Johnson Takes Aim at Tone of Tanner's Report

Rachael Jackson, Ludmilla Lelis and Christine Show contributed to this report
Posted August 12, 2007

A five-page State Attorney's Office report has raised Volusia County Sheriff Ben Johnson's ire.

And it may be exposing some problems brewing between the sheriff and State Attorney John Tanner.

Johnson has hired (and is paying out of his own pocket) a private attorney, the former federal prosecutor Rick Jancha, to challenge Tanner's office.

The report traces some of the history of Allen Michael Buzdigian, the Ormond-by-the-Sea man who was shot and killed last year after firing at deputies who came to arrest him for not showing up at court.

Tanner's office decided that shooting was not unlawful, but Johnson didn't appreciate the tone of the report which, as Jancha writes in his letter to the State Attorney's Office, has omitted key facts and hints at police misconduct. Jancha asks whether the report may ultimately relate back to "personal slights" that Tanner has against Johnson. He alludes to those slights being linked to the Flagler County jail controversy in which Flagler Sheriff Don Fleming has been a key player. Johnson, though not directly involved, has stood by Fleming in asking for the release of a grand jury report, which a judge has redacted.

"Ben wants it to be made very clear that if the State Attorney's Office has issues with him, they should address those issues to him and not his law-enforcement officers," Jancha said.

Tanner hasn't responded to Jancha's letter yet, but said, "We are going to provide some legal guidance in response to the letter, and that is part of our job." Tanner added: "We enjoy an excellent working relationship with the law-enforcement officers of this community. We appreciate the sacrifice they and their families make to protect us all."

Romney's ups and downs

Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney has been so berated for his corny sense of humor that a campaign video shows his wife explaining, "He's always got jokes, but they're not always funny."

Romney's campaign appearance in Daytona Beach last week was no exception. Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Feeney of Oviedo was present, along with GOP state Sen. Carey Baker of Eustis, for jokes about how Romney is an "automobile nut," how he watched The Bourne Ultimatum instead of studying for a debate and even about the frequent standing ovations he received from the star-struck Daytona crowd of about 200.

"You guys are up and down," the former Massachusetts governor, who is Mormon, said to chuckles. "This is better than Mass!"

DeBary man leaves growth panel

DeBary's representative to the Volusia Growth Management Commission resigned last week, ending his role in a controversial marina project.

Jay Erndl said he left because he was unhappy in his position, which sparked a debate among city and county officials in June. The DeBary City Council tried to remove Erndl because City Manager Maryann Courson said he had expressed a "preconceived notion" in e-mails -- documents Courson later acknowledged didn't exist.

The growth commission's lawyer said the city did not have the legal authority to fire Erndl, so he stayed put until now.

DeBary City Council will appoint Erndl's replacement at its Sept. 5 meeting.