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Ormond Beach Observer Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2019 3 months ago

Volusia County attorney Dan Eckert resigns

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Eckert submitted his resignation on the day the County Council was scheduled to evaluate him.
by: Jarleene Almenas Associate Editor

Volusia County attorney Dan Eckert has resigned, and his last day will be Jan. 31, 2020. 

Eckert submitted a letter on Dec. 10 — the council meeting day scheduled for his and the county manager's evaluations — asking for the County Council to accept his resignation. This comes after the Historic North Turn Legends Beach Parade controversy, where Eckert advised the council that beach driving in the section of the beach in Ponce Inlet violated the incidental take permit by the Fish and Wildlife Service. However, citizens and a Congressional staff member argued before council in October that there was no violation, and ultimately, the council decided it will allow the parade to happen in February.

Eckert has worked for the county for 41 years. He had a salary of $227,042.45, interim county Community Information Director Kevin Captain said. As he had over 20 years of service, he is entitled to receive 100% balance of his accrued personal leave, with a maximum of 1,120 hours; Eckert accrued 7,874.

“I deeply appreciate the opportunity to have served," Eckert wrote in his brief resignation letter. 

At the council meeting, Councilwoman Billie Wheeler initially made a motion to move up Eckert's last day on the job to Dec. 31, but quickly rescinded the motion after fellow council members expressed wanting to have enough time to find an interim as well as honor Eckert's original resignation request.

Councilman Fred Lowry said receiving Eckert's letter made him feel "sad," saying he always felt like the information Eckert gave the council wasn't biased or partisan. Eckert has assembled a good staff, Lowry continued, and he always got a prompt response for his inquiries. 

“Trust is a coin of the realm," Lowry said. "If somebody ever pulls a fast one on you, you feel like you can’t trust them again. I’ve never had that happen with Dan or with any of those working [in the legal department.]”

Councilwoman Billie Wheeler also expressed gratitude for Eckert's years of service, saying he "honorably represented them" in many legal battles. 

“Your loyalty to Volusia County and your knowledge of the law, and your commitment are to be commended," Wheeler said.

This year, Volusia County Councilwoman Heather Post submitted a written evaluation for both Eckert and County Manager George Recktenwald. In it, she listed three instances where she was dissatisfied with Eckert's performance: her question on why the 911 SAVES Act text was not able to be obtained prior to it appearing online, the Legends Parade issue and the ongoing Amendment 10 legal battle, on which Eckert couldn't provide council with an approximate cost, including staff time, other than the $1,500 in filing fees. 

"While the county attorney has a great deal of experience in his role, I do not have the confidence that County Council is being provided unbiased information and direction, with no omissions of information, and no outside influence playing a role in decisions or actions made," Post wrote about Amendment 10.

Councilwoman Deb Denys said she wanted to go "on the record" about her uncertainty regarding the county's legal department, questioning "who represents council." She mentioned the Legends Beach Parade as well, asking that if the parade had been an issue in the years prior, why didn't legal tell the council? The issue then was played out publicly, she pointed out.

“That’s not gonna happen again, and if it does, we’re going to sell some newspapers," Denys said.

This story was updated at 6:51 p.m. to include the county attorney's current salary.

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