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 The Daytona Beach Police Department
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
On June 23, Officer Jason Raynor was gravely wounded while investigating a suspicious incident on Kingston Avenue in Daytona Beach.
The 26-year old succumbed to his injuries following a valiant 55-day fight.
26. . .
In a ceremony befitting this young officer’s service and sacrifice, on Monday, over 1,000 current and former law enforcement officers from around the state and nation joined together in a grim time-honored tradition – standing shoulder-to-shoulder in a thin blue line – a silent yet incredibly powerful ceremonial tribute to one of our own who, as President Lincoln said, gave “The last full measure of devotion.”
These officers, deputies, and agents were joined by thousands of area residents who lined the procession route, displaying flags and offering heartfelt salutes – an inspiring show of community support for Officer Raynor and his bereaved family – a physical expression of their enduring love and appreciation for the men and women of local law enforcement.
Throughout this horrific ordeal – a tragedy that galvanized the Halifax area and beyond – the leadership, officers, and staff of the Daytona Beach Police Department have demonstrated the true depth and strength of the brotherhood and sisterhood of law enforcement.
A fraternal bond that exemplifies their abiding commitment to something greater than themselves – a love of service, community, and humanity – and a sense of pride which cannot be broken by the despicable act of a base coward or the misplaced anger of an often-ungrateful society.
In my view, Daytona Beach Police Chief Jakari Young has met this unfathomable challenge with great poise, grace, and professionalism – a beacon of strength for his department and community during this traumatic time.
May God bless and keep Officer Jason Raynor and bring comfort to his family, and the courageous officers and staff of the Daytona Beach Police Department, in the difficult days and weeks ahead – and may our grateful community never forget the service and sacrifice of these brave heroes as they go about their difficult and dangerous job to protect and serve.
Asshole Deltona Interim City Manager John Peters III
“Leadership at the top sets the boundaries of what’s acceptable. Leadership sets the agenda and priorities. Leadership defines the culture by clarifying the gray areas. Leadership decides whether or not there will be progress.”
–Ken Perlman, “Pro vs. Con: What’s the Opposite of ‘Progress’?” Forbes, May 2013
During my productive life I was a prodigious keeper of notebooks – stacks of them – Moleskines all collated and categorized by month, date, and time; encyclopedias of to-do lists and “GTD” planners – booklets chockfull of interesting words, quotes, clippings, and random thoughts – notes and asides that served to memorialize significant events and a close-at-hand reference when things weren’t all too clear.
More than once during my long career, those little black books saved my bacon when those with a convenient memory casually changed the known facts to fit a more self-serving narrative. . .
Unless you are an astronaut exploring the far reaches of the Kuiper Belt, there are few things in this world that someone else hasn’t experienced, problems that have not already been solved, an anecdotal solution written down and passed along for the edification of others.
The trials, tribulations, and challenges of our personal and professional lives often have proven solutions, but only if we are willing to drop our defenses, open our mind, and listen to the sound advice of others – or remember the hard lessons of our own experiences so history does not repeat – because one recurring issue we all face is, in the absence of leadership and oversight, sometimes people in positions of great responsibility violate our trust.
I was reminded of the importance of strong accountability last week while reading the ghastly details of the most recent debacle to beset the City of Deltona:
A lawsuit filed by the city’s former (current?) Human Resources Director Richard Adams – who claims he was fired after launching an investigation into allegations that Interim City Manager John Peters III made “…discriminatory and inappropriate comments” in the workplace.
Not what the perpetually besieged City of Deltona needed at this time in its wobbly history, eh?
Whenever young, upwardly mobile government professionals seek my advice on how to sidestep the numerous pitfalls (and pit vipers) one encounters along their career path in public service, I am always quick to point out that – while I knew very little about the nuts-and-bolts of sound governance and management – I was instinctively aware of what snares to avoid.
For instance, anyone who has been in the workforce for the better part of, oh, the last century, knows that discriminatory conduct and “inappropriate” comments are mala in se – an act which is not just prohibited, but morally and ethically evil in itself – a despicable and debasing practice counter to the development of a cohesive and inclusive team.
