Angels & Assholes for February 7, 2020

Hi, kids!

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:

Angel               B-CU President Brent Chrite

They say anyone can hold the helm in calm seas – but when the going turns rough, it requires strong, focused leadership to keep the vessel from foundering – and make no mistake, our once venerated Bethune-Cookman University is precariously close to breaking up on the rocks. . .

In his seminal work on Principle-Centered Leadership, Steven Covey said:

“I am personally convinced that one person can be a change catalyst, a ‘transformer,’ in any situation, any organization.  Such an individual is yeast that can leaven an entire loaf.  It requires vision, initiative, patience, respect, persistence, courage, and faith to be a transforming leader.”

In my view, Bethune-Cookman University’s new president Brent Chrite represents that one special person – our very best hope for the rebirth of this once great institution – that has been brought to its knees by internal and external forces who cared more for their own self-interests than the sacred promise that was placed in their charge.

According to reports, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the organization which accredits Bethune-Cookman’s programs, is requiring that the university resolve its current operating deficit of $8 million in just a few short weeks.

Unless that happens, the school’s re-accreditation is in grave jeopardy – which would domino into a loss of federal grants and financial aid – and signal the death knell for Dr. Mary Mcleod Bethune’s dream.

How terribly sad.

(For a comprehensive look at how B-CU got here, please see: https://tinyurl.com/txezzm9 )

When you analyze the gross maladministration, lack of substantive oversight, backroom deals, lawsuits, counterclaims and good old-fashioned greed that brought B-CU to this dismal place, it stirs a sense of rage.

And it should.

In August 2018, the B-CU National Alumni Association fired a pointed letter to the University’s Board of Trustees demanding answers to some very difficult questions:

“How is it that Kent Sharples, the former president of Daytona State College (and current chair of the Volusia CEO Business Alliance), Joe Petrock, the former board chair of Daytona State College, Jacob F. Bryan, a wealthy Insurance Magnate, and others on the Board of Trustees who share similar pedigrees, approve a dormitory deal that absolutely no one on the Board of Trustees understood!” 

“How is it that the Board of Trustees, being such an eclectic group, to this day, cannot adequately explain why $85 million dollars was borrowed to build dormitories that cost less than $60 million dollars?”

“Where is the other $25 million dollars Dr. Carter-Scott? Joe? Kent? If $25 million dollars was misplaced or misappropriated at Florida State University, it would be a matter of great concern, so you can imagine what $25 million unaccounted for dollars means to a small, private school like Bethune-Cookman University?”

My God.  How do these people sleep at night?

In my view, those in a position to know better, the exalted Board of Trustees – a virtual Who’s Who of the Halifax area elite – had an ethical, moral and fiduciary responsibility to alumni, students and staff to ensure the best interests of this historic university were protected from the self-serving motives of former ‘administrators’ and predatory shysters.

Instead, many stood idle while the jackals fed.

That’s unconscionable.

In my view, perhaps it’s time for Dr. Sharples’ and the members of the CEO Business Alliance – along with the other gazillionaire oligarchs who control everything but the ebb and flow of the Atlantic tide here on the Fun Coast – (and those shameless social climbers who hold themselves out as civic visionaries) to get off their ass, scratch around their couch cushions, and come up with $8 million to shore up this important pillar of our community’s foundation before it’s too late.

You know, actually earn some of those haughty tributes and “honorary doctorates” they so willingly accept with a straight face at elegant soirees each awards season – while, across town, B-CU drowns in a murky sea polluted by graft, corruption and mismanagement.

Look, I’ve all but given up on the “federal investigations” we were promised back in September 2018 – criminal probes that may or may not be ongoing.

I hope I’m wrong, but it doesn’t appear anyone’s coming to the University’s rescue.

After all, this isn’t Stetson or ERAU we’re talking about. . .

How terribly sad.    

Perhaps the long-suffering Wildcat Nation will be buoyed by the words of President Chrite, who recently said, “While this is obviously serious, I have no doubt that we will prevail.  I have full faith in our alumni community, and I am excited about this institutions future.”

Good luck and Godspeed, Dr. Chrite.  We’re glad you’re at the helm.

Asshole           Volusia County Council

To say the First Step Shelter debacle has been a shit show of epic proportions is an understatement.

