Editor, The Beacon:
I recently did a public records request for the new paper version of the Deltona City Charter, that the citizens of Deltona voted to adopt in the November elections. The voters overwhelmingly voted to change the charter! To my surprise, the request came back saying no documents existed!
I thought to myself, how could this be, so I looked at the municipal code and sure enough it still showed the old charter. So, I reached out to different Deltona representatives, even asked Volusia County Supervisor of Elections Lisa Lewis if anyone challenged the results of the election. She said no one challenged the election results of the charter amendments!
So with that information being what it was, I looked for others for answers and heard that the city law firm representative, Marsha Segal-George, thinks there might be some legal issues with the amendments.
If that was true, why did the law firm sign off on them as first-agenda items to be voted on by the commissioners to create the ordinance that was to be sent to the Supervisor of Elections office? And, why did they sign off on the ordinances that they sent to the Supervisor of Elections office?
Another thing is that the Fowler law firm billed the city for the month of June and July for reviewing emails from the charter lawyer and the deputy city manager. So, if they were reviewing the work on the ordinances of the charter lawyer and deputy city manager, why did they never say anything about their concerns then!
Now, the ordinance did not change from when it was on the agenda in July till the supervisor of elections put it on the ballot! And the supervisor of elections did not question the wording of the ordinance! So, if there is a legal issue with the ordinances now, was there negligence on the legal firm in doing their jobs, or was the review process faulty, or did they not review it at all and just billed the city for work not performed? The latter doesn’t seem plausible, because they signed it, so they at least had to read it!
But the effective date of the ordinance would be when the commission accepted the results of the elections at the Nov. 14 special meeting! So, at the very least, the interim city manager should have directed the city clerk to get with legal and get a proper version sent to the Department of State and then get it uploaded to the municipal code. As of the billing cycle for November from the Fowler law firm, they have not billed the city for any legal work on the charter amendments after the elections!
So where does this leave the city? It leaves the city without an updated charter (could be in violation of state statutes). When the new commission was sworn in, they chose to tell the Fowler firm the city was giving them 90 days’ notice that their services would no longer be needed.
We have an interim city manager under contract for six months, and a mandate to find a new city manager and a new law firm or in-house lawyer!
So, basically, the city is adrift with no reliable legal representation and a lame-duck city manager! We are adrift in an abysmal sea of confusion and disarray! Still trying to recover from two hurricanes! With little or no leadership!
Is this the best the citizens can expect out of our government? To literally ignore the voters’ choice in the election! The city of Deltona is the largest city in Volusia County. They need to lead by example, not by the seat of their pants! The citizens of Deltona deserve better; they should expect more from their government, than to be ignored by it!
Editor’s note: The Deltona City Commission was expected to take up the charter changes approved by voters last year, at the commission’s Feb. 20 and March 6 meetings. At the City Commission’s Feb. 6 meeting, the governing body voted to retain Jim Chisholm as interim city manager for at least 12 more months.