According to an excellent piece in The Daytona Beach News-Journal by the intrepid Wild West Volusia correspondent Katie Kustura:
“The portion of that complaint included in Adams’ lawsuit states, in part, that “women in a position of power or management have either been let go, forced to resign or voluntarily left.” The name of the person who made that comment is not included in the lawsuit.
Adams, on March 8, wrote a formal complaint “of sexual harassment and discrimination against Peters” and sent it to Mayor Heidi Herzberg and the other members of the City Commission, according to the lawsuit. Herzberg said Tuesday afternoon by phone that she had no comment.”
Nothing to ameliorate the very real fears of anxious Deltona residents concerned they are staring down yet another massively expensive settlement, a “Golden Parachute,” for yet another senior staffer caught up in the seemingly endless internecine warfare at City Hall?
Perhaps more disturbing, according to the report, the City of Deltona hired an outside investigator to probe Mr. Adams allegations, “…but the investigation was never completed nor were his retaliation complaints investigated.”
It is one thing to be made aware of complaints of degrading behavior by a senior executive – it is quite another to do absolutely nothing to investigate or correct the problem once you are cognizant of it.
Look, I am clearly not an attorney – however, in my experience, those who practice employment law will tell you that harassment and discrimination allegations should be dealt with expeditiously – before the ink dries on the complaint, in fact.
In addition to being required by the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission – it is the right thing to do to protect employees and the integrity of the workplace – because bullying behavior, especially by the chief executive, dehumanizes employees and destroys the cohesiveness of the team.
The lawsuit also claims that in July 2020, Adams received a complaint that on two separate occasions while Peters was the director of public works, he “used offensive, sexually harassing language. Peters admitted to using ‘questionable’ language and indicated he would discontinue such behavior moving forward.”
Unfortunately, according to the News-Journal’s report, requests for records relating to lawsuit were less than forthcoming – and everyone in the hierarchy at City Hall (including Peters and Herzberg) is hiding behind the patented “we don’t comment on pending litigation” dodge. . .
Most folks call that a “red flag.”
As a result, the good citizens of Deltona still don’t know if Mr. Adams is receiving public funds to serve in the public interest – or if the embattled Interim City Manager is simply paying the former/current HR Director to sit on his ass at home. . .
Several weeks before the Adam’s lawsuit was made public, Mr. Peters made a calculated move to consolidate power while playing the victim of overzealous politicians – making bold allegations that freshman elected officials were meddling in the day-to-day operations of the municipal government – a tactic frequently employed to neuter those who ask too many questions.
It is also a serious charge that carries the full weight of the City Charter – the municipality’s governing document – an indelible stain which can ruin the political career of any councilmember who peeks too deep into the inner sanctum.
In May, Mr. Peters strategically threatened to resign citing “interference” by elected officials in operational decisions – going so far as to air the city’s dirty laundry in the West Volusia Beacon – “I don’t have a choice. There’s too much interference. If I resign, I can speak out about it.”
Then, in a grossly Machiavellian move, after dropping that turd in the punchbowl, Peters simply quit communicating in the media leaving residents to speculate and stew.
To add insult, during a subsequent public meeting, Peters dramatically wept like a lachrymose grandmother while mewling about his “integrity” – while Commissioners Dana McCool and David Sosa were publicly slow-roasted – effectively ending any accountability with Mr. Peter’s standing threat to take his football and go home if anyone looked over his shoulder. . .
At the time, I thought, “If there was ever a bureaucracy that needs outside oversight from those with political accountability, it is that deteriorating shit-show on Providence Boulevard.”
One nugget in my voluminous library of notebooks speaks to the importance of quickly excising those whose abhorrent personal and professional behavior is cancerous to the good order and discipline of the group – a malignancy that can quickly metastasize throughout the organization destroying morale, efficiency, and effectiveness.
In my view, it is time for Interim City Manager John Peters to call on his hallowed personal integrity and resign from the City of Deltona – he is damaged goods – and a clear distraction to the substantive progress the community so desperately needs.
Asshole Volusia County’s Gang of Four
“Is this how you envision your goverment (sic) working?
Do we still live in a Republic or are we headed towards Dictatorship?
You be the judge.