In fact, the situation has gotten so out of hand that last month Daytona Beach City Commissioner Aaron Delgado attempted to personally intercede to ensure the taxpayers of Volusia County – and the homeless community – are getting maximum benefit from the millions-of-dollars already spent.

Naturally, Delgado was shot down.  But, dammit, he tried.

Then, County Councilwoman Deb Denys demanded that a representative of First Step appear in DeLand and explain the utter dysfunction that seems to permeate every aspect of the shelter project.

So, earlier this week, First Step Executive Director Victoria Fahlberg stood dutifully before the Volusia County Council and gave one of those upbeat/sing-song performances that is the stock-in-trade of career bureaucrats and non-profit administrators when they try and sugarcoat a wet turd.

One might have thought our elected officials would have come prepared – armed to the teeth with a laundry list of questions designed to ferret out the truth surrounding this $6 million+ quagmire – and demand a full explanation of how Fahlberg and the gang at Daytona Beach plan to overcome its mounting operating deficit and keep the doors open long term.

Nah.  They brought the soft-soap instead.

Only Councilwoman Heather Post came anywhere near a probative question when she described a pathetic episode wherein a homeless woman slogged out to the hinterlands to seek assistance at the First Step Shelter last month, pitifully sitting in the rain until a security guard arrived for work that morning – who proceeded to throw her off the property. . .

Of course, Dr. Fahlberg immediately reversed blame – claiming that Post’s little melodrama, and others like it, were the result of a lack of understanding in the community.

Yep.  It seems the homeless population was under the mistaken impression that the First Step Shelter was, well, a shelter.

Bullshit.

In my view, when it came time to pursue hard answers to difficult questions – our elected milquetoasts were struck dumb by some weird form of political pseudobulbar affect by Dr. Fahlberg’s incredibly sugary presentation.

At the end of the day, Fahlberg told those on the dais what they needed to hear – and they wallowed in it.

In my view, outside a “law enforcement referral,” the “shelter” remains a Monday to Friday cottage industry of what I call the ‘do-gooders with a profit motive’ set.

I was left with the impression that, like most governmental endeavors, First Step now exists to serve itself – to feed Fahlberg, security contractors, Catholic Charities, architects, designers, consultants, hangers-on and the government contractor who hauled untold tons of extremely lucrative publicly owned dirt for private profit, etc. – and, in my view, these shameless phonies  proved that theory the exact second they turned a helpless woman out in the January rain. . .

The one opportunity Volusia County taxpayers had to get a deep dive into the operational, financial and administrative components of this incredibly expensive enigma turned into a fawning love-fest – complete with gushing accolades from the dais for Fahlberg and her crew.

Hell, even the always arrogant Deb Denys shape-shifted into a bowl of quivering Jell-O – then had the audacity to lecture the “faith community” (which has fought tooth-and-nail for a come-as-you-are shelter for years) to “write the check and be part of the solution.”

Can Ms. Denys really be that out of touch?

Like most thinking people – I suspect the faith community is waiting patiently to see some level of sanity and stability before financially supporting a goofy pseudo social service that continues to hemorrhage money uncontrollably (an incomprehensible $28,000 per bed) to serve just forty-five participants in some mysterious residential self-esteem seminar.

At the end of the day, we are still being asked to believe what we are told about the shadowy operation and multi-tiered administration of the First Step Shelter.

In other words, they want us to take their word for it.

As history proves, that never seems to work out well for Volusia County taxpayers, who are expected to pay the bills and keep our traps shut, while those we elect to steward public funds continue to cloak the truth.

Angel               Lt. Albert Pagliari, Jr. (Ret.)

Here’s a heartfelt Barker’s View congratulations on the well-deserved retirement of my friend and former colleague, Volusia County Sheriff’s Lieutenant Al Pagliari, Jr., who departed from active service last month following more than 38-years of honorable service.

Early in my career, I had the privilege of serving with Al as a member of the Volusia County Crime Prevention Association.

For the few in Volusia County who don’t know Al – he has a friendly, easygoing style and an omnipresent smile that immediately endears him to anyone he meets – and he carries himself with a quiet self-assurance that instills confidence.

These personal attributes served him, and the citizens of Volusia County, well during his long career in a variety of assignments.

In addition to his incredible talent as a law enforcement officer, Al personifies the best attributes of a servant-leader – a true care and concern for his subordinates and those he serves – with a deep-rooted personal commitment to Volusia County that transcends what is expected.

In every situation, Al takes the high road – a true professional – and earned the confidence of his peers in the local law enforcement community.

