Volusia League of Cities calls cops on internet newspaper to protect embattled mayor from glare of media spotlight

Show me the Money: Volusia League of Cities / Headline Surfer

Adam Barringer receives top award despite two state ethics charges

Headline Surfer videos produced by Multimedia Editor Serafina Frederick / The 24/7 Internet newspaper is threatened with arrest and transport to jail by Daytona Beach police at the request of Tami Lewis, president of the Volusia League of Cities before the start of the taxpayer-funded organization's annual awards banquet in a dining hall behind the St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church in Daytona Beach. New Smyrna Beach Mayor Adam Barringer is shown in the middle video arriving with his family to receive the league's top honor, the Blaine O'Neill Award of Excellence, despite two pending state ethics charges, the main reason why Headline Surfer wanted to cover the event. In the far right video, Barringer flaunts his trophy as he walks by Headline Surfer's camera on his way to his vehicle across the street from the church.

DAYTONA BEACH -- The Volusia League of Cities called the cops to ensure greater Daytona Beach's internet newspaper wouldn't rain on the parade of embattled New Smyrna Beach Mayor Adam Barringer, who received the taxpayer-funded organization's top award Thursday night even though he's facing multiple state ethics charges.

Barringer, head of the league's twin organization, the Volusia Council of Governments, was the recipient of the Blaine O'Neal Award for Excellence, named for the South Daytona mayor who was fatally stricken by a heart attack three years ago at the age of 43. 

When Headline Surfer arrived in front of the St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church in Daytona Beach where the awards ceremony was set to begin in a rear dining hall, its editor/publisher was standing on the public sidewalk when the league's president, Tami Lewis, a Ponce Inlet councilwoman, confronted Headline Surfer on the public sidewalk with the threat of arrest and a trip to jail if an attempt was made to step onto the church property. 

NSB Mayor Adam Barringer is facing multiple state ethics charges / Headline SurferHeadline Surfer screen shot / New Smyrna Beach Mayor thrusts his glass figurine trophy in the air as he walks by the 24/7 internet newspaper's video camera. Headline Surfer was banned from covering the annual Volusia League of Cities awards dinner where the mayor received the top award for 'excellence' despite multiple chsrges with the Florida Commission on Ethics. The event was subsidized by the taxpayers, though the league had no problem getting the Daytona Beach PD  to babysit Headline Surfer, which asseerted its rights to cover the event. However, when threatened with being jailed, the internet newspaper remsained on the public sidewalk for three hours, babysat by at least three different cops.

 Even though the 24/7 internet newspaper's media representative remained on the public sidewalk for the entire three hours of the event, a trespass warning was issued midway through the affair.

The cop also pulled up to the front entranceway during the last 20 minutes, was visited by a supervisor in an unmarked car and a sergeant pulled up and parked on the side of the road for 20 minutes, saying he was simply doing some paperwork.

The media ban was the handiwork of the league's executive director, Mary Swiderski, who granted Headline Surfer access in writing, last month, only to renege less than a week later, claiming it wouldn't be fair to allow the 24/7 internet newspaper and not other media outlets access, even though she conceded none expressed any interest in covering the event. 

She insisted she would provide a press release with all of the information on the award winners to all media, along with the selection process and photos by the following evening. But again she went back on her word.

And in her third and final e-mail the day before Thursday's awards ceremony, Swiderski, whose organization receives taxpayer money from the 16 municipalities of Volusia County as well as the County Council, stepped up her personal attacks in providing cover for Barringer, who serves as chairman of her sister organization, the Volusia Council of Governments, also taxpayer funded.

What follows is Swiderski personal attack verbatim: "For you it's about accusing a man of wrong doing who has not yet been judged. If I were in your shoes I would be praying very hard the ethics board find Adam guilty because if he is not i would be concerned of getting sued when this whole thing with Adam proves innocence. The first amendment was put in place so the truth can be heard. Not for cowards to hide behind while making up information for personal financial gain. Really Henry, that is what this whole thing is about."

Mary Swiderski violating 1st amendment press rights / Headline SurferMary Swiderski, director of the twin Volusia League of Cities and Volusia Council of Governments, which collectively receive more than $200,000 in taxpayer money annually , went back on her word about allowing media coverage and then showing her true colors with an all-out assault via e-mail.

"For you it's about accusing a man of wrong doing who has not yet been judged. If I were in your shoes I would be praying very hard the ethics board find Adam guilty because if he is not i would be concerned of getting sued when this whole thing with Adam proves innocence. The first amendment was put in place so the truth can be heard. Not for cowards to hide behind while making up information for personal financial gain. Really Henry, that is what this whole thing is about."