Regardless of opinion, County Council members are Policy Makers. We are NOT to get involved in day to day operations or the performance of duties. That is the duty of the County Manager. PERIOD. This organizational terrorism, Lambasting employees for over 2 hours, is not only outside our job description, it is goverment (sic) over reach that has developed a pattern. A pattern which has been documented by other elected officials since approximately 2017. See Charter sections 203 (Division of Power) and Section 404 (Non Interference by County Council). http://library.municode.com/…/codes/code_of_ordinances…
Equally troubling, is decorum or lack there of. Goverment (sic) bodies run meetings by Roberts Rules, NOT Romper Room. Roberts Rules of order ensures an efficient and effective meeting between members which then proceed forward by a majority vote, not a 1 person vote. Is ignoring a motion that had a second ok? Is this how a republic works? Or is this Dictatorship, one wanting to control the narrative and rule by absolute control? We see behavior like this all over the country and world. Unfortunately it is flexing right at our doorstep. This conduct is 100% about politics and personal gain, NOT the people.
I am calling on our cities, our chambers, our businesses, and our citizens. Your Goverment (sic) needs your help. Your Community needs your help. This is NOT ok.
I Thank God everyday we have a strong majority vote and I am equally thankful for the opportunity to fight for the citizens of Volusia County.
Thank you – Danny”
–District 3 Volusia County Councilman Danny Robins, as posted to various Facebook political sites with links to some twenty-one municipalities in Volusia County, Saturday, August 21, 2021
This jumbled grammatical nightmare – an uber-weird S.O.S. of sorts – was apparently cobbled together and published by freshman Volusia County Councilman Danny Robins at the odd hour of 9:40pm last Saturday evening. . .
Look, I’ve seen sitting politicians self-destruct in a pique of hubris and pomposity – some in spectacular fashion – but rarely with this degree of callow desperation and complete lack of self-awareness.
I don’t make this shit up, folks.
In one ill-thought and horribly disconnected screed, Councilman Robins has, once and for all, exposed the existence of a lockstep voting bloc – the “strong majority” – now appropriately branded The Gang of Four, a shameless, bullying cabal comprised of Ben Johnson, his protégé Danny Robins, lame duck Billie Wheeler, and that batshit-crazy conspiracy theorist Rev. Fred Lowry.
The stalwarts of Volusia County’s Old Guard and their just-off-stage handlers – craven marionettes who have proven they will do anything in their considerable power to protect the stagnant status quo and block official oversight of a bloated bureaucracy which now commands an annual budget exceeding $1 Billion.
I am giving Councilwoman Barb Girtman the benefit of the doubt.
I consider her the intellectual superior on the dais – always sincere, thoughtful, and composed – but her repeated refusal to stand up for the rights of her fellow council members to speak, make inquiry, and let sunshine into the fusty halls of power is confusing to many – giving the appearance she tacitly approves of this thuggery.
During last week’s théâtre de l’absurde that passes for a Volusia County Council meeting, Councilwoman Heather Post made a gallant effort to extract straight answers to pointed questions from Public Protection Director Joe “Blue Falcon” Pozzo – anything which might explain the nightmarish shit-show that is emergency medical transport – a life-and-death issue that predates the stressors of the pandemic by years – and a matter of grave concern to area residents, first responders, and hospitals.
To her credit, the incredibly well-prepared Ms. Post attempted to hold a senior executive accountable – asking the hard questions, uncovering half-truths, and cutting through the smoke and double-talk – demanding an end to the age-old internal communications issues that keep Volusia County policymakers almost strategically in the dark.
In my view, Ms. Post was right to hold Pozzo’s feet to the fire and attempt to draw out the truth – to insist on an explanation for the abysmal response times, the exodus of qualified paramedics, and the senior staff’s repeated failure to recognize the inherent flaws in the disastrous “dynamic deployment” strategy – and, perhaps most important, understand the warped mindset behind Volusia County’s greed-crazed refusal to allow the cities to transport ill and injured residents 24-hours a day.
In my view, Post’s factfinding was the quintessence of the policymaking function – being proactive, finding solutions, gathering information for the proper allocation of millions-of-dollars in coronavirus relief funds to support emergency services – rather than waiting for yet another “lapse in judgement” when, inevitably, some poor soul dies waiting on an ambulance. . .
