More Chaos as BOCC Gets Set to Vote on Hopes' Contract

Scott Hopes
Scott Hopes
Dennis "Mitch" Maley
BRADENTON — At Tuesday's meeting, Manatee County Commissioners are set to vote on whether to retain County Administrator Scott Hopes at a salary increase of more than $23,000. The vote follows an explosive weekend in which the county clerk/comptroller and board chair feuded publicly on the matter and political operatives launched an attack campaign against the clerk.

On Friday, TBT broke the news of Manatee County Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller Angel Colonneso sending the county commission a letter detailing broad concerns over the chaos caused by rapid turnover and reorganization since Hopes took over as county administrator in late May of 2021, after the board reneged on its pledge to conduct a national search for the best-qualified candidate following a political coup of sorts, in which a new four-commissioner majority moved to fire Hopes’ predecessor, Cheri Coryea. 

Colonneso also referenced serious fiscal concerns, including that the county seemed to be trying to "mirror” what would have been its payment into the Florida Retirement System for Deputy County Administrator Rob Reishuttle into a deferred compensation account because he had already retired from a state position with FRS benefits. Colonneso said that such a policy decision could only be made by the board, which had never voted on the matter.

Reinshuttle was brought on by Hopes, who has expanded the number of deputies from two to four, each of whom has a base salary of $182,000. The board’s previous two experienced deputies left following the board’s sacking of Coryea. John Osborne headed to the private sector just before Hopes took over, and Karen Stewart put in for retirement shortly after. In all, 590 of the county’s just over 2,000 employees quit, retired, or were terminated since Hopes took over the role.

Board chair Kevin Van Ostenbridge, who led the push to hire Hopes, sent out a politically-charged statement on Saturday, attempting to link Colonesso, a fellow Republican, to Democratic President Joe Biden, while accusing her of actions that "resulted in the loss of millions of taxpayer dollars” and using the issue to draw attention away from the matter. Van Ostenbridge was apparently referring to one of the county’s investment funds, in which the comptroller opted to realize a loss when the market dipped so that the funds could be reinvested in investment vehicles that had more favorable outlooks. 

"In the first quarter of this year, the Florida Local Government Investment Trust (FLGIT) Short Term Bond Fund within our portfolio incurred a loss of $1.5 million,” wrote Colonneso in a response letter to the chair. "This was due to the nature of the fund which is based on net asset value per share given the current market. This is .1% of the total portfolio that my office oversees. As the investment analyst explained to your administrator during our meeting on May 19, 2022, the economic downturn that has taken place this year is unprecedented and the likes of which has not been seen in 100 years. This was not unique to Manatee County. In an effort to prevent further loss in this specific investment fund, we chose to take immediate action and sell the shares in this fund, recognize the loss and reinvest that money in another fund based upon the expectations that rates would rise, which they have. Our year-to-date interest as of April 30, 2022, now stands at $550,000 and we are projecting approximately $3 million in total interest earnings by the end of this fiscal year.”

Click here to read the letter in full.

Colonneso also referenced the fact that even though Hopes’ current contract gives him a $450 monthly stipend in addition to his salary for driving his personal vehicle to and from work, he is apparently using a $46,000 Chevrolet Tahoe that was ostensibly purchased as a vehicle for the county pool after Hopes was hired but seems to be serving as his personal vehicle. Colonneso said that in addition to the conflict of getting compensated for use of the vehicle, the board should consider the cost of fueling a large SUV for such use, given record gas prices.

Hopes was originally hired at a $199,000 base salary, but that rose just months later when he gave every county employee, including himself, a percentage-based cost of living adjustment that brought his pay to $206,752. The board was not aware of this until the story was reported by this publication. Hopes' new contract, if approved, would bring his base salary to $230,000, much more than any administrator in Manatee has ever made, despite Hopes being considerably less qualified than his predecessors. It would also replace the car allowance with a vehicle, presumably the Tahoe, and automatically renew each year, in perpetuity, unless the board took action. Hopes current contract expires June 1.

On Monday morning, Manatee County Concerned Citizens, an opaque and shadowy group that sends communications that seem aimed at providing cover for the developer-sponsored candidates that dominate the board, sent out a misleading alert to county Republicans. The email read:

You've probably never heard of Angel Colonneso but here's 1.5 million reasons why you won't forget her.

