Saturday, July 07, 2018

Editorial: Sheriff needs to apologize

Wow, a North Florida newspaper actually asking a Sheriff to apologize. As Bob Hope said to his comedy writers, "Thrill me!"  

Asking Sheriff to apologize -- it's long past due. It's about time.  
It's cosmic.  
It's epochal.  
It's unprecedented.  
It's awesome.

No, it's NOT The St. Augustine Record
NO, The St. Augustine Record has NOT asked for an apology for accusing a murder victim's family of "molesting" her, which is what happened when Sheriff DAVID SHOAR responded to the exhumation and autopsy of Michelle O'Connell.  

It turns out Michelle's jaw was broken, in two pieces.  

But cruel Sheriff SHOAR said in an unhinged middle-of-the-night press release, " “Molesting Michelle from her place of rest using some freelance type approach is beyond unconventional. It was reprehensible.”

The St. Augustine Record did NOT denounce SHOAR or call for an apology.  NOPE.

NO, the demand for a Sheriff apology is from GateHouse's more prestigious and progressive newspaper property to the south, the Daytona Beach News Journal, demanding that Sheriff Michael Chittwood apologize for a remark about fur-lined handcuffs, and for stating that Volusia County political boss MORI HUSSEINI (ICI HOMES) is preventing an increase in impact fees.

NO, Sheriff DAVID SHOAR is still calling the shots at The St. Augustine Record, pursuant to the Sheriff's catch-and-relase program, whereby a certain opinion editor, arrested for driving on Ambien, hitting a mailbox and having a human being on their car hood get Most Favored Nation treatment from Sheriff DAVID SHOAR and State's Attorney RALPH DAVID LARIZZA.

Here's the call for Sheriff Chitwood to apologize:

OUR VIEW: Sheriff needs to apologize
Editorial, Daytona Beach News Journal
July 5, 2018

Beyond the pale and beneath the public office he holds.

Mike Chitwood’s mouth has always lacked a selective-fire switch. This week, it was on full automatic, minus any discipline.

In an interview Tuesday with local radio host Marc Bernier, the Volusia County sheriff was unforgiving in his verbal attacks on County Council members and his predecessor, Ben Johnson. That’s nothing new. But this time, Chitwood’s criticisms crossed several lines of professionalism and probity.

Most egregious was his sexually suggestive remark about County Councilwoman Deb Denys. In responding to a comment she made recently about how he’s responsible for low staffing levels at the Sheriff’s Office, Chitwood said on the air, “The only thing she knows about policing is where the fur-lined handcuffs are on her headboard.”

(READ: Volusia Sheriff Chitwood’s ‘salacious’ comment about councilwoman draws fire)

That’s beyond the pale and beneath the public office he holds. Chitwood had prefaced the slur with a perfectly acceptable defense of the staffing shortage by citing surrounding sheriff’s departments facing similar challenges. If he had left it at that there would be no issue. Yet, he couldn’t resist taking a tasteless, sexist jab at Denys.

Councilwoman Billie Wheeler appropriately summed it up, writing on Facebook: “A woman should not have to have sexual innuendos about her character under any circumstances. The ‘MeToo’ movement is changing the conversation. Not Acceptable. Stop it now in Volusia County.”

The sheriff should personally apologize to Denys, and to the county he serves.

And that smear came near the end of a 41-minute interview in which he spent much of the time accusing county officials of being part of a “pay to play” system in which they do the bidding of private business interests in exchange for campaign contributions. He said it warrants a federal investigation.

When Bernier pressed him for evidence of such corruption, Chitwood offered only an anecdote involving an anonymous local contractor, who he said told him that developer Mori Hosseini directed him and his subcontractors to support certain candidates if they wanted to keep working for Hosseini’s company, ICI Homes. The sheriff said he offered to personally drive the contractor to the FBI office in Daytona Beach, but that the man declined because he was afraid of losing his business if he came forward.

That’s a pretty flimsy justification for the county’s top law enforcement officer to be throwing around accusations of malfeasance.

To be sure, the county’s recent handling of the impact fee issue was so inept and politically tone deaf that it raises questions about the dynamics at play. But that calls for a methodical search for the facts, not bomb-throwing by the sheriff.

Chitwood’s candor can be colorful and entertaining. Not this time, though. Since being elected sheriff, he’s increasingly become emboldened to escalate his rhetoric and expand his targets. It’s understandable. The cheer of the crowds can be seductive, their adulation intoxicating. To maintain that level requires continually fueling the fires. Light enough matches, and you risk burning more than just those who you think deserve it. You could wind up immolating yourself.

Chitwood’s supporters believe he’s a straight-shooter, offering an unvarnished opinion and giving voice to the voiceless. It’s classic populism, which arises when people believe their government and institutions have been unresponsive to their concerns. Such frustrations are abundant in Volusia County, many of them legitimate grievances.

But personal popularity and electoral success are not license to demagogue. Those who distrust the system should be equally wary about concentrating faith, let alone power, in any individual. Search for solutions, not saviors.

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