What Al Pagliari did behind the scenes to build a bond of trust between residents and the agency was important, and it is heartening to know he will be returning to VCSO in a community relations role.

During a brief retirement ceremony at the Volusia County Council meeting this week, I was touched by the sincere thanks and deep appreciation shown by our County Council for Al’s unique legacy and dedication to the best traditions of our service.

Our elected officials were clearly touched by Al’s storied career.

Lt. Al Pagliari represents the best of us, and he exemplifies the importance of building positive community relations to the success of any law enforcement agency.

A job well done, sir.  We’re glad you passed our way.

Here’s wishing you all the best for a wonderful and purpose-filled retirement.

Asshole           The Coming “Great Daytona Stadium Debacle of 2020”

Hold on to your shorts, folks!

Here we go again. . .

Whenever my wife and I decide to purchase a big-ticket item, one that will significantly impact our monthly budget, we take time to perform due diligence.

You know, a comprehensive analysis of all available options, potential long-term liabilities, the reputation of the company we’re considering doing business with and an honest cost/benefit analysis leading to a sound go/no go decision?

I’ll bet you do the same.

After all, some things are “nice to have,” while others are “must haves.”  Right?

So, why is it whenever our local elected officials enter into some convoluted, multi-decade “public/private” partnership (which usually means the use of public funds to underwrite private profits) with a for-profit entity, neither party seems to give two-shits about the potential consequences?

Is it because they’re gambling with other people’s money? 

Case in point – just two-years into a 30-year lease of the aging “Daytona Stadium” complex, Mike Panaggio of DME Holdings is now suggesting the City of Daytona Beach close the sports venue on LPGA Boulevard – then sell the publicly owned property to a real estate developer. . .

You read that right.

According to an interesting article in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, Mr. Panaggio can’t seem to turn a profit at the facility under the current arrangement.

Who saw that coming?

Now, Panaggio is trotting out an ostentatious plan to sell the land the stadium occupies – then leverage the estimated $15 million he believes the stadium will fetch with an equal amount derived from “local and national sponsorships.”

In turn, Mr. Panaggio will use the blend of funds to build a “state-of-the-art” indoor athletic complex somewhere in Daytona Beach.

Oh, Panaggio has “pledged” to throw in $1 million. . .

Unlike Mr. Panaggio – I’ve never been accused of seeing the “Big Picture.”

I don’t have the entrepreneurial vision to come up with moneymaking schemes – or the wherewithal to take wild, winner-take-all, risks that either result in massive wealth, or crippling financial ruin, but I admire those who have the cojones to put it all on the line.

So long as these wildcatters use their own money to speculate with. . .

According to Mr. Panaggio (who also owns a sports training academy) this is somehow different:

“I’m not trying to enrich myself.  I’m just trying to use assets wisely,” he said, explaining his idea is to set up a public-private nonprofit.”

Of course, the very officials the citizens of Daytona Beach have appointed and elected to steward their assets think Panaggio’s plan to leverage public funds with private donations to underwrite a for-profit endeavor may have legs – even though no one associated with “Daytona Stadium” has been able to squeeze a profit from the sports venue in years. . .

In a recent social media post defending his vision to those of us who reside in the lower bowels of the internet, Mr. Panaggio said, in part:

“At one point Municipal Stadium was a fresh beautiful young baby puppy but as all good loyal dogs do, they pass on. This puppy needs to be buried and because we love animals and specially dogs, we want and need to get another one to take the place of the old one.  If we can replace it lets do it and try to not cost taxpayers any money.”

Say what? 

Didn’t Panaggio know this mangy geriatric cur had one paw in the grave – and the other three on the proverbial ‘nanner peel – when he leased it just two years ago?

And I’m not sure its accurate to say the replacement won’t cost taxpayers money – when he plans to use some $15 million from the sale of publicly owned property to underwrite the new, bigger, bestest alternative.

Just sayin.’

Look, I like Mr. Panaggio’s spirit.

I think he’s a good guy who puts his time, unbridled enthusiasm and considerable personal wealth into civic issues he feels strongly about – and that’s admirable.

But I question whether selling another public asset to a speculative developer so they can shoehorn even more homes west of the LPGA Boulevard pinch-point is a wise move right now? 

