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Is that Our Clown Car Skidding Toward the Wall at Turn Three?


Last week, in a fine piece of investigative journalism, TBT’s Dawn Kitterman detailed blatant favoritism by high-ranking county officials towards a developer who has sponsored the entire Manatee County Board of Commissioners to one degree or another. On Thursday, the unqualified former county administrator hired by the board was arrested and charged with multiple felonies related to the gross misuse of his authority. Are the wheels finally coming off this clown car that is our local government?

Medallion Home CEO Carlos Beruff is apparently putting the finishing touches on a massive personal compound the developer/political kingmaker built on the Manatee River. Except he isn’t following any of the county’s rules in doing so. Beruff, who already had a “guest house” on the property that records show does not conform to the county’s rules on such dwellings, applied to add an “accessory dwelling unit” that is even more grossly out of step with regulations.

Unlike just about every other citizen in Manatee County would have, Beruff didn’t suffer the fate of having the application denied. However, the county staff may have been less comfortable than the bought-and-paid-for board in rubber stamping Beruff’s wishes. Not to worry, Development Services Department Director Nicole Knapp seems to have stepped in to carry the ball across the goal line, issuing the final approval herself.

You may recall that Knapp was recently promoted to that position and given a fat raise. You may also recall that she kept her mouth shut when the board and administration pushed through the evisceration of our wetland protection policies and allowed some hack to schill for the developers’ wishes instead of allowing experts on staff or an environmental scientist with a firm the county had already engaged, seemingly because no one else was willing to sacrifice their reputation. I guess bought and paid for isn’t limited to commissioners.

Of course, Beruff could have gotten everything he wanted without staff breaking the rules to suit him, but I suppose there is not much of a point in purchasing all of that influence if you can’t use it to save a few bucks now and then. I’m not just talking about the cost of platting the properties and submitting plans, either. It seems to me that if each of these houses were on its own lot, there would be significant property tax implications, especially given that the current single parcel has a homestead exemption. We already know how much local developers have pocketed via artificially low impact fees over the past couple of decades. This looks like just another way that Mr. Beruff does not want to pay his fair share in terms of supporting the infrastructure requirements of Manatee County, despite how much developers have exacerbated them or how much they have profited in doing so.

The affidavits related to the arrest of former county administrator Scott Hopes suggest that things were even worse than we thought when the little fella was at the helm of this sinking ship—apologies for mixing metaphors. Hopes is alleged to have both fudged some notarizations and to have pilfered the public purse by way of paying himself thousands in unearned overtime.

I would bet dollars to donuts that this goldbricker is trying to use knowledge of the sins of others to save his musty hide, which is undoubtedly how he negotiated that sweet golden parachute of an exit package when the board realized it had to cut him loose. Let’s just hope those with the power to deliver justice either move forward ethically or at least see him as a liability without an upside. The Manatee Sheriff’s Office has done its part in completing an extensive investigation and recommending the proper charges. Now, it is up to Ed Brodsky’s office and the courts to see that Hopes is held accountable in the same way the rest of us would be.

If he threatens to tell secrets, I say let him talk. If he does, he will earn the distinction of being the very first of our local MAGA cadre to actually contribute to draining the swamp, even if he did so by being so deeply embedded in its muck that he was able to pull the drain plug himself, those stubby little arms notwithstanding.

The probable cause affidavit inspired me to go back and watch the meeting during which County Clerk Angel Colonnesso warned the board that Hopes double dipping by way of accepting a vehicle allowance while driving an expensive SUV that seemed to have been purchased into the motor pool just for him was only part of the irregularities her IG office had uncovered. Colonnesso warned commissioners to think hard about the vote they were taking that day to extend Hopes’ contract, but mental heavy lifting isn’t this crew’s strong suit. Colonnesso’s office’s work did, however, contribute heavily to Hopes having to smile into the mugshot camera, so if you’re looking for a beacon of hope in terms of good government in our corrupt county, take note.

