Former Volusia County Council members Art Giles, Frank Bruno, Josh Wagner and Joie Alexander just earned their way into the Asshole category this week.
I said that I would never mention former County Manager Jim Dinneen in this page again – then I opened The Daytona Beach News-Journal this morning and did a spit-take with my Café Bustelo.
Look, I hate to paint all of these former Volusia County Council members with the same brush – but anyone who would put their name on a fantasy puff piece entitled, “Jim Dinneen made a big contribution to Volusia County” is pushing the ragged limits of credibility.
In fact, glorifying poor performance and asking the good citizens of Volusia County to suspend reality while they deify an ineffectual asshole who ruined constituent trust in county government, only serves to perpetuate the mediocrity and slimy backroom practices that have brought us to this dismal point in our history.
In my view, Jim Dinneen was the embodiment of all that’s wrong with this bastardized Oligarchy we find ourselves trapped in – a fetid slit trench where uber-wealthy insiders maintain political control of our future by contributing hundreds of thousands of dollars collectively to the campaign accounts of hand-select candidates for public office.
During his tenure, Jim Dinneen facilitated the wholesale giveaway of tens-of-millions of dollars in public funds couched as “economic development incentives,” orchestrated the discounted sale of public land to private interests, pissed away our heritage of beach access to appease the overweening greed of speculative developers, concocted patent falsehoods about the pressing need for new, astronomically priced courthouses, public works facilities and other county buildings – even as those he was responsible for maintaining literally rotted into the ground.
In exchange for his complicity and facilitation of these and other atrocities against the taxpayers of Volusia County – our ‘powers that be’ granted him the political insulation to do whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted, and damn the consequences to those who were expected to keep quiet and pay the bills.
And make no mistake, the citizens of Volusia County paid a high price for Dinneen’s malleable ethics and preternatural ability to dodge accountability.
From his patented ‘public policy by ambush’ tactic of surprising us all with off-the-agenda sneak attacks – to his vilification of whistle blowers, including sitting Councilwoman Heather Post – he was a mendacious asshole who, in my view, would rather lie that eat.
As I have written before, Mr. Dinneen was perfectly willing to lie like a cheap rug whenever a blatant falsehood served his purpose or those of his political handlers. In fact, I believe – as Sheriff Michael Chitwood said – Mr. Dinneen is a pathological liar with a compulsion to fabricate situational responses on the fly – a strategy that ultimately cost county government the trust of the people it exists to serve.
The staggering level of incompetence, government waste and resource mismanagement during Mr. Dinneen’s administration – and the continuing, almost institutionalized, lack of substantive oversight by our elected officials that allowed this atrocious course of conduct to continue – will haunt Volusia County for years to come.
In fact, the lasting memory for most of us will remain Mr. Dinneen’s Tom & Jerry skit with the intrepid WFTV reporter Mike Springer – with Little Jimmy scurrying out of a public meeting like the rat he was, actively dodging the legitimate questions of the working press regarding the latest Five-Alarm Fuck-Up he was personally responsible for orchestrating.
In government, strong leadership maintains sound discipline, controls the awesome power inherent to public entities, identifies objectives, communicates effectively, exercises judgment, builds esprit de corps, trusts the ability of subordinates and congratulates their performance, instills confidence in constituents, and directs personnel and resources under their command – efficiently and effectively – to accomplish difficult goals important to our collective welfare.
The Dinneen administration was the antithesis of these important attributes.
In my opinion, the rotten legacy of Jim Dinneen will remain failure, mismanagement and the wholesale giveaway of public assets and amenities to meet the needs of those who could afford to pay-to-play. Nothing more.
For years to come, We, The People of Volusia County will continue to deal with the fallout of unchecked growth and sprawl, the almost criminal lack of preparedness and infrastructure to handle the massive influx to come, the abject failure to even attempt to ask development to pay its fair share and the cowardly inability of incumbent Volusia County Council members to reign in Dineen’s shadowy maneuvers and cloistered backroom collusion’s that brought us to this sad and desperate place.
Sometimes I wonder how current and former politicians develop such a conveniently selective memory.
Is it that the reality of the situation they helped create is too disturbing to recall accurately – so they mask reality with horribly skewed hallucinations of times that never existed?