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Charlie Bishop Named Acting County Administrator

Lee Washington leaves Manatee County Government


BRADENTON — Manatee County Commissioners appointed Charles (Charlie) Bishop as the county’s newest acting county administrator during a special meeting this Thursday. Bishop was already serving as one of the administration’s deputy county administrators and was the previous director of the Department of Property Management.

Bishop enters the role in the replacement of Lee Washington, who was appointed by the board as acting county administrator in February when the county’s former permanent administrator, Scott Hopes, agreed to resign from the position.

Thursday’s special meeting agenda opened with an item that had been added by the county attorney the day prior. While vague, the item hinted that there was some discussion that the county’s attorney would raise regarding the acting administrator position.

Opening the item, Attorney William Clague summarized the matter he said he had briefed commissioners on the day prior—that the county’s previous acting administrator, Washington, had “chosen to voluntarily separate” from the county.

Clague requested the board approve a negotiated separation agreement between the county and Mr. Washington in finalizing the separation.

Washington had been with the county for 14 years and was promoted to the position of Director of the Department of Community and Veterans Services in Feb. 2022. Washington served as director of the department until February of this year, when he was appointed as the acting administrator following Hopes’ departure.

Previously, Washington had hinted that upon the board selecting and appointing a permanent administrator, he would likely return to his director position. As of Thursday, Washington is no longer an employee of the county, in any role.

Washington had been notably absent from all board meetings since its return from recess, and multiple sources had reported to TBT that Washington had not been seen on campus for much of the month of July. It was confirmed by officials in a meeting last week that Deputy County Administrator Courtney DePol had been designated by Washington to oversee the acting position in his absence.

Upon formally accepting Washington’s resignation, including the board’s approval of the severance agreement, commissioners appointed Bishop in accordance with state statutes that require the county to maintain a filled position of (at least) an acting administrator.

Though the nomination of Bishop to the role was ultimately approved unanimously by the board, initially there appeared to be hesitation among some commissioners.

Commissioner George Kruse motioned to approve Bishop for the role, with Commissioner Jason Bearden readily supporting the motion. But upon understanding that Kruse’s nomination was for Bishop, Bearden withdrew his support of the nomination without comment.

With the motion in need of a second, Commissioner Amanda Ballard stepped up and gave her backing to Bishop's nomination. Once put to a vote, the board agreed unanimously on Bishop’s appointment.

In an official press release, the county introduced the new acting administrator as a Veteran of the United States Air Force who earned a Master’s Degree in Public Administration before going on to start a career with Manatee County Government 20 years ago, initially as a project manager.

In 2015, Bishop was made director of the Department of Property Management, and in 2021 the county’s previous administrator Hopes appointed Bishop as one of his deputy county administrators.

For more than a year, under Hopes’ leadership, Bishop served as both the director of property management and as a deputy.

In the fall of 2022, TBT uncovered evidence that while serving in these roles, Bishop oversaw significant and costly renovations to the county administration building’s ninth and second floors without applying for—or receiving—required building permits or inspections.

Following our reporting on the issue, the county applied for, and obtained, what it referred to as an "after the fact" permit, allowing city and fire inspectors to retroactively inspect and approve the renovations.

Despite some commissioners publicly dismissing our reporting as inaccurate, an official with the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation provided a statement to TBT that appeared to validate that the projects were not exempt from the permitting process. In addition, a spokesperson from the City of Bradenton’s Fire Department told TBT that its department was unaware the renovations had taken place and that fire officials had become “involved” following our reporting, and would be inspecting the completed work in accordance with state statutes.

Later in 2022, our publication investigated allegations that, while director of property management, Bishop may have inappropriately hired a company owned by a former county employee and someone Bishop had a public romantic relationship with. The company was hired to provide post-hurricane aerial drone services, despite an expired procurement contract and the county funding its own in-house drone program.

At the time of our reporting, Manatee County’s PIO told TBT by email that county administration was “investigating this issue” and that there was “no further comment as the investigation is ongoing." The outcome of that investigation remains unknown to our publication as of this article.

Following his new appointment to acting county administrator Thursday, Mr. Bishop addressed the board and thanked them for their vote of confidence.

“I want to thank (Deputy Administrator) Courtney De Pol, too," he said. “This is a team effort.”

Though Washington was not in attendance at Thursday’s meeting, Commission Chairman Kevin Van Ostenbridge took a moment to publicly thank Mr. Washington for his service to the county, his willingness to accept the acting administrator appointment, and to wish him well in his future endeavors.


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  • Charlene

    How very Manatee County. smh

    Sunday, August 6, 2023 Report this