|Commissioner Joe McClash|
MANATEE COUNTY -- In a letter to county Administrator Ed Hunzeker, Manatee County Commissioner and port authority board member Joe McClash complained of a lack of transparency regarding what he found to be inappropriate movements aimed at installing a favorable interim director that might become the next person in charge of the major sea port located at the very north end of Manatee County.
McClash said that he found it highly inappropriate that Hunzeker, who was asked as county administrator to review an RFQ for a concession advisor, would share that information with Paul Demariano, a private sector shipping professional with current business with port tenants who was simultaneously being pushed by both Hunzeker and Bustle for the "interim transition director" spot.
As County Administrator, Hunzeker is by Florida law only to act on behalf of the port at the board's direction. Because the board had not directed him to seek outside counsel while reviewing the criteria and because he did so without notifying the board, several conflicts of interest developed that McClash and other members of the board could have pointed out, had Hunzeker's desire to bring in Demariano to review the RFQ been disclosed and Demariano vetted.
McClash chastised Hunzeker for arranging a meeting between Demariano and Commissioner Gwen Brown, which would also go beyond the scope of the board's directive, and recounted past actions where he felt Hunzeker worked behind the scenes to build a consensus among friendly commissioners rather than bring his wishes before the board in an open, on-the-record presentation. McClash also accused Bustle of working in secret to promote the appointment of Demariano, noting several private meetings with Hunzeker that were not discussed with the board.
Commissioner McClash's letter paints a picture of two county officials working behind the scenes to install a preferred candidate in port leadership, at what could possibly end up being great detriment to the port and its business. McClash vowed to motion for Bustle's removal as chair at the next board meeting, originally scheduled for this Thursday, but rescheduled until August 24.
Click here to view Commissioner McClash's letter to Manatee County Administrator Ed Hunzeker in full.
Editor's Note: Manatee County Commissioners serve simultaneously on the port authority board, however, leadership does not carry over. While Donna Hayes is the Manatee County Commission Chairwoman, Commissioner Larry Bustle is the chair of the port authority board.