BOCC Budget Work Session Ends in Disarray

Dawn Kitterman
BRADENTON — A BOCC budget work session devolved into disagreement and accusations on Tuesday after the conclusion of the capital improvements presentation (CIP) to commissioners. Commissioner "discussion" at the end of the meeting resulted in one commissioner leaving, and the board chair adjourning the meeting before taking public comments.   

During her end-of-meeting comments, Commissioner Misty Servia shared concerns over what she perceived as a lack of adequate communication from the administrator to all commissioners. Commissioner Carol Whitmore had made comments earlier in the meeting also expressing a desire for better communication. 

"I just need more information," Servia said, adding that without briefings from the county administrator she was without information about county projects. 

Servia alleged to have only just learned during Tuesday’s meeting details concerning a property owned by the county and one intended as a future purchase by the county. It was stated in the work session that property owned by the county—commonly referred to as the "Musgrave property"—was set to be rezoned. A Parrish property the county intends to purchase is now planned for land banking and affordable housing. Servia claimed she was not previously informed of the plans for the two properties prior to Tuesday. 

Commissioner Vanessa Baugh did not agree with Servia’s perspective about a lack of communication. Baugh stated that while she was unaware whether other commissioners get briefings from the administrator, she has had briefings with the administrator. She said she was aware of the county projects discussed in the meeting. 

Like Baugh, Commissioner George Kruse said he too was aware of the information discussed in Tuesday’s meeting. Concerning the Parrish land purchase, Kruse said he was aware of that specifically because it had been brought to him by members of the Parrish Civic Association (PCA) and had been discussed publicly. 

The news about county negotiations for the purchase of land in Parrish was made public by Administrator Scott Hopes in a March town hall hosted by Commissioner James Satcher. Some members of the PCA had attended the town hall at Rocky Bluff Library. During the town hall, Hopes told citizens that a purchase contract was already on the county attorney's desk. 

The town hall was scheduled by Satcher to meet with Parrish residents to discuss the North Central Overlay. At the end of the town hall, Hopes made a "breaking news" announcement, telling attendees that they were to be the first to hear that the county was in negotiations to purchase property from a Parrish resident. Hopes said the land was going to be used for a Manatee Sheriff’s Office facility and for the development of a future Parrish town square. 

After the town hall, an attendee who had video tapped a portion of Hopes’ announcement shared it on social media. When some commissioners saw it, they called foul. Commissioner Carol Whitmore raised the issue in a BOCC meeting after the town hall, expressing frustration that she was not aware of the county's plans to purchase land in Parrish as the administrator had shared with the public. 

Board chair Kevin Van Ostenbridge responded to Servia's comments by telling Kruse that Servia was only using the budget session discussion for campaigning. Van Ostenbridge alleged that Servia was raising the matters during the meeting discussion to "create chaos"—something Van Ostenbridge said he believed Servia was doing to "make herself look good" for the upcoming primary election. 

Commissioner Whitmore got up and left the meeting during Van Ostenbridge’s remarks.

Servia called Van Ostenbridge's accusations "absolutely ludicrous." Servia pushed back on his remarks saying, "I don’t create chaos. I think the four of you do a very good job of creating chaos on your own." 

Servia said a decision to use the Parrish property for land banking purposes should have come back to the board for approval. 

"If we are going to land bank that property, that should be a policy decision that the board of county commissioners is making," Servia said. 

Kruse told Servia that the board approved, via a 7-1 vote, a motion he made in April to direct the county administrator to "aggressively" seek options for land banking. Kruse said that Hopes was only following the directions of the board. 

Kruse did raise land banking during the April 19, BOCC special meeting on homelessness and affordable housing. However, a motion was not needed to direct the county administrator, and there was no vote by the board. Rather, Kruse merely stated his desire that the county administrator "aggressively seek" property for land banking, and the administrator stated that he and his staff were already doing so. 

You can watch that clip from the April 19 special meeting by clicking the video below. 

Servia stated again that her position was that the board should know when a property has been identified for such designation and the board should approve it, rather than learning about it in a budget work session. 

"They won’t let you win," Baugh told Hopes. 

"He’s not purchasing a property like she stated, just like he is not under an investigation like she stated the other day," Van Ostenbridge said to Baugh, taking a jab at Servia. 

Baugh then turned to address Servia directly with her comments, telling Servia that she cannot expect to be "welcomed with open arms" by others if she spends her time attacking people in the meetings. 

When Servia said she did not understand what Baugh was referring to, Baugh said that Servia recently made horrible accusations against the administrator and Deputy County Administrator Robert Reinshuttle in a BOCC meeting.

Servia attempted to denounce Baugh's account, stressing that concerns or "accusations" made were brought to the board by the County Clerk and Comptroller, Angel Colonneso, not by herself. 

Baugh called on the chair to step in. Van Ostenbridge told Servia that she did not have permission to dialogue with Baugh, and Baugh told Servia that it was "her time" to speak. 

Baugh said Servia tried to get the administrator "pushed out" and "put on leave" for things "he did not do." She accused Servia of "trying to burn the house down," pointing her finger at the commissioner. Scolding her, Baugh told Servia, "He is the best county administrator we’ve ever had, in my opinion!" 