As a fellow concerned citizen in Manatee County, we thought it of the utmost importance to let you know about a new scandal in which our County Clerk, Angel Colonneso decided to "day trade" with YOUR hard earned money - and lost $1.5 Million of it!

Colonneso, in the same letter, admitted to not hiring a certified financial advisor to oversee billions in Manatee County Taxpayer Funds. It's simply financial mismanagement at best and gross negligence at its worst.

Any elected official who admits to such a gaffe should resign immediately so we need your help.

Click here and tell Angel Colonneso to RESIGN:

The hyperlink opens the user's email and populates a draft with Colonneso’s address pre-filled and the following pre-written text:

Dear Madame Clerk,

I demand as a taxpayer that you resign today over your mismanagement and fiscally irresponsibility.

Thank You.

Initially, it seemed as though the group was tied to a political consulting firm used by developer PACs and the board majority that fired Coryea, as the address listed was traced to one of the firm’s partners. The day after that information was shared to a private Facebook group, however, Steve Vernon, Chair of the Manatee County Republican Party’s Executive Committee, claimed that he was behind the group and the address was changed to 824 Manatee Ave W, Bradenton, FL 34205, and remained so in Monday's email. However, as TBT has previously pointed out, that is the address for the downtown Bradenton branch of the U.S. Postal Service.

The meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m. in the commission chambers and will be televised locally on Spectrum channel 644, Verizon channel 30 and Comcast channel 20, or can be streamed live or watched afterward, on-demand, via the county's YouTube channel.

