DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- He's not even the chief of police in Daytona Beach any more, but rookie Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood is abusing the authority of his current elected office as pay back against this small news operation by excluding it from daily breaking news email alerts from the agency and even banning the online medium from his press conferences.
Why? Because Michael Chitwood is petty, insecure and vindictive. Chitwood, who is known for calling people names like "scumbag" and even resorting earlier this year to calling County Manager Jim Dinneen a "lying sack of (expletive)" is abusing the authority of his office in stomping all over the First Amendment Rights of the award-winning internet news outlet as a means to exact revenge for an an investigative story Headline Surfer published way back in 2012. The story, Daytona police chief promotes patrol supervisor who taunted female cop for more than a year, was the winner of not one, but two Florida Press Club journalism awards later that year in the categories of public safety reporting and general news reporting.
The story outlined how Chitwood promoted a patrol supervisor to captain despite lengthy allegations of sexual harassment against women cops under his command despite the lengthy documents outlining numerous allegations of abuse, with Chitwood even firing one of the women cops before he was forced to rehire her two years later.
Chitwood did the exact same thing back then, cutting off the media outlet for a couple of weeks before Headline Surfer made a formal complaint with City Manager Jim Chisholm, who forced Chitwood to restore the Headline Surfer contact information.
And so Chitwood waited until Jan. 3, the day he was sworn into office to begin his revenge. It was his hope to minimize Headline Surfer by creating a non-level playing field where Headline Surfer has to play catch-up on daily news, a near impossibility with limited resources. The antagonism also has hurt Headline Surfer's ability to generate ad revenue as well in recent months. Every government entity in Volusia County as well as at the state level is aware of Chitwood's rogue actions, but nobody is doing anything to stop him. Headline Surfer can't afford legal representation to fight him in court and if it were to file suit, Chitwood would have the unlimited resources of the county attorney's office.
But now Headline Surfer is taking a deeper look into Chitwood's actions as sheriff since he was sworn into office and has come up with some key situations where his veracity, leadership, ethics and decision-making are easily called into question.
• Chitwood claims he demanded a deputy issue him a ticket for speeding. What he didn't tell the public was that decision came 11 hours later ad according to credible sources in the agency, the deputy was forced to lower the speed so he wouldn't face a reckless charge before a judge.
• Chitwood claimed a bicycle that fell from the marked unit SUV he was driving on I-95 was due to a strap that snapped, but what he didn't tell the public was that he had more than one bicycle on the back and the strap was too tight, causing it to snap at the base. The bicycle that fell, damaged three cars and terrified at last one motorist who had a baby with her in her vehicle.
• Despite being short 48 deputies when he took office Jan. 1, Chitwood hired his own campaign manager, Janelle Holman, to do PR work at a salary of $54,000, despite already deciding to retain three civilian PIOs who collectively make $200,000. Those four positions would provide enough money to hire eight starting deputies on patrol where sworn personnel are desperately needed.
• The number of deputy vacancies has risen to 52 in the six months that Chitwood has been in office with retirements and two terminations.
• While Chitwood has repeatedly bashed a deputy, who has since quit and been charged with stealing cash from DUI offenders; with Chitwood using his media contacts to vilify the deputy and calling him names, he has said nothing about a deputy he allowed to come back after he was arrested for physically assaulting his own wife over a tape measure by twisting her hand hard and spitting in her face. Chitwood also said nothing about a deputy, he fired who was a convicted DUI offender in a high profile case several years ago, who was re-hired by his predecessor, Ben Johnson, but not allowed to drive.
• After Chitwood's January speeding ticket fiasco, he made light of one of his deputies who drove off in a patrol car with a broken gas pump sticking out of the side of it. Chitwood said absolutely nothing, however, when a 25-year-old deputy was involved in a horrific crash an an intersection in Edgewater that caused critical injuries to two elderly people, though one had been been allegedly drinking and driving, which contributed to the crash. Still, Edgewater cops estimated the deputy was doing more than 80 mph when he caused the hellacious crash while responding to a non-emergency call. It was the second time he had been in a crash resulting blatant speeding. His punishment? Four weeks unpaid pay. His patrol car was totaled as were three other cars in the most recent crash.
• Chitwood has used his office to politic against County Manager Jim Dinneen, saying he has not fully allowed him resources he needs to do the job of sheriff and that the county charter is holding him back. At one point, Chitwood referred to Dinneen in a published Daytona Beach News-Journal story as a "lying sack of (expletive)" even though he did not once mention such issues during his campaign for sheriff.
• Chitwood unwittingly had an ex-con working on his campaign staff in his run for sheriff.
Volusia County Shriff Mike Chitwood's first six months in elected office here in 2017 have been less than stellar as hinted at in this photo collage. Here is a breakdown of the photos: