BRADENTON – In a somewhat shocking turn of events, Manatee County Administrator Scott Hopes "resigned" his position during a county commission work session Tuesday. Multiple sources within county government told TBT that Hopes' resignation came in lieu of the embattled administrator's contract otherwise being terminated by the board.
Hopes was brought on as interim county administrator in early 2021 when a newly-elected board's ongoing effort to terminate former county administrator Cheri Coryea finally came to fruition after Commissioner George Kruse flipped his vote. The board had difficulty agreeing on a replacement for Coryea, with Commissioner Kevin Van Ostenbridge relentlessly campaigning for Hopes, then a school board member, despite Hopes' complete lack of relevant experience for a job of that magnitude.
The board promised the public it would do a national search only to later renege, giving Hopes the permanent position, along with a record compensation package. Hopes stumbled through an enormous overhaul of the administration's top officials, ridding himself of nearly every top employee that had any connection to Coryea, or her predecessor, Ed Hunzeker. Hundreds of additional employees left the county under his reign, creating an enormous loss of institutional knowledge in key departments.
Hopes was arguably the most deeply unpopular administrator in Manatee County history, enduring ongoing calls from the public for either his resignation or termination during the short period that he was at the helm. The wheels seemed to finally come off following the Mitchell Teitelbaum debacle, in which Hopes attempted to hire his longtime school board ally as a fourth deputy county administrator only to see the hiring go up in flames when Teitelbaum was accused of sexual harassment the very first day he was in the building, before he had even started the job.
TBT received multiple tips on Tuesday morning that Hopes had been given an ultimatum by the board and would either resign or be terminated at some point during the work session. The first half of the work session passed without incident, however, an emergency session was then set for 2 p.m. An uncharacteristically sullen Hopes gave a short and somber resignation statement to commissioners, who, in turn, thanked him for his service to the county. No one discussed or asked why the administrator was suddenly leaving.
The board then unanimously approved Neighborhood Services Director Lee Washington as the interim county administrator and approved an exit package for Hopes, who will not leave empty-handed by any means. The separation agreement states that the administrator's resignation would be classified as "voluntary" and "without cause," while entitling Hopes to 120 days’ pay in one lump sum, along with all accrued vacation and sick leave, the amount he would have received in deferred compensation, and his current health insurance coverage through February 6, 2024.