Baugh told Servia that she needs to work harder at trying to get along with everyone, adding that Servia "makes it impossible on purpose." 

Servia called Baugh’s comments "ridiculous" and said that employees and staff who have worked with the board are clear that she (Servia) "is not the troublemaker." 

Van Ostenbridge then abruptly adjourned the meeting. Moments later, the meeting was forced to resume in order to take public comments on the day’s budget discussion of the CIP. 

To review the recommended Capital Improvement Plan presented in Tuesday’s work session, click here. To review other FY23 budget materials, including the FY23 budget message, click here

To replay the end portion of Tuesday’s work session meeting click the video below. To rewatch the entire work session, begin the video at the beginning. 

Reader Comments
Christopher Gilbert
JUN 22, 2022  •  Baugh's demand that Servia stop burning down the house is a projection too simple for even those starved for irony. It sounds like there's just no limit to the overt and in-our-faces corruption; it looks like the majority is going to take it all the way.
JUN 17, 2022  •  Any job that requires you to be lectured to about ethics, etc. by Vanessa "Vaccine Queen" Baugh should come with hazard pay. Or at least one of those vomit bags that you get on airplanes. All respects to Servia for keeping her cool in the face of such nonsense from Baugh & KVO.
JUN 17, 2022  •  Any job that requires you to be lectured to about ethics, etc. by the likes of Vanessa "Vaccine Queen" Baugh, should come with hazard pay. Or at least one of those vomit bags like what you get on a jet plane.
David Daniels
JUN 15, 2022  •  Commissioner Servia stood up and also remained respectful, conducting herself professionally - completely opposite of Commissioners Baugh and VanOstenbridge. This is obvious to all. It's embarrassing to live in a county that would vote for the likes of Baugh, VanOstenbridge, Kruse and Satcher. And to call Hopes the best Administrator ever - geesh, you have to be kidding. Hopes is a catastrophe.
Cat L
JUN 15, 2022  •  Little-man-KVO temper tantrum right there…. He and Baugh, acting like a little gang of mean-girl teenagers rather than elected officials. Not admirable. I really get tired of their bullying the officials who are ACTUALLY trying to engage in democracy. Am I mistaken, or is the new county admin basically behaving how they accused the old admin of behaving that was justification for her being fired?
JUN 15, 2022  •  They're all in the pockets of the Developers, specially the crazy hat lady. The next vote should be easy. If sided with Developers then replace with fresh blood. Manatee County is like Petaluma County California in 1999 (this isn't a good thing, long term.)
JUN 15, 2022  •  looking like they'll be paving up lakewood green space in no time flat! They even have the heavy machinery staged, just waiting for the commission to flip (we need to investigate the funny hat lady n her relationship with these developers. how do you rep the DNC & Big Development at the same time? gross)
Russell Owens
JUN 15, 2022  •  Why isn't Kruse in jail like every other drug abuser would be?
David Levin
JUN 15, 2022  •  Just curious who people think is the most respectable out of the bunch? Going door-to-door for petitioning, folks have said they regret voting most of them in.
Ruth Lawler
JUN 15, 2022  •  Once again Dawn Kitterman did an excellent job keeping us informed on these County Commission meetings and work sessions. It is truly embarrassing to see the disfunction, name calling and lack of cooperation among the Commissioners. To me it appears that four are doing everything in their power, along with the Administrator, to undermine good governance and the other Commissioners. It is a pathetic game of "one upmanship" at the expense of the residents of the County.
Matthew Suddes
JUN 15, 2022  •  Defund the board of county commissioners. Give the money to law enforcement. How much does this self-serving bureaucracy cost the taxpayers( that's us)?
Betsy Benac
JUN 15, 2022  •  It is EXHAUSTING to try to keep up with the lies that this BOCC keeps stating! Once again emphatically George Kruse states that a motion was passed when IT WASN’T! Once again he says that everyone knew about the Parrish Land Deal-really? When it was a breaking story at a neighborhood meeting? WHEN HE HAS NO AUTHORITY TO DO SO? Thank goodness for Dawn researching this absolutely crap show to expose the lies-they just keep on coming!
JUN 15, 2022  •  Cat fight!
Lori Bryan
JUN 15, 2022  •  When will we get or maybe I missed it, the Impact Fee Report?
Ray Fusco
JUN 15, 2022  •  I was going to say that we have a case of the tail wagging the dog, since the County administrator works for the BOCC and not the other way around. However this situation is worse than that we have BOCC members actually aiding & abetting this independent action. Do you think for one minute that the Board of a private company would allow a CEO they hired to not communicate with them about the operations of the company. Let's get serious the citizens of Manatee County deserve better, or do we? A democracy is only as good as its electorate and we elected this circus.
Junior Salazar
JUN 15, 2022  •  My heart breaks for my hometown. This is not the Manatee County I have always known. We must demand better!
John Edwards
JUN 15, 2022  •  Must be very hard on the county's employees to feel like they are working for the successor to Mr. Ringling's business rather than a county government. Each time I've dealt with county employees I've been impressed with their courtesy and professionalism. I encourage them to keep it up despite the atmospherics at the Board level.