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LWV County Commission Notes: 10/10/23


The League of Women Voters of Manatee County Government Committee observes Manatee County Commission meetings for items of interest to citizens and the League and notes adherence, or lack of adherence, to good governance procedures and the Sunshine Law. The following are the major points from the board’s regular meeting on  10/10/2023 observed by Maureen Dardinski and Coleen Friedman.

Link to Agenda and Meeting Video

Invocation by Pastor Caleb Suttle, Bible Baptist Church of Bradenton


  • Presentation of Team Award to Josephine Musgrave and Sailyn Marchena, Custodians, Property Management. The positive attitude they demonstrate goes far beyond their role and department.
  • October Employee of the Month Award was awarded to Quantana Acevedo, Agenda Coordinator, County Administration. Quantana was complimented on her excellent preparation of the agenda and its supporting documents, and her pleasant personality.
  • Proclamation Designating October 10, 2023, as "Brandon Carnes Day". Brandon Carnes is a professional American sprinter for Team USA and a gold medalist who finished first place in the men's 4x100-meter relay at the World Athletics Championships in Budapest, Hungary, on August 26, 2023.
  • Proclamation Designating October 2023, as "Manufacturing Awareness Month" in Manatee County.
  • Proclamation Designating October 23 - 31, 2023, as "Red Ribbon Week" in Manatee County. Sponsored by Drug Free Manatee. Red Ribbon Week is for citizens to commit to drug-free lifestyles.
  • Proclamation designating October 2023 as "Suncoast Digital Inclusion Month" in Manatee County. Sponsored by The Patterson Foundation (TPF), which, on June 2020 launched the Digital Access for All (DA4A) Initiative. They have been working in the Charlotte, Desoto, Manatee, and Sarasota region, striving to enhance digital equity and opportunities for all.
  • Proclamation designating October 22, 2023, as "Toastmasters Day" in Manatee County. Toastmasters International is a nonprofit educational organization that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of clubs.

Citizen Comments- Future Agenda Items

  • The President of Manatee Veterans stated he wants a Veterans Park on the agenda, saying everything should be in one location (Veterans' monuments, information, etc.)
  • The co-chairs of Resident Safety of Lakewood Ranch Country Club and Country Club East, spoke in support of the roundabout at Lorraine Rd and Players Dr., rather than a traffic light.
  • Two citizens spoke in opposition to a roundabout at Lorraine Rd and expressed preference for a traffic light.
  • Joe McClash asked that last week’s vote to reduce the wetland buffers be rescinded, saying the action is not consistent with the constitution. He gave examples of the many false statements made in support of reducing the buffers and reprimanded the Chair for his “uncivil” comments during the meeting (calling citizens Communists, etc.)
  • Glen Gibellina agreed with Joe McClash on wetlands, asked that call-in comments for citizens be reinstated, requested a policy that addresses homelessness, and said County Attorney Clague should do something about the misinformation spread about the Tunnels to Towers project for homeless Veterans.
  • Bryce Claypoole from Kids for Clean Water did a presentation on Clean Water, saying the vote on removing Wetland protections was a mistake.
  • A citizen working with General Hammer of the VA on veterans housing thanked the Commissioners for their efforts.

Selected Commissioner responses:

Commissioner Turner noted that the roundabout will come up again before the board at the November 14th BoCC meeting.

Adoption of Ordinance 23-105, regarding Community and Veterans Services and relating to the Expansion of Membership for the Library Advisory Board

Ordinance to increase the number of members on the Manatee County Library Advisory Board from five (5) members to nine (9) members; and to incorporate and expand the duties of the Library Advisory Board to responsibility for collection development review process.

Approved 7-0

Item 48- Adoption of Resolution R-23-088 to convey county-owned property located at 4410 66th Street West, Bradenton, 34210 for Affordable Veterans Housing Development to Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation, Inc. a New York not-for-profit corporation: and Execution of Land Use Restriction Agreement and Conveyance Deed- District 4

Manatee County Rowena Elliott, Affordable Housing Coordinator introduced County Attorney Mark Barnebey and Gavin Naples from Tunnels to Towers. Gavin responded to the misinformation distributed to the community with facts about the program and a slide presentation.

Discussion between the Commissioners, Gavin Naples, Daryl Vincent CEO of U.S. Vets with advice from County Attorney Clague:

  • There was language added late in the evening 10/9 to the contract with Tunnels to Towers to do with how the support services offered through U.S. Vets would be managed or if the management would be left up to U.S. Vets or whether the County would have some degree of control.
  • Jason Bearden mentioned he was aware of complaints about U.S. Vets and said he was tired of vets being taken advantage of; he showed 2 pictures of supposed substandard U.S. Vets facilities.
  • James Satcher said he wanted to ensure the county was getting “the best deal for its’ money” and that every important point was in the contract.
  • T2T reps affirmed that 122 units was the number they would provide. It was mentioned that no one has ever requested fewer units than was needed.
  • Amanda Ballard, Ray Turner, and Van Ostenbridge all agreed that 122 units were appropriate, this project could help Sarasota Veterans if needed because Sarasota County helped Manatee veterans, and action should be taken now rather than waiting.
  • Clague noted 2 modifications that would be made to the contract: Section 2.2- housing only for residents of Manatee and Sarasota County, Section 2.8 removed language requiring Manatee County approve all service providers.

