|Port Manatee CFO Robert Armstrong|
PORT MANATEE – Former Manatee County Commission candidate Corie Holmes showed up at Thursday's Port Manatee Port Authority Board meeting and chided the board for not taking action against one of its top officials after his son was caught pawning stolen property he'd taken while an employee of the port.
Holmes, who challenged District 1 County Commissioner Larry Bustle in 2012, said that Port Manatee Deputy Executive Director and Chief Financial Officer Robert Armstrong should be put on leave until the investigation into the incident is concluded.
The son, Robert B. Armstrong, was arrested June 11 and charged with 24 counts of burglary related charges. He allegedly stole thousands of dollars worth of electronics from the port, in addition to other property. He has since been fired.
According to police reports, his father admitted to buying some of the stolen port property back from a pawn shop and returning it to the port. In the police report, Armstrong also said his son had a drug problem and had stolen and pawned some of his personal property as well.
Originally hired as a part-time grass cutter, the younger Armstrong was quickly promoted, receiving five raises during a period in which port wages were frozen, according to a report by the Herald Tribune.
Armstrong was hired despite a history of multiple arrests on heroin and prescription drug related charges, which Holmes also condemned, while noting that the security at the port seemed rather suspect given Armstrong's ability to make off with so many items.
Port Director Carlos Buqueras said that an internal investigation is ongoing. The board did not take any action at Thursday's meeting.
The elder Armstrong had previously been the subject of a hostile work environment complaint, that while not acted on after an investigation revealed no corroboration of discriminatory behavior toward the employee who filed it, nonetheless revealed odd behavior such as carrying a pen with an audio recorder that some employees were concerned had been used to record them without their knowledge.
The report said that more than half of the employees interviewed during the investigation claimed that Armstrong regularly speaks to port employees in a “disrespectful, condescending, and/or aggressive manner” and has for years, describing him as "unpredictable" and noting that they would warn other employees of his moods and avoid interaction with him when possible.
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