Sunday, October 08, 2023

After emotional meeting, Volusia County Manager Jim Dinneen to leave this week. (Daytona Beach News-Journal)

JAMES DINNEEN is St. Johns County's consultant in hiring our next County Administrator.  He left Volusia County under a cloud, after twelve years as County Administrator.  From Daytona Beach News-Journal:

After emotional meeting, Volusia County Manager Jim Dinneen to leave this week

Dustin Wyatt

Daytona Beach News Journal
June 20, 2018

Tuesday's County Council meeting saw a top deputy celebrating Volusia's "best manager," the sheriff dismissing him as "inept" and "corrupt," citizens waving protest signs, security escorting a woman from the room.

County Chair Ed Kelley wept.

And in the end, County Manager Jim Dinneen made his exit far sooner — and far more dramatically — than he'd expected.

The council voted, 6-1, to grant Dinneen's request to waive a six-month transition period spelled out in his contract, making Friday the final day of his 12-year tenure. Deputy County Manager George Recktenwald will serve as interim during the search for a full-time replacement, a task Dinneen had offered to perform on submitting his resignation last week.

It was clear that wasn't happening even before the start of Tuesday's meeting, when residents with "Fire Jim Dinneen" signs accosted council members on their approach to the county administration building. Sheriff Mike Chitwood kicked off the council discussion by describing Dinneen with words like lying, reckless, corrupt and inept. Councilwoman Heather Post sought to slake the crowd with a call to terminate the manager, but no one else had an appetite for that.

Dinneen will leave with a lump sum payment of $250,000 — equal to a year's salary — plus any unpaid time and benefits. The exact total of his payout was not provided Tuesday.

After the vote, Dinneen said he requested an immediate departure so he could begin his retirement sooner, insisting the move had nothing to do with the rising volume of public outcry.

"I asked for them to give me this," the 68-year-old manager told a group of reporters. "I am all happy. I can go ahead and retire; I've got stuff to do. And then I've got a lot of life left in me that I can probably get another job somewhere else, in the public sector or private sector."

It hurts to see all he (Dinneen) has done for the county to be so verbally abused by the people," Kelley said through tears.

He was joined by council members Joyce Cusack and Pat Patterson in condemning the behavior of Chitwood, one of Dinneen's harshest critics since he took office in 2017. After Tuesday's vote, the sheriff tweeted, "It's a beautiful morning in Volusia County."

"I don't think (Dinneen) belonged to stay here," Chitwood told reporters. "He's gone; I wish him all the luck in the world, and now we have to move on because Jim Dinneen is a symptom of pay for play politics in Volusia County."

At the end of Tuesday's meeting, Cusack said she's appalled by the sheriff's actions: "If he has to throw someone else under the bus to accomplish his personal goals, then shame on him."

Said Patterson, "We have one of the most unprofessional sheriffs I’ve ever seen in my life. This has really put a black mark on Volusia County. The comments are as unprofessional as any I’ve ever seen."

That drew an outburst from a member of the audience, who ignored Kelley's repeated attempts to call for order and was removed by a deputy.

Councilwoman Billie Wheeler said she hopes a new chapter without Dinneen will cool emotions.

"The story is over with Mr. Dinneen," she said. "We are moving forward."

Deborah Denys complimented Dinneen for "taking the high road" when times got tough. The councilwoman hopes his successor possesses similar traits. However, she expressed concern that the social media storm in recent weeks may prove detrimental in their attempts to attract a top-notch candidate — a process that Dinneen encouraged the council to begin immediately.

"Go home and Google Volusia County right now," Denys said. "Now tell me we are going to attract an A-lister."


Dinneen has faced increasing heat in the past few months for his handling of some high-profile issues that may have peaked this month.

A years-long push for a vote on a half-cent sales tax to support road construction costs was derailed in part by the county's refusal to consider a change to the fees developers pay for new growth. Council members eventually agreed to look at revising impact fees for the first time in 15 years.

A News-Journal story Sunday revealed a 2016 study in which a consultant recommended tripling the fees in some categories and calling the county too generous to developers with some of its policies.

The study was never shared with the council or the public. The revelation proved upsetting even to some of Dinneen's supporters who had been critical of what they described as a lack of transparency from the county. And it gave ammunition to critics who said Dinneen was too beholden to a few influential power brokers.

Dinneen declined to comment on Chitwood's remarks and said a lot of the criticism stems from misinformation on social media. A lot of the Facebook attacks have come from Councilwoman Post, who claimed Dinneen should have been fired because of "insubordination" among other reasons.

"We have the option to negate this" resignation, Post told her colleagues. "To tell the public our hands are tied and there's nothing to negate that is incorrect."

Dinneen did respond to Post's comments after the meeting.

"You've got to have a basis" to terminate, he said. "You can't just invent things. Quite frankly, those are serious charges and it's pretty scary that someone (Post) would just make up something. As you can see, my council dismissed that."

Amid the criticism, Dinneen's final meeting also featured plenty of applause for the manager who steered the county through the Great Recession without layoffs, brought in economic development like the Hard Rock Hotel and Trader Joe's distribution center and much more.

During a presentation about the five-year budget forecast, council members praised Dinneen for his work with the budget, especially for getting the county debt-free in the general fund.

"You're leaving a legacy behind," Cusack told him.

"This is how you define stable," Denys added.

"You have been one hell of a guy to work with and I've really enjoyed it," Patterson said. "It's been a lot of fun. All of this malarkey that's been going on around here has been unbelievable."

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