For example, when Ms. Post inquired when/if the City of Port Orange would receive authorization for around-the-clock transport, Pozzo had the cheek to explain he has asked the municipality’s new fire chief to put the request in writing.
Am I the only one who remembers the cheap backstabbing in April when Pozzo orchestrated the termination of Port Orange Fire Chief Ken Fustin after he boldly stood up to months of Pozzo’s provocation, bullying, and foot-dragging on the 24-hour transport question?
A serious issue of public concern that Fustin rightfully believed placed the lives of Port Orange residents in danger?
Then, rather than settle the matter like brother firefighters and colleagues, Joe “Blue Falcon” Pozzo ran home and told Daddy George that Kenny was using bad words?
In their Pavlovian response to any perceived threat to an entrenched bureaucrat, The Gang of Four immediately circled the wagons and set upon Ms. Post, accusing her of overstepping boundaries and badgering a senior director commanding six-figures – a division director with personal responsibility for the health, safety, and welfare of Volusia County residents – essentially attempting a parliamentary coup d’état demanding that Chairman Jeff Brower shutdown Ms. Post and put an end to her desperate search for answers.
It was ugly and desperate – another embarrassing imbroglio that left County Attorney Mike Dyer with a redlined pucker factor of “10” – and County Manager George “The Wreck” Recktenwald running out of initialisms, acronyms, and bureaucratese to keep his bosses baffled and corralled.
In keeping with the on-going demonization of Chairman Brower and Councilwoman Post, The Gang of Four – with Mr. Robins clutching his pearls in faux-indignation – continued pummeling Ms. Post for having the temerity to question Pozzo on long-term issues and seeking honest answers on how the County Council can help him improve service delivery.
Now, Mr. Robins sends out this goofy all-hands-on deck distress signal hyper-dramatically asking, “our cities, our chambers, our businesses, and our citizens” (you know, the very people and organizations Ms. Post is trying frantically to help) to turn on the only two elected representatives on the dais with a demonstrated personal commitment to accountability, oversight, and a reduced tax burden.
There is one thing in Danny’s missive I agree with: This is NOT okay. . .
My sincere hope is that Mr. Robins and his band of wooden figureheads will realize that Councilwoman Post and Chairman Brower won their seats just like they did – by majority vote of the constituents Post and Brower are trying desperately to serve.
In my view, Robins own brand of “organizational terrorism,” bashing his colleagues on social media, making serious allegations of personal gain by elected officials – practicing the ugly politics of personal destruction – is caustic, counterproductive, and wrong.
Fortunately, this chicanery is wearing thin with many voters seeking substantive change in Volusia County government – and the 2022 election season is just around the corner.
Angel “Crazy Eddie” Colosimo
Crazy Eddie was no angel.
Anyone who knows anything about my beloved City of Holly Hill will tell you that it has its share of interesting characters – a place where the “movers-and-shakers” have colorful monikers like “Big John,” “Snake,” and “Crazy Eddie” – a wonderfully eccentric community made special by so many who give so much of themselves to help others.
In 2003, Eddie Colosimo, the quintessential cantankerous curmudgeon with a heart of pure gold, founded Bikers for First Amendment Rights – a civic and fraternal organization devoted to community engagement, veteran outreach, and protecting the constitutional rights of the “Common Joe.”
To our great fortune, the club ultimately headquartered in Holly Hill.
In its various locations and iterations, BFFAR was a mix of social club, biker bar, and veterans’ assistance center, a place where everyone was welcome, and all walks of life could gather and listen to Eddie hold court over a cocktail – an omnipresent cigarette bobbing from his lips – as he talked politics, railed against government overreach, and told an endless stream of bawdy jokes.
In 2013, BFFAR became the center of a small town tempest in a teapot when a former Holly Hill city manager arbitrarily ordered Eddie to remove a row of military flags that had flown proudly in front of the clubhouse for years.
During the ensuing bruhaha, Eddie mounted a highly successful campaign to put the overzealous chief executive in his place, jamming City Hall with angry veterans, fanning a letter writing campaign, ultimately convincing the elected officials to overturn the manager’s stupid diktat and allow the flags to fly.
No one could muster – or incite – a crowd like Crazy Eddie.
I loved every uncomfortable minute of it. . .
