I hate to say I told you so. . .
It does my beat-up old heart good when our newspaper of record professionally validates literally everything I’ve written in this space over the past three years. . .
Last Sunday, we learned that in just the past six-years, you and I have spent almost $100 million on overtime due to an out-of-control management strategy that works existing county employees to the point of exhaustion rather than fill current vacancies – which are estimated at between 249 and 400 depending upon who you listen to.
You read that right: $100 million.
Can you imagine operating your business without a firm handle on how many current openings the company you rely upon to feed your family has – or who is doing what, and when?
That’s only possible in a bloated bureaucracy – one essentially set on autopilot – where money is no object because it’s simply a matter of raising taxes when you need more coal for the furnace. . .
Then, on Monday, reporter Dustin Wyatt wrote a revealing piece on the growing “mystery” surrounding Volusia County’s previous sponsorship and transportation assistance to the suddenly controversial North Turn Beach Parade.
For the past eight-years, as part of a still puzzling “sponsorship agreement,” Volusia County has used Votran buses to transport visitors to and from the parade in Ponce Inlet.
Only now – after County Attorney Dan “Cujo” Eckert’s sketchy attempt to kill the popular event was begrudgingly overturned on a 5-2 vote – is the always arrogant Councilwoman Deb Denys calling foul.
In fact, she’s labeled the parade’s use of the county transportation service “discrimination.”
Is it possible that Volusia County – a massive taxing authority with an annual budget approaching $1 Billion – could have committed public funds to assist a community event for nearly a decade with absolutely no official allocation (or even knowledge) of the recurring expenditure?
You bet your ass it is. . .
Look, in my view, Volusia County should assist with logistics for the parade – just as it should accommodate other communities who host successful cultural events that draw thousands of visitors to our area each year.
Isn’t that what it’s all about?
I mean, isn’t that why publicly funded organizations like the Convention & Visitors Bureau exist?
Besides, the quaint nature of Ponce Inlet makes parking virtually impossible, and effectively utilizing public transportation to help alleviate congestion and provide a safe alternative to grid-locking A-1-A makes sense.
And this has nothing to do with the noble efforts of parade organizers and sponsors who have fought hard to keep this event alive.
In my view, the darker issue is that absolutely no one in a position to do so in DeLand has any memory of just how the county came to subsidize the parade – who authorized the expenditure of resources – or even a true accounting of the amount of public funds spent.
According to the News-Journal, “Last year, the Legends event cost taxpayers $9,732, with nearly half of that ($4,464) going to Votran and the rest going to county staffing and marketing for the event. Since 2013, the county has spent $16,500 on Votran for the event. But the total of the other costs remains unknown.”
The total of the other costs remains unknown?
Jesus. . .
According to a Kevin Captain, apparently Volusia County’s “Interim Director of Community Misinformation”:
“There’s not anyone on staff who seems to know. There’s no record of it.”
No record of it?
Even former County Manager Jim Dinneen – who, I’m convinced, knew every backroom deal and shoot-it-through-the-grease public policy legerdemain in recent memory – has no conscious recollection of the matter.
Only former County Councilman Josh Wagner – who is best remembered for his backstabbing flip-flop on beach driving policy – accepts responsibility for the baffling sponsorship agreement.
According to Wagner, he brought the issue up in one of those famous “off the agenda” public policy by ambush sessions during his comments at the end of a Volusia County Council meeting.
Naturally, there is no official record of the authorization – and former council members Pat Northey and Doug Daniels both dispute Wagner’s self-assured recollections.
“It was discussed,” said Wagner. “There wasn’t any kind of hidden agenda. There was nothing hidden at all.”
I seem to recall in the recesses of my fading memory that – nearly a year ago – the Volusia County Council approved an internal auditor position in an attempt to return a modicum of trust and transparency to this dysfunctional shit-chute that passes for a county government.
What happened to the much anticipated, and desperately needed, internal oversight that our doddering fool of a County Chair, Ed Kelley, called a waste of taxpayers’ money?
“Personally, I think it’s an unnecessary creation of a department,” Kelley said. “We are as transparent as anybody. Everything is open. I don’t know how (approving this new position) is going to make a department operate more efficiently.”
Now, Old Ed is forced to eat his own gibberish. What a dipshit. . .
Look, if this latest five alarm foul-up doesn’t prove the fact that Volusia County is in desperate need of a top-to-bottom audit and overhaul, I don’t know what does.
Now, how can We, The People have any confidence that there aren’t other gushing leaks of our hard-earned tax dollars that absolutely no one with the personal and fiduciary responsibility to steward public funds has any knowledge of?
Is this massive oversight and subsequent bureaucratic tap dance the real reason Mr. Eckert attempted to put the kibosh on the Legend’s parade?
My God. . .
Exactly how much of our money has to go missing – with no official record of its statutorily required allocation or proper accounting – before someone, anyone, with a badge steps up, issues subpoenas, and begins a competent criminal investigation of Volusia County government’s accounting and oversight practices?
Don’t those of us who have been asked to pay the bills and suffer in silence have a right to demand answers?
You’re damned right we do.