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Monday, August 11, 2008

The News Journal coverage about the abusive salary practices of Daytona Beach public officials

Top Plum Jobs in Daytona BeachNearly a month after The Daytona Post broke its story about abusive salary practices by Daytona Beach public officials (See article: Plum Jobs in Daytona Beach), the local left-leaning newspaper, The News Journal published a similar story, High-Priced Help, Salaries are plump for Daytona Beach officials.

High-Priced Help
Salaries are plump for Daytona Beach officials
By SARA KIESLER, Staff Writer
August 10, 2008

Among area cities, Daytona Beach pays its department heads more in 13 categories, and even pays more than Delray Beach, Gainesville and Volusia County in some.
Community leaders say it's comparing apples and oranges to look at salaries across the county or throughout the state.

Some cities have different titles for positions like planning director. Some have tourist economies, while others are bedroom communities.

However you look at it, Daytona Beach department heads are some of the highest paid around.

In a time of tough budgets and a pinch on residents' pocketbooks in the relatively poor community, three of the seven city commissioners say they need to take a tougher look at the city employees' high salaries, especially when the city hires so many consultants.

But other commissioners and city officials say the salaries are well-deserved because of the city's special events, expectations of service from those who live and work here and the price to keep top-notch employees.

Jim Chisholm, Daytona Beach City Manager

Jim Chisholm

"You don't pay your professional staff at a rate you would pay the average resident. You pay them for the expertise of dealing with aging and deteriorating infrastructure." JIM CHISHOLM, Daytona Beach city manager

"If this is truly a representative government, there should not be a superior class of people with a much higher standard of living than all the people paying their salaries." STEVE KOENIG, Bellair Community Group chairman

"Some specializations are scarce enough to require higher salaries. However, under best practices, any organization unit needs to take a look at its fraction of the budget devoted to salary because if they're devoting more than a commensurate amount, they need to take a fresh look." T.WAYNE BAILEY, Stetson University political science professor

The News Journal has recently been forced to lay off over a hundred employees. The newspaper recently was placed for sale after losing its appeal in Federal Court on a $129 million judgmentfor its minority shareholder, Cox Enterprises.

In 2004, Cox Enterprises, Inc. a corporation which owns 47.5% of NJC had sued Mr. Marc Davidson, News Journal Corporation (NJC), and its officers and directors for waste of corporate assets, breach of fiduciary duty and common law fraud.

Marc Davidson, Chairman of The News Journal

Marc Davidson

Mr. Marc Davidson is Chairman of the Board, co-Editor and principal controlling party of News-Journal Corporation, publisher of The News-Journal newspaper.The Davidson family is well known around Daytona Beach social circles as avid supporters of a group of entertainment ventures in music, arts and theater.

Court documents reveal that in the five year period prior to the filing of Cox’s complaint, at least 58 employees of Davidson's arts and entertainment ventures were, unbeknownst to NJC’s sole minority shareholder, on NJC’s payroll.

Despite the fact that these employees did no work for NJC, NJC provided them with full salaries and benefits, at a cost to the company of at least $5.7 million. In the end, the trial court found that tens of millions of dollars were diverted to Davidson family projects to “indulge [the Davidsons’] personal interests in the arts.”

The News Journal, the Davidson family and friends are some of the largest financers and supporters of public officials in the Daytona Beach City Commission. In the city's political circles it is well known that only those endorsed by The News Journal can gain public office.

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