Demands for the ouster of Deltona City Manager Jane Shang failed to resonate with the City Commission July 16, though the decibel level rose to boisterous and rowdy at the well-attended meeting.
“If you want us to have faith in you up there, terminate her!” mayoral candidate Santiago Avila Jr. told the City Commission. “If I get elected mayor, Ms. Shang, you’re out!”
The audience reacted with hearty applause and cheers, at times trying the patience of Mayor John Masiarczyk.
Residents complained about water rates, trash collection, the handling of requests for public records, the perceived snubbing of government critics, and allegations of intimidation of those who speak out escalated to calls for Shang’s firing.
The public-forum portion of the meeting became a gripe session that overshadowed the commission’s business.
“Let’s talk about garbage contracts that are rushed through without vetting,” Jennifer Chastain said, as she chided the CIty Commission for distancing itself from contract negotiations.
Under the procedure in place for selecting trash haulers, the city administration chooses the company with whom it will negotiate — without disclosing the name of the firm until after the talks are complete and a proposal is ready for the City Commission’s decision.
Currently, Deltona’s trash is picked up by Waste Pro, but city officials won’t say if they are talking with that company.
Commissioners say they are not allowed to know the details of the contract being negotiated, or the identity of the prospective solid-waste hauler. It is known, however, that trash-pickup rates are set to rise.
Chastain expressed support for critics of the municipal government.
“There’s a bully mentality going on,” she said, drawing loud applause.
“She’s speaking the truth!” someone shouted over the noise.
Brandy White said she had been wrongly charged with a felony for recording a confrontation with a city employee, while she was complaining about not getting public information she had sought. White blamed Shang. White was never arrested on the charge.
That charge is known as “interception of wire, oral or electronic communication.” State Attorney’s Office spokesman Bryan Shorstein said the complaint “is still under review by prosecutors” and “pending.”
“She could be fired and terminated with cause,” White said, adding Shang should receive no severance pay.
White, too, evoked applause that seemed to grow louder with each speaker.
One speaker tried to sound a positive note.
“We have a fine city here in Deltona … a city that’s doing good things,” Mike Williams said.
The audience sat mostly silent.
Williams’ positive tone was punctuated with a few jeers as he advised his neighbors, “Take the time to do the really thorough research before you get up.”
An icy standoff played out when Pat Gibson, a regular attendee, addressed the City Commission.
“I’d like to talk about my First Amendment rights,” Gibson said, demanding to know why she had been issued a trespass warning for The Center at Deltona after she had asked about state regulation of the food service at the facility.
Gibson alleged Shang has used the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office — which provides law-enforcement services in Deltona — as her “own personal mercenaries.”
The City Commission, following its policy on public participation, declined to answer questions from speakers — to the dismay of Gibson and her supporters.
As she waited for an answer, Gibson stood as still and motionless as a statue amid the uncanny silence that filled the chamber for most of the four minutes she was allotted to speak.
“Nothing?” Gibson asked.
When she left the podium, applause erupted.
“What has happened and transpired in the city of Deltona in the past year has disappointed me,” Joy Kittrelle said, echoing calls for “the immediate termination with cause of Jane Shang and criminal prosecution.”
After most of the audience left, Shang said little about the litany of complaints and allegations.
“There is some misinformation,” she told The Beacon quickly, before turning away to talk with someone else.
Before adjourning, the City Commission convened for a brief special session to set the tentative solid-waste assessment at $226.54. That is an increase of some $52 over the current charge for trash hauling.
City officials defended the higher charge because of a lack of demand for recyclable items. Commissioners said administrative staffers are working to lower the assessment before the start of the city’s 2018-19 fiscal year Oct. 1.
“We’re going to try our hardest to get that down,” Mayor Masiarczyk promised.