sports.
Congratulations to all Wildcats on this outstanding achievement!
Angel: CANDO II
On Tuesday afternoon, those intrepid Ormond Beach grassroots activists of CANDO II held a peaceful protest of the City’s inexplicable support for the environmental atrocity at the site of the proposed WaWa convenience store on Granada Boulevard – and the continuing asinine wetland and zoning policies that encourage unchecked growth citywide.
Clearly, residents of Ormond Beach care deeply about their quality of life – and rather than acquiesce to the demands of developers who are blindly intent on ruining the character of one of the Halifax areas most unique communities – they are courageously standing up to an entrenched power structure that puts profits over common sense regulations.
As the late cultural anthropologist Margret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
Perhaps Deputy Mayor Troy Kent – who seems completely tone deaf when it comes to the needs and concerns of his constituents – should look out the window of his ivory tower at City Hall.
Those throngs of angry people you see waving signs in the street below are called “voters.”
Ignore them at your own political peril.
In my view, groups like CANDO II represent the very essence of community engagement – a real movement that will ultimately change the current tack (and composition) of the Ormond Beach City Commission – and take back this charming community from the hands of greed-crazed speculators intent on destroying our natural places and paving over those precious civic attributes that we hold dear.
Thank you, CANDO II – you are making a difference in the life and future of our beautiful city.
By your example, you restore our faith in the power of the people to effect positive and lasting change.
Quote of the Week:
“County officials may think they doused a fire with Thogmartin’s report, but hiring him immediately afterward only poured gasoline on the flames of public opinion. Ham-handed doesn’t begin to describe how sloppy and tone-deaf that move is. At minimum, it undermines the validity of the report.”
–The Daytona Beach News-Journal editorial, “Dig deeper on morgue,” Tuesday, June 5, 2018
According to the inviolate Volusia County Charter, the county manager “shall be responsible to the council for the proper administration of all affairs of the county.”
In other words, Jim Dinneen works for – and at the pleasure of – our elected representatives on the dais of power in DeLand.
Not the other way around.
In past weeks, the long-suffering taxpayers of Volusia County have been inundated with editorials and essays from a long-line of has-beens and political hacks extolling the virtues of home rule – marginalizing Sheriff Mike Chitwood’s revelations – and trying their best to convince us that our charter form of government “works.”
They’re right, it does – but not for us.
The fact is clear – this bastardized oligarchy bears no resemblance to a true council/manager form of government – and the tail has been wagging the dog so long our elected officials have all but abdicated their sworn responsibility to provide oversight and accountability as a counter balance the incredible power vested in this foul ball of a County Manager.
Instead, they put blinders on and perpetuate a morally corrupt system which exists to provide powerful political insiders unfettered access to public funds. After all, going along with the ruse keeps the campaign contributions flowing.
For instance, on Tuesday, when asked to consider the politically sticky wicket of raising impact fees, these cowardly assholes once again chose to punt – trying desperately to buy time for their pitifully vulnerable “colleagues” currently standing for reelection.
First, the always arrogant Deb Denys suggested another do-nothing political insulation committee – populated with all the right last names – charged with developing “recommendations” to be shit-canned much like those of the much-ballyhooed Beachside Redevelopment Committee were when it’s purpose of putting time and distance between the News-Journal’s Tarnished Jewel series and the County Council was accomplished.
To her credit, Heather Post saw through this stall tactic and called bullshit, “I’m not real big on the committee idea. When committees are created it sort of prolongs the process. I think we might be able to make these decision with transparency to the public without appointing committees and lagging.”
Ultimately, our representatives agreed that you and I, the long-suffering taxpayers, should spend through the nose for yet another expensive “study” – conducted by yet another out-of-state consultant – who will light candles, perform a voodoo incantation, run the “numbers” through some magic formula, then produce a long-winded report telling our elected officials exactly what they want to hear.
The elected developer’s shills at all levels of government have factored in so many variables and assumptions in calculating impact fees that, quite literally, We, The People may end up owing Mori Hosseini money when it’s all said and done. . .
Remember just a few weeks ago when our addle-brained dipshit of a County Chair crowed in the newspaper that he “didn’t need no stinkin’ study” to tell him what to charge his cronies in the development community?
I wonder what changed?
Either Old Ed finally admits the obvious nexus between the council’s do-nothing stance on impact fees and their embarrassing failure to launch on the half-cent sales tax initiative – or he has discovered how easy it is to avoid making a decision by kicking this rusty can even further down the road.
And Another Thing!
After several unavoidable delays – the much-anticipated Sons of the Beach protest of the theft of our century-old heritage of beach driving behind the Hard Luck Hotel is on!
I’m asking everyone who reads Barker’s View – whether you agree with my screeds or not – to please join me this Saturday, June 9th, on the semi-private strand between the poisoned poles behind the Hard Rock beginning at 9:00am.
SOB President Paul Zimmerman invites everyone who cares about beach access, and the amenities that make our area unique, to peaceably and respectfully assemble on the beach Saturday morning and let our county officials know how we feel about “their lawless disregard for our traditions and their own laws.”
So, slather on the sunscreen and get yo’ butt to the beach!
It’ll be fun – besides, a little civil disobedience is good for the soul.
Please feel-free to bring homemade signs to express your First Amendment right to be heard!
As always, kids are welcome – after all, we’re fighting hard for their future right to beach access!
If I could ask a small favor – please share the date with friends, family and neighbors – and post on your social media page to ensure widest possible dissemination.
I look forward to seeing everyone this Saturday!