Waverly Media investigation shows divided county council

Photos for Headline Surfer / Above, Jim Sotolongo and Ramara Garrett of Waverly Media scrutinized by county politicians.
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DELAND, Fla. -- "I move to hire a special counsel to independently advise the county council on a process and procedure, pursuant to Section 309 of the Volusia County Charter, in order to make investigation into the affairs of county governmental operations, relating to the Waverly matter, in order to determine whether new legislation is required for purchase or additional ethical standards of conduct for public officials in light of the investigation.

"The special counsel shall report back to the county council at its next regular meeting on the procedures for moving forward and shall complete the investigation and made a report back to the county council in open meeting within 90 days. The County Manager and County Attorney shall cooperate fully with special counsel."

And so went the motion by Councilwoman Patricia Northey of Deltona, which was seconded by Councilman Pat Patterson of DeLand, that ot the ball rolling on partisan bickering and not necessarily along party lines in non-partisan seats. 

It was supported by Ormond Beach Democratic Councilman Doug Daniels and New Smyrna Beach Republican Councilwoman Deb Denys. Opposed to the motion of Democrat Northey and Republican Patterson were Daytona Beach Democratic Councilman Joshua J. Wagner, DeLand Democratic At-Large Councilwoman Joyce Cusack and Edgewater Republican County Chair Jason Davis.

And so it began: The Gang of Four, with an overt act to rule as one with an iron fist, to maintain the status quo on the dais in the Frank T. Bruno Jr. County Council Chambers in advance of the 2014 elections. 

So what was the game plan? Drive home the fact that Wagner and Cusack were part of a larger contingent who benefitted in the previous election cycle with in-kind advertising from Wavery Media, headed by Jimmy Sotolongo and Ramara Garrett, with the bus bench business that also benefitted private attorney Ted Doran, who ran unsuccessfully for the county chair seat in 2012, won by Davis over former County Councilman Carl Persis.

With Wagner a partner in Doran's law firm, and both close friends with Cusack, things started to get ugly, especially with Sotolongo and Garrett facing charges in federal court related to real estate sales and alleged mortgage fraud schemes. And the State Attorney's Office, too, was investigating Waverly Media for the bus bench ad freebies.

So why the County Council investigation? Well, Patterson was looking at a possible comeback from predecessor Andy Kelly for the DeLand seat, Denys was facing a possible challenge for her New Smyrna Beach seat from 2012 primary candidate Justin Kennedy of Edgewater; and Northey was term-limited in her Deltona seat and wanted to stay on so the only seat she could vie for was Cusack's. 

As for Daniels, it's personal. He and Wagner, who won re-election in 2012 for his second four-year term, just don't like each other. Denys' seat is, however up in 2014 due to redistricting. 

Serving as special counsel for the council majority is Jon Kaney, former general counsel to the Daytona Beach News-Journal when it was owned by the Davidson family and a former law partner with Daniels. 

Jon Kaney / Headline SurferDoug Daniels / Headline SurferServing as special counsel for the council majority in the Waverly Media investigation is Jon Kaney, shown far left, former general counsel to the Daytona Beach News-Journal, when it was owned by the Davidson family until 2012, when the newspaper was sold, and a former law partner with County Councilman Doug Daniels, shown near left. 

Related county council links:
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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 nearly evenly 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 West Nyack, NY, for seven years. Headline Surfer was named the Sunshine State's top internet news site by the Florida Press Club in 2018.