In my view, Mr. Panaggio either knew, or should have known, what he was getting into when he decided to lease what is essentially an inconvenient location for high school footballs games from the City of Daytona Beach (who, I’m sure, was happy to unload the burden).

Everyone understands why Panaggio wants to staunch the flow of good money after bad as he tries to meet a massive 30-year nut that includes $150,000 in annual rent, utilities, taxes, insurance, a $250,000 “performance bond,” $50,000 annually to local youth sports programs and a promise of $2 million in capital improvements to the facility by September.

Wow.

For now, Mr. Panaggio is promising not to cut and run – while teasing a “major concert” at the stadium next month – but he lost me when he added that the show will be the “biggest concert this town has ever had.”

We’ve heard that before.

(Perhaps Mr. Panaggio should ask Dr. Kent Sharples, and some of his cronies over at the CEO Business Alliance, how the last “major concert” we had worked out for them. . .)

Because anytime one of our “movers & shakers” touts another “game changer” – or tells us rubes how we will benefit if we only agree to commingle public funds with private interests – taxpayers are reminded in a most visceral way of all the ugly disappointments we’ve suffered here on the Fun Coast.

The fact is, city and county officials are begging for a sales tax increase, we lack adequate transportation infrastructure to support growing demand, public utilities are woefully overtaxed, our aquifer recharge area is being actively paved over to accommodate a faux beach community in the pine scrub west of I-95, our natural places are being bulldozed at an alarming rate, our rivers and springs are fouled by over-development and residents face the very real specter of drinking their own recycled sewage in a few short years when our potable water supply runs dry.

Before they rollover and acquiesce to the “next big thing,” perhaps Daytona Beach officials should consider whether this is the appropriate time to swing a $30 million sports complex to replace one nobody uses now. . .

Quote of the Week

“We turned out thousands of people, every year for seven years in order to get the county and city governments to fund $8 million for a come-as-you-are, 24/7, emergency shelter with enough services to get people into housing. The proposal we worked on with Catholic Charities and other community partners allowed for a $1.2 million budget for 80-100 residents. With enough beds and low barriers to entry, there would be no need for a safe zone. FAITH will continue to fight for our homeless brothers and sisters because it is what God requires.”

 –Rev. Kathy Tew-Rickey, writing in The Daytona Beach News-Journal’s Community Voices column, “Barriers to redemption hold homeless people back,” Sunday, February 2, 2020

Given my dismal reputation, she probably won’t want me to say this, but Rev. Rickey is a dear family friend.

Don’t hold it against her that she has compassion for an unrepentant backslider like me. . .

Although we don’t always see eye-to-eye on social issues – she has something unique and original to say about the challenges we face – and I invariably learn something new from our conversations.

She is smart, intuitive, very active in social issues and cares deeply about people and the civic, spiritual and economic health of our community.

In other words, she is everything most of our elected officials are not. 

I would suggest County Councilwoman Deb Denys – and any other clueless elected official who remains ill-informed on the monumental fight by FAITH, and other local faith-based organizations, to serve the needs of those less fortunate in Volusia County – reach out to Rev. Rickey for a history lesson.

It might help our elected officials understand why so many are incredibly disappointed in what First Step Shelter represents – and what it does not. . .

And Another Thing!

As a loyal reader and member of the Barker’s View tribe, you’ve probably figured out by now that I’m not out to win any popularity contests.

In fact, if I haven’t offended your personal or political sensibilities – stick around, I get to everyone eventually. . .

That’s okay.  I self-identify as an asshole – but we can still be friends.

After all, differences of opinions are how we find solutions – and the honest debate of competing ideas is important to the health of our community.

That said, I’m swimming against the tide of public opinion on the mysterious case of former Deputy County Attorney Jamie Seaman, who – after a cumulative total of some three-decades of public service – fell to the political garrote in a messy bloodletting last Friday.

Look, I’ve never met Ms. Seaman – and I damn sure haven’t supported the weird legal opinions that originated from her office under the reign of County Attorney Dan “Cujo” Eckert – but the manner in which she was forced out, then publicly humiliated, opened a brief window into something potentially more sinister.

As usual, there remains more questions than answers – and those who know where this hayride is ultimately heading – aren’t being “made available” to the working press. . .

On Friday, Councilwoman Heather Post issued an alarming memorandum to her “colleagues” announcing that she possessed inside information indicating Seaman had been “overpaid” some $33,000 in cashed out leave – then entered an agreement to pay the county back incrementally – only to receive a ‘suspicious’ pay increase, orchestrated by then County Attorney Dan Eckert and former Human Resources Director Tom Motes.

