County Commission Drags Feet on Interim Administrator

Charles Hines
Charles Hines
Staff Report
BRADENTON — At a marathon meeting Tuesday, Manatee County Commissioners voted to install Deputy County Administrator Karen Stewart as interim county administrator after having gotten rid of 31-year county veteran Cheri Coryea earlier that afternoon. The decision was made after a previously-discussed plan to approve former Sarasota County Commissioner and attorney Charles Hines as interim administrator failed by a 4-3 vote.

Stewart agreed to serve in the role for no more than 30 days and with the condition that she immediately transition back to deputy county administrator, which protects her from being terminated by the board (the board is only responsible for the county administrator and county attorney's employment). The board will now look to a two-step plan in which they hire a one-year "interim" administrator while they conduct a search for a permanent replacement.

While everyone spoke highly of Hines, commissioners in the majority faction who voted to ax Coryea (which included Kevin Van Ostenbridge, George Kruse, James Satcher and Vanessa Baugh) questioned the terms of the contract which included a $192,000 salary (commensurate with Coryea's), as well as a $2,500 housing allowance or one of the houses in the county's surplus property inventory in order to meet the statutory requirement that an administrator lives in the county where they work, and an eight-month obligation to Hines' compensation—even if they were to find a permanent replacement prior.

Van Ostenbridge had previously lobbied to give the position to school board member Scott Hopes and again pressed for Hopes at Tuesday's meeting. Several commissioners mentioned Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance CEO Dom Dimaio, who was said to be the preferred candidate of politically-powerful developer Carlos Beruff when Coreyea was promoted in 2019.

Ultimately, the board voted for the county attorney's office to draft approved contractual terms that will be presented, discussed, amended if necessary, and then approved at a March 4 land use meeting. The tentative plan discussed Tuesday is to then vote on hiring either Hines, DaMaio, or Hopes at a March 9 meeting with the selected candidate serving for a one-year period as the board seeks a full-time replacement. 

Reader Comments
Steve Nagski
FEB 27, 2021  •  enjoy watching the county commissioner meetings on cable TV. Watching those meetings are entertaining and bring back memories from decades ago of the freak shows in those traveling circuses.
FEB 24, 2021  •  The leadership in Manatee County is a JOKE and only interested in themselves and NOT the residents.
Robert Reinshuttle
FEB 24, 2021  •  I have known Dr. Scott Hopes and worked with him in different capacities over several years. He is one of the finest public servants you will find in this wonderful community. He truly has an interest in doing what is best for the county and we should be glad that he is interested in taking on this critical role.
FEB 24, 2021  •  If the majority on the board had used even a half a brain cell instead of continually trying to cause chaos, they would have requested to put an end date on the administrator’s contract. This would have allowed them to retain a high-level employee while looking for a replacement. They should be ashamed of their actions. We do not wish to have anyone from the school board be even an interim county administrator. We need someone from outside this dysfunctional system.