Citizen Comments

22 people gave comments on the proposed veterans housing project. Many who came to speak against the project based their remarks on receiving erroneous and misleading information distributed to the community. They changed their minds and supported the project after hearing the presentations/information, and didn’t stay to give comments after the recess.

Most of the people who spoke were either veterans or had family members who were veterans. Many of them addressed the “propaganda” they received either by mail or email and wanted to refute it. Out of the 22 speakers, only 2 weren’t in favor, citing concerns for property values in the future or their personal safety. Several speakers criticized specific commissioners for being “disingenuous” or not doing their best for veterans.  

Commissioner comments

Bearden stated it was his responsibility to “ask tough questions”. He signaled his ultimate support for the project. Kruse asked to confirm that the amendments added to the original proposal were acceptable to T2T. Barnebey confirmed that the amendments were acceptable to all.

The motion to approve the resolution passed 7-0.

49. Motion to appoint a member to the Housing Finance Authority of Manatee County

Hugh Miller was approved 6-0 (Rahn stepped out of the meeting)

50. Motion to authorize conveyance of real property by entering into a donation agreement with the Board of Directors of New College

Background (from meeting materials): Manatee County purchased the Powell Crosley Estate, a total of 16.5 + bayfront acres, in 1991. The Board is satisfied that the nine acres identified in R-23-170 are not needed for County purposes. A future agenda item will include a Donation Agreement and a Use Agreement with the New College of Florida Board of Trustees for approximately nine acres of the Powell Crosley Estate, for the purposes of promoting community interest and welfare, to best serve the interests of the citizens of Manatee County.

The motion to approve passed 7-0.

52. Appointment of Evan Pilachowski as Deputy County Administrator

Pilachowski has worked in Manatee County as Director of Utilities since 2022, preceded by 20 years in public service most recently in New York. Kruse complimented Evan but noted that Bishop appears to be expanding government with his reorganization rather than streamlining.

Motion to approve Evan Pilachowski passed 7-0.

53. Appointment of Andrew “Andy” Butterfield as Chief of Staff

Butterfield had been a candidate for the position of county administrator.

Motion to approve Andy Butterfield passed 7-0.

54. Appointment of Molly White as Director of Sports and Leisure

Molly served as the deputy director for 5 years. 

Motion to approve Molly White passed 7-0.

55. County organization chart – overview of roles and responsibilities

COUNTY LEADERSHIP - ORG CHART 9.28.23.PDF.pdf (mymanatee.org)

56. Hurricane Idalia – Part III pre and post storm presentation

Heads of the following departments: financial management, natural resources, property management, public works, and sports and leisure did a post event assessment of the county’s preparation and response. They detailed what went well, lessons learned, and future opportunities. 

  • The preliminary cost as of 9/23/23 to the county is $1.5 million with another $4.6 million expected. 
  • The financial management team immediately got to work preparing requests to FEMA for reimbursement. 
  • Rapid responses from the natural resources team helped to reopen parks by Friday morning after Idalia. 
  • There was room for improvement in communications regarding water quality. 
  • Public works evacuated 224 people to shelters by MCAT. 

Evan Pilachowski added that he is developing a formal procedure regarding shutting off water and has sent a draft to the island communities for input. 

Microsoft PowerPoint - Idalia - Director Presentation 9-12-2023 (mymanatee.org)

57. Commissioner Ballard's Comments

She noted that she and a team observed an opioid treatment program in Baltimore that she found impressive and indicated that she would talk more about it another time.

Link to Good Governance Guidelines

Commissioners need to review materials before the meeting; Satcher spent considerable time asking for information and/or expressing concerns about items that were covered in the materials.

Satcher should remember that his position is to think of the community as a whole, and not focus on his district alone.

Inappropriate political and inflammatory comments continue, for example, Rahn commented that we “let people walk over the border” and then take better care of them than we do veterans. Good governance would focus on the citizens and business of the County. 

From the standpoint of many citizens, it appears more senior-level positions are being added than are needed for efficient running of the County.

Although there have been a number of issues where the Commissioners went against overwhelming citizen input, such as almost unanimous citizen support of retaining wetland protections, in this case overwhelming public support for the Veterans T2T project appeared to sway the Commissioners.

Click here or information on how to phone or email the commissioners. 

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  • kmskepton

    Thank you LWV for your always helpful recaps. I do not agree, however, that it was public support that swayed the commissioners on the T2T project. If they had not approved it the optics would have been sooooo bad for Rs who generally claim to love veterans. It was self-preservation; nothing more.

    Saturday, October 14, 2023 Report this

  • Dianna

    Having followed the T2T item from the first meeting, I agree that it was not public support who swayed Commissioners on this project. Remember that 3 veterans on the board did not return from lunch after the last meeting to vote- Satcher- Rahn- Bearden. Also, Bearden randomly started talking about another veteran’s project (after the first meeting) which he added late to the agenda and had no real plan for -yet he had a presentation (something he had made up and not real) that was not posted or attached to the agenda for the public to view- followed by having a speaker come and make a presentation on what services the “funders” (taxpayers) could pay for on the alternate project, along with a rambling diatribe on why he hated U.S.VETS- embarrassing the public throughout the process. Commissioners were still rejecting this project during the entire meeting Tuesday until the lunch break. I believe that the sheer number of e-mails and phone calls generated by the false information the fact that they would lose all R votes and support in the future that made this project get approved- just look at the grimace on those faces. Thank you LWV for your notes!

    Saturday, October 14, 2023 Report this