From what I hear, the two commissioners who are directing this whole sh*tshow at the overlords' behest are sweating bullets despite the cool weather we’ve been enjoying as of late. However, I don’t think all of the publicly-funded PR videos fawning over the stolen valor accomplishments of Angry Little Kevin are going to save our tiny tyrant at the polls come election time. It is beginning to look more and more like there actually is a limit as to how much slop one can snort up at the trough that is the public’s money, and these greedy little piggies seem intent on getting far more than their fill. If I were them, Ed Brodsky wouldn’t scare me nearly as much right now as another name, and that’s the guy they call R.I.C.O.

Meanwhile, if you’re a county employee with knowledge of further abuses of power, we here at TBT would love to hear from you. There might not be much time left to get on the right side of history, and, who knows, you may have the privilege of getting to be the straw that breaks this camel’s … or should I say elephant’s … back. Stay tuned, Manatee County. I have a feeling this is just the beginning of a long overdue season of comeuppance. 

Dennis "Mitch" Maley is an editor and columnist for The Bradenton Times and the host of our weekly podcast. With over two decades of experience as a journalist, he has covered Manatee County government since 2010. He is a graduate of Shippensburg University and later served as a Captain in the U.S. Army. Click here for his bio. His 2016 short story collection, Casting Shadows, was recently reissued and is available here.


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  • Debann


    Saturday, February 10 Report this

  • Cat L

    Dawn's article made me wonder if there is finally enough evidence surfacing for R.I.C.O. what's happening in Florida is basically organized crime, driven by oligarchs, lobbyists, super PACs and willing political participants.

    Sunday, February 11 Report this

  • pattybeenutty

    I hope Hope spills the beans and the wall does come crumbling down.

    Sunday, February 11 Report this

  • rjckeuka4

    Let's hope so!!! I kinda like Angry Little Kevin (A.L.K.) over KVO. It has nicer ring.

    Sunday, February 11 Report this


    So, now that the BOCC members have to be concerned with an insider’s knowledge of shady dealings that may get public scrutiny, and not just the TBT reporting, let’s hope that Mr. Brodsky takes will bring cases that lead to guilty verdicts. To all readers, though, please remember all this at the ballot box. Do not vote for any incumbent. Do some research on the candidates, please. Voters must do their part to bring effective government back to Manatee County.

    Sunday, February 11 Report this

  • spiceyar

    Thanks again for exposing what's going on ... so difficult to fight back, except at the polls!!!

    Sunday, February 11 Report this

  • mastroieni

    Cmon Mitch. “Tiny tyrant?” “Stubby arms?” Just because the former president attacks people for their appearance, doesn’t mean we should all stoop to that level. Yes, these people are pigs, as you’ve so aptly pointed out, but not because of their stature.

    Sunday, February 11 Report this

  • David Daniels

    I hope that VanOstenbridge gets his comeuppance for going four years in violation of the public records law. Under oath, former records manager Deb Scaccianoce stated VanOstenbridge “only has a personal device” and that he “never provided his phone” for public record requests of texts. She said “when I would make a request, (he) would say I don’t have anything and there would be no way for me to confirm that.” (page 33 of her Oct 25, 2023 deposition case 2022-CA-3276). On Jan 21, 2024, I asked for texts between VanOstenbridge and Bishop during the period of Jan 15 - 19, 2024. These records should have been available with a couple of clicks using the county’s Smarsh software - if the two individuals followed county policy that county business be conducted only on county devices. After 18 days, on Feb 8, I received a 1 ½ page file containing only a few blown up pictures of phone-screen text conversation bubbles - almost all of which was blacked out. (Link: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1OxsVIv_f1rcc7dAhYDSQrQ1_T-eCL9dx/view?usp=sharing) There are no phone numbers, and only Bishop’s name appears at the top of the screen shots. Record's employee Dana Rawls wrote that “The other text messages are not related to County business and are exempt from release pursuant to Section 119.07(1)(e)”. However, there is no statutory citation for the redactions on the texts provided - which is required by law. Furthermore, the citation given for "the other text messages" is not a valid exemption. In a county with a $3 billion budget, a record request depends solely on the honor system of a group with no honor. By refusing to comply with county policy, two of the highest ranking government employees continue to get away with not complying with public records law.

    Sunday, February 11 Report this

  • WTF

    Gang of 6 are bought and sold by developers ... just ask Kevin-Kyle Kaczynski Von Oswald https://www.facebook.com/thereal3kvo

    Monday, February 12 Report this