Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood is fuming after the Volusia County Council voted to sue the state to overturn Florida voters adding Amendment 10 to the state Constitution.
Chitwood named the six council members that voted in favor of the lawsuit his “scumbags of the week,” the latest in the series of videos he makes each week to spotlight a criminal that his office is trying to capture.
“Your vote does not count in Volusia County. What really matters is the people behind the curtain pulling the strings of the elected officials,” he said. “That’s what really matters.
“It’s Volusia County, where it is stunning, but there are a lot of shady people here,” Chitwood added. “We have a county chairman who was hand picked to be a puppet and do the will of a few mighty and the rich.”
Amendment 10 was passed with 63 percent of the vote in November, more than the 60 percent needed to be adopted. The amendment sets forth many changes to state government, including making the state Department of Veterans Affairs and an office of counter terrorism constitutionally mandated. The amendment also makes changes to county constitutional officers like sheriffs, tax collectors and property appraisers. It keeps counties from taking away any of their power and makes those offices only under the purview of voters, not under the umbrella of a county’s administration. Volusia is a charter county which strictly sets rules about what the sheriff can and cannot not do.
“Volusia County has the exclusive authority to manage all aspects of the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office,” the county’s labor agreement notes. According to Chitwood, that being the case, the agreement includes hiring, firing and transferring employees; determining start times, strategies, trainings and locations of substations. Chitwood said the fight over who can do what in Volusia County has been going on since it became a charter county.
“This has been a battle. It’s been going on since I was sworn in as sheriff in 2017, but the actual fight over constitutionality has been going on since the 1980s,” Chitwood said.
Chitwood said he tried to get along with his county commission at the start, but said they quickly tried to out him in his place.
“I asked to have a sheriff’s office attorney assigned to the fourth floor of the building, but since the County controls that, they said ‘no. You’re not going to get an attorney.’, and it went downhill from there,” he said.
Sheriffs in the state of Florida generally have their own legal team. Chitwood called himself an “elected figurehead,” pointing out that in order to do something like creating a juvenile ankle monitor or crime diversion program, he used to have to first get approval from the county council.
“I think that’s a little ridiculous for somebody who was elected to be the engineer of the train by the people, but yet some bureaucrat turns around and says ‘nope’. If the train goes off the track, it is your responsibility, other than that we will do everything,” Chitwood said.
Now that Amendment 10 has passed, Chitwood will get his independence and Volusia County will have to create an elected Tax Collector. On a 6-1 vote, the council agreed to sue to stop the implementation of the amendment.
The main thrust of the council’s legal argument is that only Volusia voters have the authority to change the county’s charter, not statewide voters.
Chitwood said he believes this is a blatant attempt to keep power in the hands of a few.
“In Volusia County, we have a few rich developers and rich people that control the menu. If you want to run for office in Volusia County (and I was the exception to the rule), and you don’t kiss their ring, you are not going to get the funding you need, and you’re basically not going to get elected,” he said.
Chitwood insisted, in essence, the voters are suing themselves to overturn something they voted for. He maintained this is all part of the plan of commissioners and the county administration.
“You will hear the same refrain. You’re too stupid to understand. The taxpayer won’t get it. We’ll do it for you, and I think that is an insult to all of our intelligence,” Chitwood said.
Reach Mike Synan at Mike.Synan@floridadaily.com.