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Baugh to Resign from BOCC Effective July 31

BRADENTON  Manatee County Commissioner Vanessa Baugh, who made national news for her role in Vaccinegate, has informed the governor and fellow board members that she will be stepping down from her position effective July 31.

The East County Observer broke the story mid-morning on Friday, citing an email Baugh sent to fellow commissioners that morning, in which she stated a desire to spend more time with her family.

The senior member of the county commission, Baugh was first elected in 2012 for the BOCC District 5 seat, which includes Tara, Lakewood Ranch, and most of rural east Manatee County. She won a close race, aided by strong financial support from developers associated with Lakewood Ranch.

Baugh was embroiled in a number of controversies, most notably when, at the height of the COVID pandemic, she directed the public safety department to violate county protocols and limit the lottery for seniors to receive vaccinations at a pop-up clinic site to just two zip codes in her district. Baugh also instructed staff to add herself and four other individuals to the list of those that were to receive the vaccine at the event.

In the fallout of the scandal, which received international media attention, Baugh narrowly survived multiple votes by the board to have her removed as chair, while stubbornly refusing a loud public outcry for her to resign from the board.

In January, the Florida Commission on Ethics voted to approve a joint stipulation between Baugh and the state s advocate, in which the commissioner admitted that she abused her position as an elected official, and agreed to pay an $8,000 fine. She also received a public reprimand and censure.

Baugh's term was to run through Nov. of 2024. Governor Ron DeSantis will now be responsible to appoint someone to fill the vacant seat until the election.

In recent months, Baugh has been at odds with several of her fellow commissioners, initially managing a successful coup in which the board voted 4-3 to remove Kevin Van Ostenbridge as chair and reinstall Baugh, despite the outcome of her case with the ethics commission. In the very next meeting, however, Commissioner Amanda Ballard flipped her vote, reinstalling Van Ostenbridge as chair.

Baugh was also instrumental in a nearly-successful effort to install a personal friend and developer lobbyist as acting county administrator.

In the time since those failures, she had grown increasingly isolated on a board in which she no longer found herself in the majority, despite changes following the 2022 election that initially suggested she would enjoy greater influence as the head of a rock-solid majority of all far-right Republican commissioners.


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