BY JAMES HARPER
Daytona Beach Police Chief Mike Chitwood has been limited to what he can say to the media by City Manager Jim Chisholm.
The order came after Chitwood was quoted in the Daytona Beach News Journal for chastising Volusia County Council member Joyce Cusack for an appointment she made to the Halifax Area Advertising Authority (HAAA).
The HAAA board is an 11-member volunteer board appointed by the county council that spends roughly $6 million on tourism advertising each year and advises the council.
Chitwood was quoted in the city’s daily paper saying, “Clearly, the County Council doesn’t really know what’s going on in Daytona Beach, or at least vet who they are applying to these boards. When they heard the address, 1100 South Ridgewood, if they knew their county, they would say, ‘I’ve got to call the police chief.’”
Only can talk about crimes
The appointment of hotel owner Praven Patel was made by Cusack, who took Chitwood’s statements personally, considering he had never commented in the media before in reference to appointments by her colleagues.
Cusack is the only Black on the board and her appointment was Indian. She has accused Chitwood of discrimination.
When asked by the Daytona Times how a city employee can comment to the media on an appointment made by a county council member, Chisholm said, “He knows now he can’t do that.”
“We (Chisholm and Chitwood) had a discussion. I don’t want any of my department heads talking about other elected officials (to the media.),” continued Chisholm.
Chisholm said Chitwood can still speak to the media but only on issues related to crime.
“He should not discus anything about the county council or another elected official,” elaborated Chisholm.
No response from Chitwood
The Daytona Times tried repeatedly to contact Chitwood by telephone and e-mail to get him to comment on the controversy.
When approached by the Daytona Times at last week’s city commission meeting and asked why he had not returned calls or responded to emails, Chitwood responded: “Because I don’t have too”
At that same city commission meeting, Chisholm said department heads can speak to the press provided they have sufficient information. Otherwise, they have to go through him.
He said the normal protocol for the press is for them to go through the city’s public information officer – Susan Cerbone – to speak with a department head.
The police department has it own public information officer, Jimmy Flynt.
Support for chief
Sophia Huger, the only Black member of the HAAA board, said she believes Chitwood is doing a good job as the city’s police chief.
“As a citizen, he had the right to speak to the press,” Huger said.
However, Huger said she supports Cusack’s appointment. “I want us to be as inclusive as possible,” Huger added.
Pat Heard, a member of the Midtown Area Redevelopment board also praised Chitwood and supported what he said about Cusack’s appointment, whose motel on Ridgewood Avenue has had a reputation for criminal activity.
Chitwood told the News-Journal the police department received 375 calls for service to the Heritage Inn at 1100 S. Ridgewood Ave., from April 1, 2010, through April 1, 2012. Those calls included eight for drugs and five for prostitution.
“Don’t shoot the messenger. The chief is doing a wonderful job. There are things that I don’t like that he might do,” Heard said.
“There are many things that need to brought to our attention. As far as South Ridgewood, it needs to be cleaned up. If he (Chitwood) had not come and spoken out, we would have never known that many calls had been made to the police station (about Patel’s hotel).” she concluded.
However, community activist Marjorie Johnson spoke before the city commission last week and said Cusack deserved an apology from Chitwood and the city.
“What business does he (Chitwood) have in the county’s business? It is not the police chief’s job to vet a county council woman’s appointment. Joyce Cusack is due an apology,” she told city commissioners.