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Van Ostenbridge Subject of Ethics Investigation

Manatee County Commission Chairman used county credit card to purchase detailed voter data


MANATEE COUNTY — Manatee County Commissioner Kevin Van Ostenbridge is the subject of a Florida Commission on Ethics investigation after an ethics complaint filed against the commissioner was found to contain “sufficient” allegations of potential ethics violations.

The ethics complaint, which was first filed in June, alleged that Van Ostenbridge misused his public position when he purchased the detailed voter data of more than 19,000 constituents from within his district with a county-issued purchasing card. The complaint further alleges that the purchase was for the commissioner’s personal or political benefit, not for a valid public purpose.

The complainant’s allegations stem from the details provided in a Manatee County Inspector General audit report issued in May. The report made public the identified purchase and the County Clerk’s recommendation that Van Ostenbridge refund the expenditure.

For his part, Van Ostenbridge disagreed with the IG and Clerk’s finding that the purchase was inappropriate and had refused to reimburse the roughly $1,600 to the county until after the audit report had been made public.

In addition to concerns about the appropriateness of the expenditure itself, outside counsel who reviewed the matter on behalf of the Manatee County Clerk and Comptroller’s office raised additional concerns about the amount and nature of the data of private citizens that had become public record due to having been purchased—and received—via county resources.

Van Ostenbridge was notified in July that an ethics complaint had been filed against him in relation to the matter. 

Once a complaint is received by the Commission on Ethics, it is reviewed to determine whether the allegations contained in the complaint indicate a possible violation of state ethics laws. If a complaint is found to be “insufficient,” it is dismissed without investigation.

If the allegations of a complaint are found to be “sufficient,” a preliminary investigation is undertaken into the allegations. The completed investigative report will then move forward to the Ethics Commission which will review all relevant information obtained to decide whether there is probable cause to believe that there has been a violation of any ethics laws.

Potential ethics violation cases remain under strict confidentiality while the Investigative Section of the Commission on Ethics completes its preliminary investigation. If the Ethics Commission ultimately finds that there is no probable cause to believe there were ethics violations, the complaint will be dismissed at that time, and all records related to the complaint will be made public.

Should the commission find that there is evidence to support “probable cause” that ethics violations have occurred, the complaint will become public record, and the case will enter the last stage of proceedings. The final stage requires that the commission decide whether the law was violated and, if so, whether a penalty should be recommended for the identified violations.

In 2021, the Florida Commission on Ethics found probable cause that Manatee County's previous chair—Van Ostenbridge's immediate predecessor and one-time political ally, Vanessa Baugh—had violated ethics laws.  In Jan. 2023,  Baugh was able to reach a settlement in the matter by publicly agreeing she had abused her elected position and accepted an $8,000 fine, a public reprimand, and censure.  

TBT will continue to follow this proceeding and will report updates as they become available. 


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  • lib224

    He's a criminal, already convicted of theft. Elect someone else!

    Wednesday, December 6, 2023 Report this

  • Cat L

    Good. He's willing to sell out his own community for all the standard corrupt politician things. No sympathy

    Wednesday, December 6, 2023 Report this

  • sandy

    It took 2 years until there was a settlement with Baugh. Van Ostenbridge could be voted out (hopefully) if this takes 2 years. He is the most obnoxious, narcissistic, rude person I remember seeing on the board, even worse than Baugh.

    Wednesday, December 6, 2023 Report this

  • barbstubbers

    Sandy, you nailed it! I agree totally.

    Wednesday, December 6, 2023 Report this

  • David Daniels

    This man’s lack of integrity was apparent even before he took office when he schemed to oust Cheri Coryea. That activity included calls and texting county business on his personal cell phone and then violating the law by not producing the records. VanOStenbridge (and Stacher) settled the resulting case by each paying Michael Barfied $6000. The BoCC then voted to reimburse the two Commissioners $56K to cover their legal fees. He was the main proponent of Scott Hopes, voting to give him a raise even after allegations of misconduct. KVO was caught on video stealing property and entered yet another court directed settlement. He canceled and refuses to allow public comment by phone. He insults citizens that do show up, including calling them communists and making other smart-ass remarks from the dais. He is on record calling women the c-word. He produces misleading public notices - calling a proposal to assist veterans a homeless project. He accepts huge developer pac money and rubber stamps development that is destroying our limited environment and polluting our water. And he is still circumventing public records law by conducting business on his personal phone. He is an embarrassment.

    Wednesday, December 6, 2023 Report this

  • sandy

    I am not in his district, so I am pleading with those in District 3 to please vote against him. If I was in his district, I would even change party affiliation to vote against him in the primary. This year the only race I can vote in is for the at-large District 7. I will change affiliation if needed (such as a write in which closes the primary, and no other party affiliation running) so I can vote. If no write in it will be an open primary.

    Wednesday, December 6, 2023 Report this

  • san.gander

    I am rather surprised my personal information, which I am required to give to the county in order to exercise my right to vote and which I feel is private to me, is being sold like a commodity by the county. Is that even legal under Florida's privacy laws?

    Wednesday, December 6, 2023 Report this

  • Dianna

    Manatee County should have to contact all 19,278 residents of District 3 by mail to notify them that KVO and his political aid purchased their private information with public funds for redistricting purposes, and because of that it has been placed into public records for anyone to use. Information which includes : name, date of birth, wealth rating, personal income, net worth, profession, home address, home ownership, home market value, race, Ethnic Country of Origin, African American Group Codes, Ethnic Group, if residents donated to: Animal Welfare, Arts/Culture, Environment/Wildlife, Health, International Aid, Political organizations, If residents were Religious, If residents supported: Pro Life/Choice, Marriage Equality, LGBT equality, Gun Control, Immigration Reform, if residents are Evangelical, have an Interest in Political Ideology, what language residents speak, what type of Religion is practiced, and various Income Classifications. Along with a litany of voter information categories.

    Wednesday, December 6, 2023 Report this

  • 2b

    I am aware that there is a political novice who will challenge KVO during the next election. This individual is a successful business leader with extensive formal education and will refuse any and all special interest donations. Assuming that KVO runs for reelection they're prepared to personally fund the primary challenge, if necessary, to avoid the ***** of quid pro quo donors. The MBCC is out of control, destroying our wetlands, over-building without the necessary infrastructure, and spending sprees that serve the few instead of the many. I wish this person well and look forward to advocating for some sanity and a "we the people" reminder to elected representatives.

    Thursday, December 7, 2023 Report this

  • WTF

    KVO checks all the these boxes, I didn't write this, Brooke Carter did. "On a societal level, lack of integrity can erode trust and cohesion. When dishonesty, corruption, or unfair treatment becomes widespread, it can lead to social instability and conflict.

    Understanding these impacts underscores the importance of addressing lack of integrity.

    Lack of integrity involves behaviors such as dishonesty, inconsistency, avoidance of accountability, disrespect, and moral cowardice. It’s characterized by a failure to uphold ethical or moral principles, often resulting in harm to oneself or others.

    A strong desire for power, control, or approval can also lead to a lack of integrity. Individuals might lie, manipulate, or act unfairly to gain a sense of control, to assert their power, or to win the approval of others"

    By Brooke Carter https://www.thedailypositive.com/lack-of-integrity-psychology/

    Tuesday, December 12, 2023 Report this