The Volusia County Council has begun the process of hiring a new county manager in the wake of Jim Dinneen's sudden "retirement" — and County Council Chair Ed Kelley is advocating for more public involvement.
The discussion was brought up during the Council meeting on July 10, and Council members tossed around ideas about how they would like the search to be conducted. The Council focused on the need for facilitators, consultants and requests for information during the search, which various members encouraged to be a national one. Staff was directed to bring back a solicitation in a future meeting that would showcase what would be sent out to consultants so that the Council could decide whether or not it wanted to head in that direction.
“We have better manners than how we sent Dinneen away."
Joyce Cusack, County Councilwoman At-Large
"There's nothing un-transparent about using this in a public setting," Kelley said. "I think going into this process what we're looking to be able to do, we're going to be able to have facilitator services also developing the process of what we all want in a manager, accomplished along with what the timeline is and what we have to do from step A to H."
The search for Dinneen's replacement will likely take months, council members pointed out. Kelley said the first point of action would be to establish a timeline. He suggested the new county manager come on board at the start of next year, after the elections and once the new Council is implemented.
"You're going to be the one that will help determine what that decision is," Kelley said to Councilwoman Heather Post, who raised some concern about selecting a candidate from a consultant's list. "We all will."
There are four seats up for election: District 1, 3, 5 and At-Large.
In the meantime, Interim County Manager George Recktenwald will receive additional compensation for his work. On top of a 4% raise for being the active county manager, Recktenwald's salary will increase by 5%.
Formal send-off for Dinneen
Though Dinneen is now vying for a new position as Pinella's County administrator, County Councilwoman Joyce Cusack said the Dinneen chapter is not yet closed in Volusia County. She requested the Council give Dinneen a "proper" send-off — a celebration to thank him for his 12 years of service.
“We have better manners than how we sent Dinneen away," Cusack said.
Cusack said that the way Dinneen left, amidst controversy regarding the Medical Examiner's Office and buried impact fee studies, could affect the recruitment process for a new county manager. Post commented that she believed the Council was done dealing with Dinneen's retirement, but Cusack disagreed.
“The chapter is not closed," Cusack said. "The folk that I represent, none of them, did not have a chance to say goodbye and thank him. Those that don't want to do that, they don't have to."
Councilwoman Billie Wheeler asked the Council to consider conducting an internal audit in the aftermath of all the issues that have come up in the past few months. She said she wasn't trying to question anything or accusing staff of conducting business improperly.
"This is a way that we can all be able to speak out for questions that are asked to us from the public," Wheeler said.
During her final comment, Denys also said she wants to make sure that the County starts on stable foundation. She agreed with Wheeler about performing an audit but supported a forensic one to look at internal controls and identify weaknesses.
Wheeler mentioned a change in budget transfers in the name of transparency, specifically one section of the code that allows the county manager to transfer any amount between service centers. She said she would like to consider more stringent controls of these transfers. Kelley said he thought they already did that and asked what transfers they don't have knowledge of.
"You don't know what you don't know," Councilwoman Deb Denys said to Kelley.