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Port Authority Ploy Turns into Merry-Go-Round Meeting


BRADENTON -- Monday at the Manatee County Commission meeting, the BOCC Chairwoman, Carol Whitmore, asked Port Authority Chairman Larry Bustle if there was any Port Authority business, and he answered no.

 Commissioner Joe McClash

Commissioner Joe McClash asked if they could open a port meeting for some unfinished business and comment. After consulting with county council, the port authority meeting was opened.

Last Thursday, Nov 17, at the Port Authority Meeting, Chairman Bustle and board member Joe McClash struggled over stipulations inserted into the contract for the port's new Executive Director, Carlos Buqueras. 

Bustle got terribly angry with McClash for speaking to Buqueras about the compensation and severance package Bustle had prepared in the salary contract for the director's position. Although the vote went down last Thursday 6 to 1 in favor of leaving the contract unamended, some new information had McClash feeling there needed to be some conversational follow-up. 

Last Thursday, two of the "nea" votes, to accept the director's contract, had moved to "yea," after being told that a compensation package dispute might compromise the chance of Buqueras taking the job. But McClash said on Monday that previous to last Thursday's meeting, an email from Buqueras to Bustle (click here to read) stated the conflict was not a deal breaker and would have been acceptable. 

McClash wanted to make a motion to allow council to contact Buqueras and ask him if the amended contract would still be acceptable. Bustle wanted to have nothing to do with it and stated McClash had already performed an illegal, unauthorized procedure by "negotiating" with Buqueras. He said he was the one who was authorized to deal with the new director and the contract was already signed, and therefore the issue was over when the vote went down last Thursday.

 Commissioner Larry Bustle

McClash's reasoning stems from a pledge to not let the director's salary exceed that of the County Administrator's, and with Bustle's exceptions built into the contract, it would have. McClash said this would set a president, exceed that allowed by IRS regulations, and have an impractical and imprudent consequence if a termination of position was needed.

There wasn't a Manatee Port Authority Attorney there for question or clarity on the many confusing twist and turns in the road this discussion had been stuck on. Commissioner Hayes had also found the new information interesting and started to share the sentiment of McClash, DiSabatino and Gallen who, at first, in last Thursday's discussion, wished to confine the contract to its more conservative base. 

A motion was proposed to continue the discussion into the next Port Authority meeting and it looked like a vote of 4 to 3 in favor of that motion with dissent from Bustle, Whitmore and Chappie was moving forward. But it wasn't over yet. As squabble continued to beat up the hour, Hayes got back on the fence and said she wanted to end the argument there and then. A motion put the vote on the floor to finalize the decision then and there, based on the contract that passed on the 17th. 

McClash made another motion to amend that motion with a 5 percent cap on the defered compensation, in an attempt to reel in some of the package extensions. The vote to amend failed 4 to 3, with McClash, DiSabatino and Gallen in dissent. The motion to finalize the contract as was signed by Bustle and Buqueras, passed, 4 to 3, McClash, DiSabatino and Gallen dissenting. 

Regardless, Mr Buqueras will likely be happy here and in truth, everyone seems to want that to happen. The issue really seemed about precedent more than anything else. I wonder if Carlos has ever seen Arrested Development?


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