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Another Turbulent Week at the Big Building Downtown

This week, yet another wave of chaos rippled through the Manatee County Administration building. On Tuesday, a high-ranking employee was walked out of the facility and put on administrative leave and newly-appointed Deputy County Administrator Mitchell Teitelbaum requested that his resignation as the Manatee School District’s attorney be "tabled." The county did not respond to requests for comment on either matter.

Debbie Scaccianoce is the public records manager for Manatee County. Multiple sources with direct knowledge of the matter told TBT that on Tuesday, Scaccianoce was escorted out of the office and placed on paid administrative leave. It is interesting to note that around the same time that we are told this occurred, Manatee County Commissioner Vanessa Baugh, a close friend of Scaccianoce, could be seen hurriedly leaving a BOCC work session (video) that was taking place in the building on the same day.

Baugh, who’d been speaking up until the moment she left, began choking up as she finished her words. Moments before, the commissioner appears to receive andread a texton her phone (video), most likely informing her of what had transpired. The timestamp of that portion of the meeting was at roughly the same time we are told that Scaccianoce was escorted out of the building.

When Baugh returned to the work session about 20 minutes later, she was still noticeably upset. As the commissioner mentioned a legislative matter she said would likely come up in January, she added, "I don’t know if I’ll be here, I might not." Then, as a staff member began to speak, Baugh turned to County Commission Chair Kevin Van Ostenbridge and can be heard saying what sounds like, "they might walk me out" (video).

TBT had previously been told by multiple sources that a county staffer had filed a complaint against Teitelbaum. After Scaccianoce was placed on leave, those sources confirmed that the employee who filed the complaint worked in her department and that it had looked as if the action taken against the records manager may have been retaliatory. Furthermore, we were told that the employee who made the complaint had been transferred out of the administration building to another county facility.

On Wednesday afternoon, TBT emailed Hopes to request comment on the status of the complaint against Teitelbaum and whether, in light of the tabling of his resignation at the school district, he was still a deputy county administrator. We also asked for comment on the status of Scaccianoce’s employment and the reason for her having been placed on leave. TBT did not receive a response, however, both Scaccianoce and the employee who had allegedly filed the complaint returned to their roles at the administrative building the very next morning.

In January 2020, Teitelbaum was placed on leave by the school district after an employee of an outside agency the district had engaged made a sexual harassment complaint against the attorney, alleging that he had made inappropriate comments, "overshared," offered to allow him to stay over his house on evenings they worked late and placed a note into his pants pocket. After an internal investigation, Teitelbaum received a "memorandum of conference" from Superintendent Cynthia Saunders that was placed in his school district personnel file. Teitelbaum was also required to undergo sensitivity/sexual harassment in the workplace training and to conduct himself in a professional manner going forward.

Hopes, who was a school board member at the time, would have surely known about the incident, yet he hired Teitelbaum to not only be a deputy county administrator–for which he had no relative experience or qualifications–but to be over the county’s HR department. On Tuesday evening, Manatee School Board members unanimously approvedTeitelbaum’s request to table his previous resignation with no discussion whatsoever, and he participated in the meeting as the district’s attorney. As to his status as a Manatee County Deputy Administrator, well, I suppose one can only guess at this point.

Dennis "Mitch" Maley is an editor and columnist for The Bradenton Times. With over two decades of experience as a journalist, he has covered Manatee County governmentsince 2010. He is a graduate of Shippensburg University, where he earned a degree in Government. He later served as a Captain in the U.S. Army. Clickherefor his bio. His 2017 novella, Sacred Hearts, is availablehere.


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