New Smyrna Beach has new website, but municipal election qualifying information either non-existent or hidden on back page
NEW SMYRNA BEACH -- There is chatter in the city of charm that there are two possible suitors for mayor should incumbent Adam Barringer opt not to seek a third two-year term amid his lingering myriad legal and financial problems: Current City Commissioner Jack Grasty and former City Commissioner Jim Hathaway.
None of the three returned calls or messages for comment. In all, there are three seats up for grabs. Besides Barringer, the seats occupied by Grasty and Judy Reiker are there for the taking should they, too, opt not to seek re-election.
To add to the mystery, the city has put up a new website and nowhere to be found -- at least not readily -- is information on municipal elections. All that Headline Surfer® could find was a link on the city clerk's page to the Volusia County Supervisor of Elections, which deals exclusively with countywide races.
Qualifying is officially the week of June 16, and ends that Friday, June 20. Whether they run again, like Barringer and Grasty, Reiker, too, isn't talking.
However, candidates for municipal races throughout Volusia County's other municipalities have announced candidates either running for re-election or seeking seats held by incumbents.
A source over the weekend told Headline Surfer® that Hathaway had stopped into City Hall and inquired about running for mayor with City Clerk Johnny Bledsoe.
And Grasty has let it be known of his interest in running for mayor if Barringer steps aside, but neither is a forgone conclusion. The mayor's seat is for two years while the commission seats are four years each.
"If Barringer does do as expected and no run again as he's dealing with a lot of money issues, then Grasty will run, but he;'s not liked by (former Mayor Jim) Vandergrifft, which is why Hathaway would step in and make the run," the source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Vandergrifft could not be reached for comment.
But in New Smyrna Beach such lack of transparency has been the hallmark of the administration of City Manager Pamela Brangaccio hired shortly before the November 2009 elections when Barringer just got by first-term incumbent Sally Mackay, Reiker outpolled incumbent Randy Richenberg and Grasty easily won the primary outright for his second term against two challengers.
The newly formed 2009 city commission -- Mayor Barringer and Commissioners Reiker, Grasty, Hathaway and holdover Lynne Plaskett, subsequently awarded themselves an extra year on their terms so the city could switch to even-year elections because of consistently low voter turn-out in odd-year elections.
Grasty had two challengers in 2009 -- Palmer Wilson, a retired Maryland cop who went on to serve as chairman of the Southeast Volusia Advertising Authority before he was removed Oct. 5 in a split vote politically orchestrated by County Councilwoman Deb Denys.
But it was the other candidate challenging Grasty in 2009, who was prominently in the news when made Headline Surfer® broke the news that Stephen Sather had pleaded no contest to attempting to purchase a large quantity of cocaine from an undercover cop posing as a drug dealer.
Suffice to say, Sather finished dead last in the primary. Sather pleaded no contest to an earlier felony charge of trying to purchase a large quantity of cocaine from an undercover New Smyrna Beach cop posing as a drug dealer.
Adjudication of guilt was withheld by the sentencing judge after Sather pleaded no contest to the drug charge that could have netted him a prison sentence.
But because Sather was cooperative in providing details about the intended distribution when sentencing guidelines weren't as strict, he was instead placed on home confinement and probation probation, though his file remained a public record, from which the 24/7 internet newspaper reported details of the drug arrest.
Sather was among the decision-making by the Barringer-led commission that saw many of the mayor's friends awarded Community Redevelopment Agency grants, including childhood friend David Fernandez, awarded $65,000 to rehab his Traders bar. Fernandez, like Sather, is well known to New Smyrna Beach cops and courts.
In all, $2 million in taxpayer-funded CRA monies were awarded by Barringer, Grasty, Hathaway and Reiker for bars and alcohol-fueled street festivals in CRA funds, dating back to 2009.
Former Barringer nemesis Sally Mackay was awarded more than $100,000 in rent subsidies "The Hub on Canal Street" and Barringer found himself without a challenger when it came time for re-election in 2012.
Mackay also received yet nother rent subsidy earlier this year. And her campaign manager, Gerard J. Pendergast, was awarded a lucrative consulting position as the architect for the CRA, without going out to bid, shortly after Barringer took office.
And Barringer himself tried to piggyback on a $20,0000 CRA grant awarded to then-CRA board member Chad Schilsky for his beachside restaurant with Barringer Construction identified as a contractor. The grant approval was later found to be illegal and Schilsky subsequently quit.
Then before the November 2012 elections, the city manager, with the blessing of the mayor and commissioners, engineered a $75,000 golden parachute to get Police Chief Ronald Pagano to retire amid a scandal in the police force with 940 items such as firearms, drugs, electronics and $,8000 in cash either missing or stolen from the evidence room.
Brangaccio was able to keep the scandal under wraps for five months while a nationwide search was conducted for his successor, which ended up being George Markert of upstate New York.
A private invitation-only retirement party was held by the mayor for Hathaway after his failed 2012 run for County Council against Denys.
Hathaway had given up his 18-year tenure on the city commission for the county campaign. Because a city credit card was used to pay for the dinners of 45 guests, citizen watchdog Bob Tolley filed a series of ethics complaints against Barringer and Brangaccio.
An investigation with the state found probable cause to move forward with the complaints, but Tolley's witnesses were never contacted and the complaints were dismissed in December.
Ironically, Barringer held a fundraiser last winter for Denys, leading to an elections complaint that wine and spirits were under-reported.
And Headline Surfer two weeks ago following a joint lunch meeting between the city and county council confronted the mayor over more than $3,000 in property taxes that had gone unpaid even as he voted to raise taxes this fiscal year. Barringer subsequently paid the debt the same afternoon.
However, Barringere owes tens of thousands in state and federal taxes dating back 15 years, which is the subject of an upcoming story.