Florida Commission on Ethics moving forward with first of two complaints against NSB Mayor Adam Barringer

Show me the Money New Smyrna Beach / Headline Surfer


 

NSB Mayor Adam Barringer facing Fla. Ethics charges / Headline Surfer

NSB citizen watchdog Bob Tolley filed ethics charges against Mayor A. Barringer / Headline SurferHeadline Surfer photos by Henry Frederick / New Smyrna Beach Mayor Adam Barringer is shown at left on the dais at City Hall with then-Commissioner Jim Hathaway last year. The mayor is in hot water with the Florida Commission on Ethics for holding a private retirement dinner for Hathaway at his wine-bar restaurant paid with a city credit card last November. The complaint was brought by citizen watchdog Bob Tolley, shown here at right.

NEW SMYRNA BEACH -- New Smyrna Beach Mayor Adam Barringer will be the center of attention when he is called to the podium to accept the "Blaine O'Neal Award of Excellence" at the Volusia League of Cities banquet on May 30.

Barringer, the charmer with the PH.d in leadership from Capella University known for making speeches and glad handing, loves being front and center, but this time around could prove awkward not only for him, but the league of cities itself when he receives the top award named for the late South Daytona mayor stricken by a heart attack.

That's because the Florida Commission on Ethics is moving forward on the first of several ethics charges against him with more likely to be filed.

Florida Ethics complaint moving forward against Mayor Adam Barringer / Headline SurferThe mayor has refused comment as has City Manager Pam Brangaccio and City Attorney Frank Gummey, both of whom also are accused of ethics violations related to the retirement party.

The mayor has refused comment as has City Manager Pam Brangaccio and City Attorney Frank Gummey, both of whom also are accused of ethics violations related to the retirement party.

In the wake of the allegations, Mary Swiderski, the executive director of the Volusia League of Cities has declined to explain how Barringer could receive such an award with his questionable actions over the past couple of years nor has she commented on the potential embarrassment for her organization considering the controversy at hand and the media spotlight that comes with it. 

Swiderski also runs the Volusia County of Governments, a twin organization chaired by Barringer, who has been meeting behind the scenes with other municipal leaders in recent weeks to try and get watered down tougher CRA guidelines drawn up by County Manager Jim Dinneen leading to expected action May 21 by the County Council.

Tolley said Barringer has a proven track record of using his public position of trust to financially benefit himself and his friends with taxpayer CRA funding.

The citizen watchdog, who has attended city commission meetings for the past decade, said he was incensed when he learned of the private retirement party hosted by the mayor at his SoNapa Grill wine-bar restaurant less than a week before Thanksgiving for more than 40 city officials and friends of the 18-year city commissioner who opted not to seek re-election and instead failed in a run for the district 3 seat on the County Council to fellow New Smyrna Deb Denys.

Barringer, a registered Republican who has often boasted of running for Congress, publicly endorsed the Democrat Hathaway over fellow Republican Denys in the non-partisan race.

"Helping his friends politically is one thing, but making money for himself and his friends is crossing the line," Tolley said.

Tolley was incensed when he made a public records request days after the retirement dinner and found out a city credit card was used to pay for the meals. Additionally, Barringer profited from the sale of wine and other alcoholic beverages during the gathering in his upstairs dining area.

Headline Surfer was informed by the mayor of the retirement dinner by the mayor, which was not publicly announced unlike a party held earlier in November for Commissioner Lynne Plaskett, who also opted not to seek re-election. Her party was held at the Babe James Center and attended by 100 or so citizens and city officials with barbecue catering and finger foods provided by Lil' Neal and paid by the city.

But the Hathaway party was by invitation only, including several of his wife's employers, including attorney Sid Peterson and his wife, Cindy Peterson, who was able to get the city to buy a $27,000 artificial outdoor Christmas tree in 2009, that has cost thousands more since for in wiring and installation.

When Headline Surfer showed up at the party to take photos of Hathaway and the gathering, Guy Mariande, husband of City Commissioner Judy Reiker said the 24/7 internet newspaper was not invited to the party, which he insisted was "private" and was making everyone present uncomfortable. Headline Surfer went downstairs to the main dining room, ordered a bowl of soup, paid for it, processed its photos and left.

The next day, Tolley filed a public records request when informed by Headline Surfer of the Mariande's action. When Tolley learned from his public records request that a city credit card had been used, he forwarded the information to Headline Surfer, which also had filed a public records request.

Tolley subsequently filed an ethics complaints against Barringer, City Manager Pam Brangaccio and City Attorney Frank Gummey.

In his Dec. 7 complaint to the Florida Commission on Ethics, Tolley wrote in part: "I believe Adam Barringer, the current mayor of New Smyrna Beach, violated Florida statutes when he hosted a private party for retiring New Smyrna Beach City Commissioner Jim Hathaway at the Mayor's restaurant SoNapa, which is owned and operated by the Mayor, utilizing tax payer money for the party, which was held on November 19, 2012."

Tolley added is was his belief the "private by invitation only party was planned and facilitated by city staff" at the taypayers' expense. He referred specifically to the city manager and city attorney in separate ethics complaints.

As for the mayor himself, Tolley wrote in his ethics complaint that he believed the mayor's role in hosting the party constituted a "prohibitive conflict of interest as stated in Florida statutes112.313 (3), doing business with one's agency, in this case the Mayor's restaurant."

The state ethics commission  wrote back to Tolley on April 9, informing him his complaint against the mayor "has been found sufficient for investigation and has been forwarded to the Investigative Section of the Commission on Ethics."

Tolley is awaiting word from the ethics commission on the mirroring complaints against City Manager Brangaccio and City Attorney Gummey. And he has since filed a second ethics complaint against Mayor Barringer for cursing out a city cop before the start of the New Smyrna Beach Christmas Parade.

The mayor tried to drive through a barricaded side street, but was waved off by police officer Ralph Hunnefeld. Barringer got out of his "Barringer Construction" pick-up truck, walked up to the cop and reached for a handshake. But it wasn't a conciliatory gesture. According to the cop who filed a complaint with his supervisor, the mayor allegedly told him, "Thanks for being a pr-ck!" He then got back in his vehicle and drove off.

The cop, who previously served his country in active combat in the Iraq War," demanded a written apology, but had to settle for a private apology arranged by Acting Police Chief Michael Brouillette and City Manager Brangaccio.

Tolley, himself a wounded veteran of the Vietnam War and the father of a son in harm's way in the Middle East and a second son who was a first responder firefighter at 9/11 with the collapse of the Twin Towers, said the mayor has demonstrated time and again that he has put his personal and financial needs ahead of his "position of public trust with the citizens of New Smyrna Beach."

Barringer narrowly defeated then-Mayor Sally Mackay in 2009 for a two-year term, after which he and his elected colleagues voted themselves an extra year in office with the city switching to even-year municipal elections.

Henry Frederick Picture

Short Bio

Henry Frederick is publisher of Headline Surfer®, the award-winning 24/7 internet news outlet covering the Daytona Beach-Sanford-Orlando metro area via HeadlineSurfer.com for a decade now. A longtime cops & courts reporter focused on breaking news & investigative reporting, Frederick is among the Sunshine State's most prolific daily news reporters, having amassed dozens of journalism-industry awards in print anddigital platforms. Frederick is enrolled at Full Sail University in Winter Garden, FL, where he's three-fourths through the online Master of Arts program in New Media Journalism. His graduation is in August.