Swiderski has refused to provide any criteria in justifying Barringer's selection, first announced several weeks ago in a press release, well after a series of news stories detailing the complaints filed against him with the Florida Commission on Ethics on two charges filed by citizen watchdog Bob Tolley earlier this year before Barringer's award was announced:

* The first complaint alleges the mayor hosted a private party at his own restaurant in November for a retired commissioner and 45 guests with a city credit card used to pay the bill. 

* The second complaint alleges the mayor cursed out a city cop, calling him a "pr-ck" before the start of the New Smyrna Beach Christmas Parade just a few weeks later when he was waved off by the officer from trying to cut through a barricade side street.

Tolley also filed an ethics complaint against City Manager Pamela Brangaccio for allegedly authorizing use of the city credit card. 

The complaints were accepted by the Florida Commission as worthy enough to warrant full-scale investigations against Barringer and Brangaccio, both of whom have held their respective positions for the past five years.

Three hours after the awards ceremony ended, Barringer emerged from the hall, accompanied by his wife, his parents and newly-hired New Smyrna Beach Police Chief George Markert by his side.

The smirking mayor made a point of walking in front of Headline Surfer's video camera, thrusting his left arm in the air to show off his glass figurine trophy before driving off from a parking lot across the street.

Minutes earlier Headline Surfer was able to get a brief video interview on the sidewalk with Shawn Lane, winner of the Volusia League of Cities' "President’s Award" for his community service as chairman of New Smyrna Beach's grassroots "Cudas Unhooked."

The grassroots organization raises money to help high school students who, along with their families have financial stresses such as homelessness.

Headline Surfer videos produced by Multimedia Editor Serafina Frederick / Deltona City Commissioner Webster Barnaby is disturbed that the 24/7 internet newspaper was restricted to the public sidewalk rather than being allowed to cover an event where taxpayer dollars were spent. In the second video Shawn Lane of New Smyrna Beach, recognized for his efforts with Cudas Unhooked, does his best to answer Headline Surfer's questions in the dark with a Daytona cop car behind the media outlet.

Because it was dark and there was a mad rush for the 200 or so attendees to get to their vehicles and the noise of passing traffic and poor lighting, Headline Surfer had difficulty capturing the interview on camera, as was the case 10 minutes earlier with Deltona City Commissioner Webster Barnaby, who attended to support the awards given to Maritza Avila-Vazquez as a citizen of the year award recipient for community events and Chris Bowley as an employee of the year award for economic enrichment, community planning and development.

NSB Mayor Adam Barringer with ex-Commissioner Jim Hathaway / Headline SurferNSB citizen watchdog Bob Tolley / Headline SurferHeadline Surfer photos by Henry Frederick / Citizen watchdog Bob Tolley, shown here at right, has been a major thorn in embattled Mayor Adam Barringer's side. The mayor is shown on the dais last year with then-Commissioner Jim Hathaway, who gave up his seat of 18 years in a failed run for a seat on the Volusia County Council, losing in November to fellow New Smyrnan Deb Denys. Barringer hosted a private retirement party for Hathaway at his SoNapa Grille restaurant wine bar with nearly four dozen city and private friends of Hathaway with a city credit card used to pick up the tab. That got Barringer and City Manager Pamela Brangaccio in hot water when Tolley filed complaints with the Florida Commission on Ethics.

The selection of New Smyrna Beach's Barringer for the award marketed by the league as the most "prestigious" of nearly two dozen has gone unexplained despite two investigations well under way by the Florida Commission on Ethics.

And there has been growing criticism of CRA taxpayer spending in excess of $2 million going for bars and alcohol-fueled street festivals, a cornerstone of Barringer's tenure in office, while blighted neighborhoods have gone untouched, especially in the city's predominantly African-American Westside community.

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 since 2008. 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 close to a hundred award-winning byline stories narly eveenly split in print and digital platforms. Frederick earned his Master of Arts in New Media Journalism with academic honors from Full Sail University in Winter Park in February 2019. He was a metro reporter with the Daytona Beach News-Journal for nearly a decade and then served as a city editor for the Taunton Daily Gazette in Taunton, Mass, while maintaining a residence in Central Florida. Prior to moving to Florida, Frederick was a metro reporter for the Rockland Journal-News in Wst Nyack, NY, for seven years. Headline Surfer was named the Sunshine State's top internet news site by the Florida Press Club in 2018.