Awarding of Blaine O'Neal Award reeks of favoritism & reward for arrogant behavior
DAYTONA BEACH -- When an elderly woman hit the gas pedal instead of the brakes and careened into the Intracoastal Waterway near the Brannon Center, Adam Barringer and two other men jumped in and rescued her from an almost certain drowning death as her car began sinking. That was five years ago.
This was the Adam Barringer who had emerged from a bitter 2009 election to narrowly defeat first-term incumbent Sally Mackay, thanks in part to two public candidate debates held by this 24/7 internet newspaper and its subsequent endorsement of his candidacy.
But like so many politicians, he soon forgot why he was elected in the first place. The most recent example occurred Thursday night when he walked by Headline Surfer and its video camera on the sidewalk after leaving the dining hall behind the St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church in Daytona Beach for the parking lot across the street: Barringer thrust his left arm in the air with his glass figurine trophy held high in the grip of his hand like he was an Olympic champion, with the typical smirk he displays when he knows the camera is on him.
In reality, he showed he's nothing more than a chump with a trinket he knows he didn't deserve or earn. It was handed to him on a silver platter by political insider friends like Mary Swiderski, the executive director of the league and sister organization, Volusia Council of Governments that Barringer chairs, who made sure to lock out the only media outlet that cared enough to even show up and cover the event.
Despite what Barringer may believe in his inflated ego, Headline Surfer was there also to recognize someone who actually deserved the award given -- Shawn Lane, chairman of Cudas Unhooked in New Smyrna Beach, who was nominated for the "President's Award" by dist. 3 Volusia County Council Member Deb Denys.
Unfortunately, because Barringer's connections within the Volusia League of Cities, he was able to avoid the glare of the media while getting his trophy piece, but that meant a grainy talk post-awards interview for Lane with Headline Surfer on the dimly-lit sidewalk where the internet newspaper was held at bay by a Daytona cop threatening arrest for any attempt to take a step off the public sidewalk in the direction of the dining hall.
Barringer's supporters on the executive board, who include New Smyrna Beach City Commissioner Judy Reiker, as well as the director of the league, Mary Swiderski, saw to that by calling them expressing fear there was going to be some kind of disturbance. As if!
Barringer made sure this event was all about him in furthering his desire for higher office. In reality, he should be more concerned with finishing his second term. Had he and his elected commissioners not given themselves an extra year under the guise of switching to even-year elections, this would have been his last year in a second term.
The Blaine O'Neal Award for Excellence, described by the league as the "most prestigious" of the two dozen or so awards, was established in honor of the South Daytona mayor who died in 2010 of a heart attack at the age of 43.
The first year it was given to Port Orange Mayor Allen Green, one of the more well known and respected mayors like former Daytona Beach Mayor Glenn Ritchey or former DeLand Mayor David Rigsby. The second year, the award went to Port Orange City Manager Ken Parker, who retired earlier this year.
Though Green and Parker have had to deal with issues related to billing issues related to water services for which the city lost millions because of inept staffers, neither has had to deal with the black cloud that hovers over the New Smyrna Beach municipal offices with Barringer and City Manager Pam Brangaccio facing multiple state ethics charges.
The league's operatives knew this when Barringer was selected and they had to know the implications this would have for the sanctity of the Blaine O'Neal award. That Barringer would welcome this speaks greatly to the arrogance he has shown time and again in office.
Perhaps he's just not as smart as he thinks, even with that Ph.D. in Leadership from Capella University.
The award of excellence has been rendered meaningless by an organization that has now shown its true colors and has the new poster boy to show for it: Adam Barringer.
They must all be so proud.
Here's the record of "excellence" that Barringer has to show for thrusting his trophy high above his inflated ego, even as Swiderski never produced anything in the way of criteria or justification in demonstrating his deserving of the award:
# Florida Commission on Ethics investigation into allegations Barringer held a "private" retirement party at his So Napa Grille wine-bar restaurant in November for Democrat Jim Hathaway who gave up running for another term on the New Smyrna Beach City Commission in favor of a failed run for the non-partisan dist. 3 seat on the Volusia County Council won by Republican Deb Denys of New Smyrna Beach. Their parties are listed here because Barringer, a registered Republican, openly supported Hathaway.
