Jimmy Seelbinder Contrasted With the Broward County Crooks

   This is an article mainly about Jimmy Seelbinder, Chief Financial Officer of the small city of DeBary, Florida.  It is also about the culture shock of moving from the corrupt environment of Broward County to the vastly different culture of a small city in Central Florida.

   In 1996, my wife, MaryAnn, and I were living in Broward County, Florida.  We lived in Broward, but we both worked for the Dade County Public School System.  Broward County was then the second largest county ( in population ) in the state of Florida and contained a population greater than sixteen states in the U.S.  As a fighter for open, honest, and clean government, I decided to seek election to the Broward County Public School Board.  It was widely known that the Broward County Public School System was characterized by fraud, waste, abuse, mismanagement, Nepotism, racism, and generalized administrative incompetency. 

   As usual, I filed my papers for office about one year before the election so I could carry the message about public corruption in the Broward County Public School System.  ( Please note that there are some recent posts on this website about the latest and newest forms of public corruption in Broward County Schools.  I urge you to read them. )

   I drove from our house in Western Broward County to the main school board administrative building in order to obtain a copy of the school board’s yearly budget. Since I had just recently filed, nobody in administration had any idea who I was.  The main school board building is known as the “crystal palace” because it is so huge and gaudy, not to mention how wasteful of the taxpayer’s money.  I obtained a guest pass (required) so I could board the elevator to reach the finance office. 

   Once inside the finance office, I waited my turn.  An old lady behind the counter had the following conversation with me:

Me:  Good afternoon.  I am a resident of Broward County and I would like a copy of the school board’s latest yearly budget.

Old lady:  We don’t have one. 

Me: Possibly you did not understand me.  I would like a copy of your budget.

Old lady:  We don’t have one.

Me:  Madam, you are required by state law and county policy to have a budget.  Please ask the administrator of finance to come out and talk to me.

After keeping me waiting for about ten minutes, the administrator of finance comes out wearing a 3 piece suit with a diamond ring on each hand.  I do not know if the individual was a man or a woman, but since it was wearing a suit, I assume it was a man.  He had an attitude that would gag a maggot.

Administrator:  Can I help you?

Me:  Yes.  I am a Broward resident and I would like a copy of your budget.

Administrator:  We don’t have one.

Me:  You are lying.  You are legally required to have a budget.

Administrator:  We don’t have one.

Me:  You now see that I am holding a cell phone in my hand.  I am also a candidate for school board.  If YOU do not give me a copy of your budget in three minutes, I am going to call the news media and tell them that YOU SAID YOU DO NOT HAVE A BUDGET.

Administrator:  ( The creature before me turns pale and begins to sweat and look very ill.)  Oh.  I am so sorry.  Won’t you come into my office for a donut and coffee?

Me:  You are running out of time.

Administrator: The creature reaches under the counter and  barely lifts out a large box.  As he opens the box, I notice it is filled with copies of the yearly budget.  With a shaking hand, the administrator hands me a copy.  As I turn to leave, the administrator runs around the counter and holds open the office door for me.

   Six years later, my wife and I are living in DeBary.  I decided to stop by city hall and ask for a copy of DeBary’s budget.  Deanna Hutchinson is the receptionist who greets me warmly at city hall.  She directs me to Jimmy Seelbinder’s desk.  Jimmy’s desk is covered with reports, notebooks, bills payable and at least fifty pounds of other documents.  After I tell Jimmy that I would like a copy of the latest DeBary budget, he starts to move things so he can make his way across his office to one of many file cabinets.  He hands me the latest budget and asks: ” Would you like a copy of last years budget?”   “Yes”, I respond. 

   That began a longterm friendship with Jimmy.  When I was a resident, Jimmy would answer any question that I had.  When I was on the Council, one manager just told me to ” see Jimmy” whenever I asked her a question outside of a Council meeting. 

   I had the opportunity to observe Jimmy working under three different managers and two different interem managers.  He is a man of the highest integrity and he possesses common sense.  He rates a grade of A+ for his work under each manager.  With the latest manager, Dan Parrott, the accounting/finance division has purchased some much needed new software and I believe that Jimmy should now receive an A+ plus extra credit.

                                             R. Van Conoley

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