Once, Crazy Eddie lived up to his nickname during one of his frequent blustery appearances at a city commission meeting, giving him the dubious distinction of being the only member of the public I was ever asked to remove from the chamber in over 30-years of service.
After escorting him outside City Hall – still fuming, flailing, and shouting – Eddie turned to me, gave me that sly smile and a wink – then shook my hand to let me know there were no hard feelings.
Anyone who honorably served in the armed forces was a brother or sister to Crazy Eddie – himself a proud former Marine – and he worked tirelessly to ensure that veterans issues remained at the forefront; lobbying, fundraising, speaking out, making waves, making a difference – always seeking better for our veterans – and always willing to help a fellow service member in need.
Anyone who spent time in his company can attest that Crazy Eddie was gregarious, fearless, fun loving, and incredibly generous – with a massive ego of heroic proportion, one who didn’t suffer fools – and, for a skinny guy, he took up a lot of real estate whenever he walked into a room.
He was also an incredibly savvy navigator of the political landscape with the tenacity, strength of personality, and natural leadership ability to get things done.
We need more people like that.
Now that I think of it, Crazy Eddie is an angel – one with a halo of cigarette smoke and a cocktail in hand, sporting a well-worn biker vest and signature leather cowboy hat – and I can see him roaring through the pearly gates of heaven on his motorcycle, flags flying off the back, asking St. Peter for directions to the clothing optional section. . .
My friend Crazy Eddie Colosimo – an indefatigable champion for the rights of the little guy – died this week following a battle with COVID-19.
He was 79-years old.
Fly high, my brother.
Quote of the Week
“You need to respect us enough that you can come to us. I guarantee you we’re going to hear about it, and we want to be responsible to the people we serve in this county.”
–Volusia County Council Chair Jeff Brower asking Public Protection Director Joe “Blue Falcon” Pozzo for the courtesy of proper notice when he arbitrarily changes established public policy in his division’s “take a wild-ass-guess, asking neither permission nor forgiveness” approach to meeting the emergency medical transport needs of some 567,650 people, Tuesday, August 17, 2021
And Another Thing!
Every great story in my life – the tragedies, triumphs, and intractable predicaments – always include smart women and copious amounts of whiskey.
This small chapter was no exception.
Several months ago, the impressive Rhonda Kanan of Paradise Properties of NSB, asked me to address the New Smyrna Beach Board of Realtors at the beautiful riverfront Brannon Center.
I have long admired Rhonda’s civic activism and dogged tenacity in fighting for basic fairness in a protracted civic issue in New Smyrna Beach, but I begged off – several times – turning down her kind invitation, convinced I had nothing in common with esteemed members of the real estate profession (because I don’t).
Then she caught me at a vulnerable moment. . .
I was ensconced at a bar (go figure) – drinking fine Tennessee whiskey, well into my cups – when Rhonda texted and convinced me to attend.
I am so thankful for her persistence.
Yesterday, I had the distinct pleasure of speaking to the NSB Board of Realtors – a true honor that gave me the opportunity to meet with a group of wonderful realtors, title agents, and industry executives who are making a real difference in Southeast Volusia’s vibrant business community.
While doing research, I was immediately taken with the real estate profession’s Code of Ethics – a living document which holds the distinction of being the first codification of ethical practices adopted by any business group in the United States.
A set of enduring standards which has made the title Realtor among the most trusted names in our society.
It also gave me the chance to explore contemporary issues facing the real estate industry – and the board’s ongoing commitment to ensuring property rights, the creation of adequate housing, the building of functional communities, the development of productive industries and agriculture, and the preservation of a healthy environment.
When I arrived at the venue, I was warmly greeted by the very gracious Kathryn Disbrow of First American Title, who ensured my immediate comfort then gave a beautiful introduction that left me blushing – and incredibly humbled. . .
I enjoy being around smart, dedicated professionals – that’s how I learn – and the NSB Board of Realtors proved to be outstanding ambassadors for their profession, actively committed to improving the quality of life in Southeast Volusia and beyond.
I admire that.
A very special thank you to Rhonda Kanan, Kathryn Disbrow, and the staff and membership of this exceptional organization for your kindness and hospitality.
That’s all for me. Have a great weekend, y’all!