I read Ms. Post’s memorandum on Sheriff Chitwood’s social media page last Saturday, and her note seemed a tad panicky to me – especially when Councilwoman Post asked that the resignations of Eckert and Motes be “rescinded” to allow time for an investigation.

It was as if Post had just discovered Professor Plum in the library with the candlestick and couldn’t contain her excitement – a weird ‘gotcha’ moment – and Seaman’s’ detractors could smell blood in the water. . .

Considering no one in county government has given Post any substantive information since she took office – it didn’t smell right to me. . .

So, I asked a few inside folks who don’t have a personal or political axe to grind what they knew of this sordid mess.

I quickly learned it was the Volusia County’s finance department who made the error that resulted in an over-payment when Seaman entered the deferred retirement option several years ago.

I’m also told that Seaman offered to refund the full amount to correct the county’s mistake at the time; however – given that she had already paid taxes on the payout – the county preferred she repay it incrementally at $434.76 per paycheck for three years.

So, that’s what she did.

In December 2018, Ms. Seaman, along with another attorney in the office, was given a pay increase commensurate with her responsibilities, something Ms. Post – and County Manager George Recktenwald – now claim was inappropriate, given the fact Seaman was “in debt” to the county.

Say what? 

If this was an error on the county’s part – and the repayment agreement the county requested was executed – why would a mistake by the finance department automatically make Seaman ineligible for merit or routine pay increases? 

And was anyone in the finance department ever held accountable? 

I do agree with Ms. Post on one aspect of this oh-so typical Volusia County contretemps:

Why isn’t our county manager personally responsible for approving every pay increase for non-union employees as a matter of protocol – or signing off on repayment plans – just like every other county or municipal government operating under the council/manager form does? 

Who’s running this shit show?

Whatever.

For now, we’re told that our new Internal Auditor, Jonathan “Milk Carton” Edwards – who hasn’t been seen in public since his surprise on-boarding last November – is on the case.

He’s not being “made available” to those he ostensibly serves, mind you – but we’re assured he’s “directing questions” to the legal department (whatever the hell that means).

Great.

Now that Michael Dyer has been named Interim County Attorney (whose relative inexperience and tepid performance at the Volusia County School District has smart people baffled how he ever fell into this important role) – why is our doddering fool of a lame duck County Chair, Ed Kelley, crowing that he doesn’t want a nationwide search like we were all assured would happen?

Who gives a damn what Old Ed thinks?

He’s outta here. . .no longer relevant to the long-term discussion.

And who, pray tell, is waiting in the wings with bated breath if/when Volusia County decides to start farming out some of its lucrative legal work to local law firms, eh?

A potential goldmine that would make $39,000 seem like pocket change.

Remember, when it comes to Volusia County government – the truth is often difficult to discern until all the right people have been granted access to the public trough.

All I’m asking is that you keep an open mind – and take nothing at face value this election season.

This one’s going to get interesting. . .and all the players will be revealed in time.

That’s all for me.  Have a great weekend, friends!

 

 

 

 

2 thoughts on “Angels & Assholes for February 7, 2020

  1. The first step shelter needs to be closed and turned into a welcome center for Latitude Margarativille. The shelter is already advertising graduating 13 people, providing them housing vouchers, and getting the jobs. yeah, right. Do the graduates do their own laundry and cook for themselves? A true waste of taxpayer money. Half paved parking lot? Looks like a prison.
    What is going on in Ormond, at that Granada bridge. We are building a marina for boats? Shad Kahn may dock his yacht here. We are building a breakwater. Will that hold back the cataclismit rise of sea water? Climate change is misguided, no such thing. Take the money from the water project and put it into fixing streets and repaving.
    So the City is beginning to narrow Beach Street. That is now one less area I will frequent as a retail shopper forever.
    So has anyone seen how fast many cars are driving on our streets? I am seeing 50-60 mph on our city and county and state roadways. Can someone start slowing these vehicles down?

    Like

    1. So Daytona fleeced the county and neighboring cities into contributing to First Step by promising a compliant shelter. Now that Chisholm has been called out, he has Chief Spike spouting out that each city should go get their own safe zone! As a resident of Ormond Beach, I have to ask, “Mr. Chisholm, can we have our money back please?”

      Like

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