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Ormond Beach Observer Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018 1 year ago

Chitwood says Volusia County's legal battle on Amendment 10 shows votes don't matter

Volusia County Council Chair Ed Kelley says the sheriff's press conference is a 'mischaracterization' meant to 'create hype over his opinion.'
by: Jarleene Almenas Associate Editor

The fact that Volusia County will contest Amendment 10 in court is proof that the vote of the people doesn't count here, said Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood at a press conference on Wednesday, Dec. 5. 

At the County Council's meeting on Dec. 4, council members voted 6-1 to engage in post-election challenge of the bundled amendment, which shifts some authority from the county to several constitutional offices, including the sheriff's, regarding budgets and human resources. The amendment was passed by 63% of the voters statewide and 53% of the voters in Volusia. Only Councilwoman Heather Post opposed the decision, saving her from making Chitwood's "Scumbags of the Week" list. 

“This is an affront to democracy," Chitwood said.

He further criticized the County for a lack of transparency because the discussion was brought up at the tail end of a seven-hour council meeting, without being officially scheduled in the agenda for the public to know. Out of the 67 counties in Florida, Chitwood said

“Voters vote for initiative. Your job is to be innovative and creative and implement what the voters have asked for.”

Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood on the county's decision to challenge Amendment 10

Volusia is the only one that has a problem with the vote.

“In 2018, Volusia County is nothing but corrupt and content, and the sad part is, nobody wants to do anything about it," Chitwood said.

Volusia County Chair Ed Kelley said he wishes the sheriff would cite specifc examples of corruption within county government. Chitwood has made similar claims before, Kelley said, and he has yet to show proof of corruption or "pay-to-play" politics.

“If he has information that says that, he as the top law enforcement officer of the county should be sharing that with the state or someone for investigation, and he isn’t because there isn’t any corruption," Kelley said.

The item was part of closing comments by County Attorney Dan Eckert, and Kelley denied Chitwood's claims over the lack of transparency surrounding the conversation. He said none of the council members knew for sure that Eckert would bring up the discussion at the meeting, which isn't unusual. 

"That happens all the time," Kelley said. "It wasn’t something done in secret.”

This isn't the first time the county has engaged in a legal battle over Amendment 10; the county tried to keep it from going on the ballot, citing that it was confusing. Kelley said that now, the county is just seeking clarification on whether it violates Volusia's charter; the amendment could be in conflict with Article VIII, section 1C, in the Florida Constitution, he explained.

What Chitwood is doing is a "mischaracterization" meant to "create hype for his opinion," Kelley said. 

Chitwood said he doesn't buy the council's reasoning that voters could have been confused because of the bundling since the Supreme Court ruled the language was "clear as day."

"I don’t have a problem with disagreeing, but you can have an adult discussion and go forward, and in this case, we’ll let the courts decide whether it’s legal or not legal.”

Volusia County Council Chair Ed Kelley

“Voters vote for initiative," Chitwood said. "Your job is to be innovative and creative and implement what the voters have asked for.”

His main priority in making sure Amendment 10 is upheld in Volusia has to do with taking control of his budget. The sheriff wants to be able to hire, fire, transfer, promote, give pay raises and examine the budget for inefficiencies without having to go through the County Council. He said he's asked for access to the county's budget system to get a head start on the transition process, but that he was told the system would be too difficult for him and other VCSO employees to understand.

He said that comment goes along with something frequently said in the County Council chambers: The constituents won't understand — whether it's impact fees, the medical examiner's office, or what they voted for.

“What are they so afraid of?” Chitwood said.

Kelley said the sheriff needs to focus on his own budget — Kelley said the council has funded 100% of Chitwood's request for the last two year — without worrying about the county's overall budget. That's the County Council and manager's job, he said.

Chitwood vowed that he and the Florida Sheriffs Association will fight the county to uphold Amendment 10. He also asked that Kelley resign from his position, calling him "useless." 

“It’s not going to happen," Kelley said on the matter. "There’s no reason for it.”

The name-calling on social media is very childish, he added. Kelley said he doesn't respect people who resort to it, and, that it's not a good example for Volusia County's youth reading the headlines and watching the news. 

“There’s really no place in society for that type of situation," Kelley said. "...I don’t have a problem with disagreeing, but you can have an adult discussion and go forward, and in this case, we’ll let the courts decide whether it’s legal or not legal.”

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