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Reader Comments
Stan
MAY 24, 2022  •  Manatee Voters your 4 elected officials still decided to reward your corrupt County Administrator. Despite the red flags raised by your County Comptroller, despite the resignation of your CFO this morning, before your 4 Commissioners voted to protect their boy. It is not a coincidence that these two individuals job is to protect your taxpayers money and there having an issue with Hopes. Just think it. Remain vigilant. Watch future spending. Hopes owns 2 cars, then why does he need another car from the county? If there’s smoke there’s fire. Can’t wait to see why the CFO resigned. Aren’t you wondering? Just a little? She was working for the County for a long time and then she quit? The same time as the Comptroller was raising red flags. What happened to that retirement fund? Is that employee going to still get that money? They act like they have a lot of money. Do you make enough to pay your gas? Your rent? Your mortgage? That’s your money they gave to Hopes today because he’s doing a good job?!!!! Says who?! Do you think he’s doing a good job?! How about those public records that were kept secret? What’s in those records? Aren’t government employees trained about public records? That’s a state law I think. How are they allowed to get away with that? How about that Commissioner caught on tape after going after a tree? Poor tree. His wife knew what to do. Didn’t she? The other one is under investigation so she likes to deflect. I’m sure she’s glad attention is away from her right now. Vote back the 3 who did not want to support corruption. Then vote a new one in. Replace the one from vaccinegate. You can do this. You cannot vote Hopes out but you can vote those 4 out. This is your money. This is your county. This is your vote. Vote!!!!
The Queen of Diamonds
MAY 24, 2022  •  Every time that Kruse speaks the public should start singing 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall. These people are just political prostitutes that go for very cheap.
Scott Woodworth
MAY 24, 2022  •  This message is for all of the disgruntled employees, current and former: I highly recommend you all reach out to our federal government with your concerns about corruption, waste, fraud and abuse. I did this in regards to Team Success, DouglasColkitt and their 'supporters' in local government. Hopes was a common denominator for a few reasons. BOTH the Securities and Exchange Commission & Department of Education recently reached out to me directly about this. I walked them through the evidence and directly to Scott Hopes' door. Do you want change? Be brave. Speak up. The more attention he gets, the quicker he splits.
MM
MAY 24, 2022  •  Everyone should know that the Inspector Generals Office maintains an anonymous hotline for employees of the BOCC and the public, to report County fraud, waste, abuse, and employee misconduct. Callers leave a message anonymously or leave contact information. The hotline number is (941) 742-5938. You can also use the Clerks Inspector General web page @ manateeclerk.com. Do the right thing if you have been asked to do the wrong thing.
Dave
MAY 24, 2022  •  This scum needs to go ASAP!!! His only concerns are for himself! This madness has got to stop NOW!
Nikki Velazquez
MAY 23, 2022  •  This needs to stop! Hopes is a joke. And whoever is behind that smear campaign... Sorry, but most of us are not stupid enough to believe your crap.
They Wouldve Stayed
MAY 23, 2022  •  I am speaking for the 590. They’re so traumatized I’ve agreed to speak up for them because the Constitution protects their right to be heard. “Many of us wanted to stay because the County used to be one of the best employers. We were going to stay until we retire because the County took care of its people. The leadership then were made up of caring individuals who followed the ACE philosophy. This is no longer the case. ACE is out the window. In fact it has become the workplace to avoid, like the plague. Ask the several HR former Directors - acting, interim, presumptive, incoming, paid but did not really do any work. Why did they all go away? Our colleagues still staying have so much to lose - so close to full retirement, have kids in college, mouths to feed, mortgage to pay, sick relatives to care for. So they stay and take daily abuse. The abuse, the indignity, the arrogance, the exclusion, the uncertainty, the lies, the talking behind your back, the in your face insults, the behind the scenes administrative actions, the collusion among higher ups, the ‘talk’ meant to demean you yet you’re supposed to take it and pretend all is good. The walking into work with a big knot in your stomach. The feeling of doomsday hanging over your head. The County building felt like it was transported to a socialist country. Ironic for these elected and appointed leaders claiming to be protectors of freedom and individualism. You all have turned the County into a swamp. The ones in leadership roles are not blameless. They have their 30 pieces of silver. And they know it. One of them looks very miserable because there’s a conscience there. One has a perpetual squint because of outsize ambition. The other is well, double dipping or about to (thanks to Angel it may not happen). Fellow residents, it is time to exercise your freedom of speech and flex your constitutional right. Talk sense to your elected officials. We only need ONE to flip their vote. The worst County Administrator does not deserve a raise. In fact he does not deserve this job.” You’re welcome, 590. To the 1500, hang in there. Support each other. Speak up. The Constitution protects you.
MM
MAY 23, 2022  •  When the dark money gets the voters to attack each other they are able to distract you and separate you by your politics. It’s how they do it to get what they want and in Manatee County even Neal, Beruff and Spencer got more than they bargained for. It’s kinda funny that they wasted their money on one term wonders, KVO, Kruse and Satcher who have already sealed their fate of no re-election possibilities based on their poor immature acts of their own deeds. And there is the other one, what must have happened to her as a child to have ripped her heart out and claimed her soul for evil. It was just a matter of time before they turned on each other. Yet through all this the good hard working people of Manatee County will prevail. They won’t make those mistakes a second time. Let’s just pray that tomorrow one of those 4 has a conscience and ends the contract of Scott Hopes. For the 590 employees that have walked away from their jobs under his dictatorship, your our neighbors, friends, church goers, parents, professionals we believe in your love for Manatee County and your honest professionalism. Let’s all work together to get our community back. Be ready to go to the polls for the primaries in August and despite the negative flyers, emails and posts vote honestly for the ones that represent all citizens not just a party or Neal, Beruff and Spencer. You know who they are.
David Michael Levin
MAY 23, 2022  •  “If you lose money for the firm, I will be forgiving. If you lose reputation, I will be ruthless.” — Warren Buffett
HK
MAY 23, 2022  •  It's hard to even know what to say anymore. VOTERS!!! wake the hell up! This is OUR county!!!
Barbara A. Angelucci
MAY 23, 2022  •  If you tell the truth, there are those that attack and turn the issue into a political one. It's someone doing their job and telling the truth. It is time to email the commissioners and tell them they picked the wrong person for the job and the contract should be terminated; not rewarded.
Diana
MAY 23, 2022  •  This mess started two administrations ago and is continuing to get much worse at a faster pace with Hopes. Hopes has made our government the absolute least transparent of all administrators. The chain of command makes no sense. Our tax dollars are being wasted. (Didn’t he recently give himself a cost-of-living increase without notifying commissioners?) Residents are forced to file lawsuits. Our public records are being manipulated. Our commissioner’s voices do not count. Citizen’s rights are being trampled upon. There is zero accountability. The fact that the County Clerk brings to KVO and Commissioners attention that problems exist and KVO as the Chair doesn’t even respond in a respectful manner, even just for “show”, but instead calls names and blames the market decline on her? Really? This is an example of exactly how citizens and employees have been treated by the administration (under all 3) whenever they filed a complaint. Angel is being treated EXACTLY like citizens have and are still being treated. Nothing has changed, it is just more convoluted. It needs to stop on Tuesday.


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