On Volusia: Return to DeBary

“An old woman was walking down the road when she saw a gang of thugs beating a poisonous snake.  She rescued the snake and carried it back to her home, where she nursed it back to health.  They became friends and lived together for many months.  One day they were going into town, and the old woman picked him up and the snake bit her.  Repeatedly.  “O God,” she screamed, “I am dying!  Why?  I was your friend.  I saved your life!  I trusted you!  Why did you bite me?”

“The snake looked up at her and said, “Lady, you knew I was a snake when you first picked me up.”

(Excerpt from Better Than Sex: Confessions of a Political Junkie (Gonzo Papers vol. 4) by Hunter S. Thompson.)

Wow.  The more things change, the more they stay the same. . .

My old friends at the City of DeBary are back in the news again – and they rarely disappoint when it comes to good, old-fashioned small-town political intrigue.

This time City Councilwoman Erika Benfield has come forward with credible allegations that City Manager Ron McLemore (the disgraced former Daytona Beach deputy city manager who fled a sexual harassment allegation to the shit-show that is DeBary politics) has been working for a political action committee known as Living Waters, to urge residents of the small west Volusia community to support a bond issue to subsidize a $12.5 million civic center.

The problem?

He was apparently being paid by the citizens of DeBary when he did it. . .

According to one of my favorite community-based newspapers, The West Volusia Beacon, Ms. Benfield alleges that McLemore and other city staff helped design a trifold mailer and postcards which were sent to some 3,700 DeBary voters urging a “yes” vote on the bond referendum.

She believes city employees provided the PAC the voter list as well. . .

Of course, McLemore – being the stand-up guy that he is – denied Councilwoman Benfield’s allegations, crowing “This city has not spent one penny on that PAC.” 

 Not to be dissuaded by Mr. McLemore s semantics, Ms. Benfield countered, “It (the mailer) was reviewed and critiqued by staff on city time. City time is city funds. They’re not volunteering their own time.”

Amen, sister.

For the record, Florida law prohibits local governments and state agencies from active involvement for or against candidates or causes.

According to the Beacon, Benfield also voiced concern “about the cost of the proposed community center. While the bond issue is $12.5 million, the total cost — including interest — will amount to almost $24 million, spread over the 30-year debt period.”

Jesus.

I may be a mathematical illiterate – but that’s damn near double the original construction cost, isn’t it?

To their credit, Councilwoman Benfield’s colleagues agreed to an investigation (conducted by yet another “independent counsel” hired by the city attorney. . .)  which will review the “concerns and allegations” and present their findings at a special meeting on November 14th – well after the matter has been decided at the polls.

I have a special place in my heart for the long-suffering residents of DeBary.

In many ways, Barker’s View cut its teeth on what I dubbed “The Debacle in DeBary” during the ugly quagmire of corruption, environment exploitation and political deceit that was the fallout from the city’s failed Gemini Springs Annex transportation-oriented development scheme.

That horrific civic tragedy galvanized in my mind the fact that if you care about good governance in your own hometown, then you should care about good governance everywhere.

At that time, I came to believe that DeBary was best described as 20,000 people who deserved better.

They still do. . .

6 thoughts on “On Volusia: Return to DeBary

  1. This article is just about one of the most disheartening, despicable, biased pieces of literature I have read in a long time. While I still don’t agree with the Community Center and will vote ‘no’ on it, this vilifying of Ron McLemore has become disgusting and disgraceful.

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  2. Nothing has changed with the DeBary city government. I knew about his past and thought Abels should have been hired as interim manager. They in effect keep him as a permanent manager and abandoned their search for a manager. I believe he had ties to someone previous council.

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  3. I appreciate your openness and want to express that the interim has since repaid the city what he felt the time staff spent on the mailers out of good faith. Thank goodness the voters spoke out by turning the referendum by 70%
    This is a lesson that local city government should not use staff time to aid a pac.

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  4. Thank you Mark for sharing the brutal honest truth. Update: The now -ex city manager’s last day was this week and he spoke in appreciation and apologized for mistakes in his good bye speech after we presented an appreciation certificate for his time and good overlap with our new city manager Carmen Rosamonda. I feel great that our city is in good hands with a new council and new City Manager. I will continue my term as vice mayor through 2020 election night while running as a Republican for State Representative District 27 an open seat soon to be termed out by David Santiago. I want to serve our district well in Tallahassee as I have for DeBary by serving us all at the state level.

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