County Manager spills the beans on New Smyrna Beach's suspended SVAA director to News-Journal

NEW SMYRNA BEACH -- As hard as I work to get to the truth in reporting I have to realize that I am just one person with so many hours in a given day. I can tell you as of this writing, I am embarrassed and frustrated -- embarrassed to see the big story in the Daytona Beach News-Journal on suspended Southeast Volusia Advertising Director Nicole Carni. Frustrated because had there been a level playing field with the release of her payroll figures -- denied to NSB News -- then I might have had the story today as well, maybe even sooner.

It was NSB News that broke the story of Carni's suspension. But the reality is this is 2012, an election year, and making an example out of Carni makes for great headlines like today's front page Sunday headline: "Ad authority audit: $100,000 for 6 months in director's job."

And while the News-Journal has a leg up today, it doesn't have what NSB has, which will be reported before Tuesday's meeting of the SVAA board. And with this, there are multiple people at the county level who are going to have to do some explaining.

The News-Journal didn't have to worry about being out-scooped by its former award-winning investigative and breaking news reporter and his Internet newspaper's investigative series, "Show Me the Money: New Smyrna Beach." Not when the Daytona paper had the services of Volusia County Manager Jim Dinneen for a Friday interview.

I saw the story at 2 a.m. posted on the News-Journal's website, a one-source story, save for a one-liner by County Councilwoman Joie Alexander, driven by none other than Dinneen who waxed poetic with, "I think you can probably see why I said we've got to take control here."

The story is well written with factual information provided to the Daytona Beach newspaper, but denied to NSB News as we were told nothing could be released because the situation was under investigation.

Even when Dinneen asked for and received unanimous County Council approval to seize the SVAA's financials, he made it clear to the elected body it wasn't appropriate to discuss particulars in a public forum. So what changed between then and now? Especially with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement involved?

When I called the county repeatedly to speak with Dinneen and County Attorney Dan Eckert, I was passed over to his spokesman, Dave Byron. When I complained to Byron that I couldn't get anything from Carni's staff related to the payroll, he made it clear to me there was nothing he could do for me. I made it clear to Byron I wanted to speak to both Dinneen and Eckert, but it went nowhere.

I couldn't even get Byron to give specifics on the ad authority board members appointed by County Council members.

The Sunday News-Journal story makes reference to her total pay "$101,605 -- including more than $55,000 in bonuses -- for pay periods between July 1 and Dec. 11, according to records Carni compiled and turned over to the county."

So how did the News-Journal obtain those records if they were turned over to the auditor in what is supposed to be an "ongoing investigation" as I have been told repeatedly by Byron and elected County Council members, including Alexander and County Chairman Frank Bruno?.

I was so incensed by what I saw, I called Bruno within minutes of reading the story. He was less than pleased, didn't know anything about the article, that he doesn't "get the paper until 4 a.m." and that he was done talking. End of conversation.

So I returned to the online version of the News-Journal, only to find another shocker of a story: A one-source interview with New Smyrna Beach CRA Director Tony Otte. Shocking not because of any news value because there was none. Furthermore, this fluff piece served a purpose: Damage control by a city administration led by Pam Brangaccio and a restaurant/bar owner in Mayor Adam Barringer, once the shiny politician highlighted by NSB News, who was quoted almost as much by us as Daytona Beach Mayor Glenn Ritchey has been by the News-Journal.

But times have changed. Barringer hasn't been on speaking terms with since September and the rest of the commissioners have been lawyered up in the wake of the sudden resignations of CRA board members Tom Williams and Doug Hodson and even the mayor's private interests in the CRA coming under fire.

And while the News-Journal hammers away at Carni, the Daytona paper has avoided any mention of Barringer's dealings with the CRA and its growing scandal. Then again, the News-Journal has made no mention of the advertising revenue coming its way this holiday season from New Smyrna Beach.

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Henry Frederick is publisher of Headline Surfer®, the award-winning 24/7 internet newspaper serving the Daytona Beach-Orlando metro area via, launched April 7, 2008, as Florida's first around-the-clock online newspaper. Frederick is among the Sunshine State's most experienced reporters with scores of regional, state & national journalism-industry awards for nearly 100 breaking news & investigative reporting stories in Florida, New York, Massachusetts & Connecticut.
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