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Friday, September 25, 2009

Daytona Beach City Manager Jim Chisholm accused of breaking the law by Mayor Glenn Ritchey

Daytona Beach City Manager Jim Chisholm under fireDAYTONA BEACH, FL - The state of anarchy, corruption and financial waste at City Hall has been publicly unraveling fast with the latest complaints, now by none other than Mayor Ritchey.

In a letter sent last Monday as a result of public pressure, Mayor Ritchey formally questioned City Manager Jim Chisholm about the circumvention of the City Commission and the City Attorney by Chisholm about several legal and financial matters.

Ritchey demanded an explanation for unapproved expenditures and the hiring of yet another attorney, Robert Abraham as legal counsel for the Daytona Pier (note the misspelling in Mayor Ritchey's letter... he called it "legal council" proving that even Mayors can make spelling mistakes).

Ritchey wants to know how much Chisholm spent in this case - estimates range between $300,000 and $400,000 - and why. The City of Daytona Beach already had five attorneys and a large legal staff on the payroll, an inordinate number considering its population. The City is often involved in litigation for abuses of power and routinely loses or settles those cases.

Commissioner Shiela Mckay often questions about Chisholm and his overt defiance and lack of response to her requests. She has questioned actions and grants of public funds to benefit political supporters of fellow Commissioners and despite her opposition to many spending measures often pushed by Chisholm and private parties she is often outvoted by the rest of the City Commission.

We're left out in the cold, and if you ask questions you're put off limits and staff won't talk to you.

It's so hard to get information since Jim started.

Staff is afraid to speak to me because they're afraid for their jobs.

It's just too much to brush under the rug, I can't distinguish rumors from fact at this point. I'd like to hear from the mayor and city manager what's going on.

Commissioner Shiela McKay-Vaughan

While Chisholm is widely despised by residents and feared by city employees terrified to lose their jobs at any of his whims (see Plum Jobs in Daytona Beach), he is strongly supported by the special interests that have benefited greatly by the widespread corruption in the city he serves. The News Journal newspaper calls these special interests "bigwigs", others call them the "Daytona Capos" or "The Five Families" or "The Apostles".

He also enjoys strong support from some commissioners which also have, not coincidentally, benefited with their Quid Pro Quo relationship with that group of multimillionaires.

It looks like Marie is totally screwed up

Commissioner Rob Gilliland comments about City Attorney Marie Hartman

The Daytona Pier case itself is one of the latest sources of corruption complaints against the City Commission due to it essentially gifting $1.3 million dollars to leaseholder Diland Corporation after ostensibly defaulting on obligations of its lease. Diland is, again not coincidentally, a long time political supporter and campaign financier of various members of the City Commission through its principal, Mr. Jerry Fincke and his friends. The old Daytona axiom of "pay to play" often comes to mind when we see these machinations.

Mayor Ritchey along with City Commissioners Cassandra Reynolds, Robert Gilliland and Rick Shiver - all beneficiaries of funding from Fincke and friends - strongly supported the payment and outvoted opposition from Commissioner Mackay-Vaughan. There are also allegations of intermixed business connections between some of these public officials and business associates and friends of Fincke. Also these Commissioners in the past obtained free club memberships and other benefits which were the focus of a state investigation. The state investigation found that they improperly received gifts from special interests but no penalties or criminal prosecution resulted.

Below is the now famous letter from Mayor Ritchey to City Manager Chisholm, accusing the City Manager of violating the City Charter and intentionally circumventing the City Commission and the City Attorney in various expenditures and decision making.

Daytona Beach Mayor Glenn Ritchey's Letter to City Manager James Chisholm

The city charter specifically says, "The office of the city attorney shall be the sole legal counsel of the city unless other arrangements are requested by the city manager and approved by the city commission."

Further, Florida Statutes provide that no public official can use his office to benefit himself or third parties.

MISUSE OF PUBLIC POSITION.--No public officer, employee of an agency, or local government attorney shall corruptly use or attempt to use his or her official position or any property or resource which may be within his or her trust, or perform his or her official duties, to secure a special privilege, benefit, or exemption for himself, herself, or others.

Fla. Stat. § 112.313(6)
Daytona Beach City CommissionAnother issue surrounds a state review of the city's comprehensive plan amendment. The state Department of Community Affairs determined the city was not in compliance with state law on the amendment, and sent a letter to City Hall Aug. 14. At least some city commissioners were not made aware of the letter, and the city attorney was not made aware of it until the planning director forwarded an email to her about it two weeks later, city records show.

The city also failed multiple audits by the state in the accounting of CRA funds. The past few years the City Commission has gifted several million dollars of taxpayer funds to fund the personal hobbies and indulgences of local influential patrons. Most notably the funding of the failed News Journal Center, the Lively Arts Center and even an unbudgeted controversial gift of $500,000 at the demand of local multimillionaire and key campaign financier, Hyatt Brown (of publicly traded Brown and Brown Insurance NYSE:BRO) to fund his passion in the arts: the otherwise insolvent Florida International Festival.

CRA funds are intended to be used to improve infrastructure and blighted areas in Daytona Beach ...taxes paid by poor people will be used to help subsidize an event that wealthier people attend.

Why should we pay for the hobbies of these millionaires and their cronies?
Local Citizens
Names withheld to protect against retaliation by local public officials

Brown's company has enjoyed a long time incumbency as exclusive provider of insurance services to the City of Daytona Beach despite a large number of other insurance brokers in the area. Inexplicably, his company also receives fees for consulting services in the selection of insurance provider to the City (the equivalent to paying a fox to advise who to let in the hen house...).

Daytona Beach has been besieged by an unprecedented wave of local government corruption that has thrown this formerly bustling beach town into anarchy, poverty, crime and despair. Over half a billion dollars of taxpayer funds have been wasted or diverted into the hands of a handful of local multimillionaire special interests that exert control over the City Commission. No Federal or state criminal investigations have been announced to date.

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