That a city credit card was used to foot the bill for the dinners of 40-plus guests at the direction of City Manager Pam Brangaccio has her also named in a separate ethics complaint.
It wasn't until after a series of stories were published that the city began a process of reimbursement with the mayor being the last to pay up his portion, some six weeks later, even though the freebie dinners were at his at his restaurant. But because everyone paid for their own drinks, those proceeds remained in his restaurant's coffers.
The allegations were brought forth in complaints to the Florida Commission on Ethics by citizen watchdog Bob Tolley. Headline Surfer showed up to the "surprise" party after being told about it by Barringer who was evasive about how it was organized and who was paying for it.
When the internet newspaper arrived its editor/publisher was greeted by Commissioner Judy Reiker's husband, Guy Mariande, who was insistent this was a private invitation-only dinner and media was neither invited nor welcomed. He further stated Headline Surfer's presence was making "everyone here feel uncomfortable.
Headline Surfer left after shooting some photos of Hathaway and wrote a brief story. After reading the story, Tolley made a public information request by e-mail and discovered a city credit card was used.
When Headline Surfer received a copy of the city response while awaiting a response as well to its follow-up request for documentation, the internet newspaper informed the mayor that his occasional "Mayor's Message" blog was being discontinued, especially since his most recent blog submission dealt with ethics and doing the right thing.
Tolley subsequently filed ethics complaints against Barringer and Brangaccio.
Then just a few weeks later, Barringer had a run-in with a city cop after he was waved off while trying to drive through a barricade side street before the start of the New Smyrna Beach Christmas Parade.
Officer Ralph Hunnefeld filed a formal complaint alleging Barringer pulled over, walked up to him and began shaking hands, but what the mayor then said in a not so genteel tone, took him by surprise.
"Thanks for being a pr-ck," Barringer said, according to Hunnefeld, a remark and tone the mayor has not denied.
Once again, it wasn't until a series of stories written that Barringer apologized weeks later in a private meeting in the city manager's office, in what Hunnefeld felt was scripted and disingenuous.
Hunnefeld saw combat in Iraq before his career in policing with the NSBPD. Tolley, a Vietnam veteran was doubly incensed by the way Hunnefeld was disrespected, leading him to file a second ethics complaint against the mayor.
The ethics complaints are just one facet of the leadership and decision-making called into question by citizens and Tolley isn't the only one, though he's the most vocal and active in calling out Barringer and Brangaccio.
The reporting of the goings-on behind the scenes of municipal government under their control is well documented far beyond the two ethics complaints: The scandal in the police department with more than $8,000 in cash missing and upwards of 900 other items unaccounted for in the evidence room, including firearms, narcotics, jewelry and even motor vehicles.
That the mayor and Brangaccio have overseen the taxpayer-supported CRA expenditures of more than a million bucks on alcohol-fueled street parties, including $60,000 for the renovation of Trader's Pub on Flagler owned by the mayor's boyhood friend, Dave Fernandez, are yet more examples of taking care of friends.
And two years before the private retirement party at the mayor's restaurant with a city credit card footing the bill for 40-plus guests at 30 bucks a piece (plus alcohol sales coming out of their own pockets and into Barringer's cash register), there was the all-too cozy arrangement involving the CRA appointment of another of the mayor's friends, Chad Schilsky.
Barringer appointed Schilsky to the CRA and the younger friend applied for a grant to fix up his own restaurant with Barringer Construction, the mayor's family business, hired to do some of the work. Though City Attorney Frank Gummy advised the grant was legitimate since Schilsky and Barringer abstained in their respective boards, CRA consulting attorney Marc Hall later determined from the Florida statutes the arrangement was illegal and Schilsky was forced to rescind the grant.
However, Schilsky still paid Barringer Construction out of his own pocket since the work had been done. When Barringer was confronted by Headline Surfer, he refused comment.