In the largest city in Volusia County, the hits just keep on coming.
Bad blood, bad words and an ethics complaint filed by one Deltona city commissioner against another commissioner have come to light.
Commissioner Maritza Avila-Vazquez has asked for a state investigation of Commissioner Dana McCool’s alleged use of vulgar words in a confrontation last fall, following a buildup of tensions and a verbal assault that happened shortly before the Nov. 8 general election.
Tension between Avila-Vazquez and McCool came to a boiling point after the City Commission ended its Oct. 3 meeting. As they were leaving the long meeting — which did not end until 1 o’clock the next morning — Avila-Vazquez said, she encountered McCool.
“She [McCool] kept on using F-bombs towards me and was very threating [sic] with her words,” Avila-Vazquez wrote in the complaint. “I believe at one point I had the opportunity to ask her what her problem was, she responded by saying, ‘You and your F-bombs words.’ She walked away still cursing at me. Her final words were: ‘It’s OK. You have four F-bomb weeks left, and then [you] will be out of here.’ Elections were just four weeks from that day.”
That election would result in Avila-Vazquez being returned to office by voters. McCool had not been up for re-election, but had supported Avila-Vazquez’s opponent, according to Avila-Vazquez.
“I found this exchange, to be disrespectful behavior in the presence of employees and other elected officials,” Avila-Vazquez continued, in the complaint. “Particularly coming from an elected official who should respect the Code of Ethics that, she agreed to respect when she took her seat in office.”
Avila-Vazquez concluded her complaint with a “request to press Ethics charges against Commissioner Dana McCool for her disrespect towards me and those present at the time she used inappropriate language towards me.”
“I trust that whatever actions are taken towards her disrespectful behavior will deter other elected officials from doing the same,” Avila-Vazquez wrote.
Though Avila-Vazquez declines to talk about her ethics complaint, McCool is not reticent.
“She is entitled to her opinion about protocol and decorum, and I’m entitled to my opinion,” McCool said. “People get mad. They work through it, and they move on. I got mad about it. I did some self-inventory. We need to move on.”
McCool said she had not yet received any letters from the Commission on Ethics regarding the complaint against her.
The Florida Commission on Ethics has the authority to censure or impose fines on elected officials found to have violated state standards of conduct for elected officials.
Avila-Vazquez didn’t want to talk about the complaint she filed.
“I’m not going to say anything about it,” she told The Beacon.
Animosity began developing between the two women beginning in July 2022, according to Avila-Vazquez, who was then vice mayor of Deltona. Avila-Vazquez said she had asked then-Acting City Manager John Peters to advertise a breakfast for teachers.
Avila-Vazquez wrote that she had been asked by an outsider organization to publicize the event, which would be open to the public. She said she “finally received an answer from Ms. [Stacey] Kifolo [then deputy city manager] 13 days later, denying the request.”
Actually, Avila-Vazquez wrote, “There was no city policy on advertising.”
The matter seethed until the Aug. 15 meeting of the City Commission, when Avila-Vazquez publicly questioned Kifolo about why her request had been rejected.
Three commissioners, Avila-Vazquez alleged, then accused her of being disrespectful toward Kifolo.
“Although my tone of voice was stern, my intentions were not of disrespect but rather to get information on the policies or policy she followed to make her decision. I was particularly vilified by Commissioner McCool,” Avila-Vazquez continued, writing in the complaint.
What vilifying words were exchanged on that occasion are not mentioned.
Because she directly questioned Kifolo rather than asking Peters, Avila-Vazquez noted, she also came under fire from some residents who claimed she had violated Deltona’s charter, by interfering in the administrative branch of the city government.
Under the city-manager form of government in effect in Deltona, the mayor and the commission serve as a legislative and policymaking body, and the elected officials are prohibited from interfering or involving themselves in the day-to-day affairs of the administration, overseen by the city manager. Elected officials who do not adhere to the very strict separation of powers in the city’s charter may risk being removed from office.
The complaint, dated Dec. 13, 2022, urges the Florida Commission on Ethics to take unspecified action against McCool “for her disrespect towards me and those present at the time she used inappropriate language towards me,” Avila-Vazquez wrote.