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Ormond Beach Observer Tuesday, Jun. 19, 2018 9 months ago

County Manager Jim Dinneen to step down by Friday, collecting almost $250,000 on his way out

Dinneen was relieved from his contract's obligation to serve a six-month transition period.
by: Jarleene Almenas News Editor

It was standing-room only at the Volusia County Council chambers when the council voted 6-1 at its meeting on Tuesday, June 19, to relieve County Manager Jim Dinneen from the obligatory six-month transition period stated in his contract, following his announcement of retirement last week, leaving during what a council member described in her final comments as "turbulent times."

Numerous residents, including Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood spoke during the meeting to call for Dinneen's immediate resignation. Speakers cited the recent controversy involving the Volusia Medical Examiner's Office and a 2016 impact study that was not brought up while the council pushed to put a half-cent sales tax for infrastructure in the November ballot.

Volusia County Councilwoman Heather Post, who has been vocal on social media regarding both the medical examiner's office and Dinneen's sudden retirement, voted against the motion. She attempted to make a second motion to discuss whether or not there was just cause for Dinneen's resignation, which would have made Dinneen ineligible for severance benefits, but that motion was not seconded.

 “Legally, he has already earned the retirement benefit," County Council Chair Ed Kelley said. 

Under just cause circumstances, Dinneen would still have received a lump sum payment equal to his annual salary, just under $250,000. Post said she believed there was significant cause to pursue termination for just cause. His contract lists reasons such as insubordination, misconduct, misfeasance of duties and violations to the county of honesty and sobriety.

“I think just cause has been given repeatedly and especially at the last meeting," Post said. "I laid everything out and got crickets.”

When she asked County Attorney Daniel Eckert about the issue, he responded that he believes there is no just cause under the contract and that the county would be unsuccessful if the case was litigated. 

“This latest episode has epitomized Dinneen’s reckless, corrupt, inept, lying administration. He can’t help it. It’s in his DNA.”

Mike Chitwood, Volusia County Sheriff

During his comments, the sheriff said Dinneen had lost the trust and confidence of the community and the workforce, and, that the County Council was "collateral damage." He referenced the resurfacing of the 2016 impact fee study and said it exposed the concept of "pay to play" politics in the county.

“This latest episode has epitomized Dinneen’s reckless, corrupt, inept, lying administration," Chitwood said. "He can’t help it. It’s in his DNA.”

Deputy County Manager George Recktenwald will serve as interim county manager for the time being. Dinneen's last day is set for Friday, June 22.

“I’ll just say that it’s been a wonderful 12 years," Dinneen said during his closing comments.

Council members however, took that time to speak their minds about the events in the past few weeks. County Councilwoman Billie Wheeler said what has happened in the last three weeks has been "appalling," speaking about the "circus media" that has surrounded recent issues. She also alluded to the recent comments made by Post and Chitwood on Facebook, saying she will never do that.

“I will not get on and have a verbal garbage display," Wheeler said. "I will not get on and have a video display of my displeasure with the county. You’re not going to see it from me.”

She was not the only one who felt this way. County Councilwoman Joyce Cusack criticized Chitwood's actions during the "month of turbulent times."

“If he is an elected official who has to throw everyone he can under the bus to accomplish his personal goals, then shame on him and shame on us if we believe that is the way that you get ahead in this life," Cusack said. "And to my colleagues that think it is necessary to do that, shame on you because the same folk that you pass on your way up, you have to pass the same people on your way back down.”

Post said that in today's age, communicating with public means using mediums such as social media and newspapers. She said now they have the opportunity to address issues, discuss priorities as a council, ensure employees are being listened to and come together as a council.

“I’m looking forward to moving ahead," Post said. "I’m very happy to be a Volusia County representative. I think it’s very important that the public is communicated with and kept abreast of what’s happening in their government.”

Kelley, who was one of the people Post called out in her Facebook page, called her actions cyber-bullying. He said he didn't like being criticized on Facebook, and said he has a problem with her trying to play a victim.

“You’re not a victim," Kelley said. "You’re one of us, and I want it to be that way. I want it to work.” 

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