|Suspended Port Manatee CFO Robert Armstrong|
PORT MANATEE – Port Manatee Deputy Executive Director and Chief Financial Officer Robert Armstrong was placed on paid administrative leave on Friday. Armstrong's son was caught pawning stolen property he'd taken from the port, while employed there. During police investigations into the thefts, Armstrong admitted to buying some of the stolen port property back from a pawn shop and returning it to the port. The action came just one day after a citizen made public comment at a Port Authority Board meeting, condemning the lack of action thus far.
Former Manatee County Commission candidate Corie Holmes showed up at Thursday's Port Manatee Port Authority Board and said that Armstrong should be put on leave until the investigation into the incident is concluded. Holmes, who challenged District 1 County Commissioner Larry Bustle in 2012, questioned the hiring of Armstrong's son in the first place and also said that there was a clear lack of security at the port for the thefts to have occurred. No action was taken at the meeting, but Armstrong was put on leave the next day, after the incident was publicized by several newspapers.
The son, Robert B. Armstrong, was arrested June 11 and charged with 24 counts of burglary related charges. He allegedly stole thousands of dollars worth of electronics from the port, in addition to other property in incidents dating back to January. He has since been fired. According to police reports, his father said he purchased some of the stolen port property back from a pawn shop and returned it to the port. In the police report, Armstrong also said his son had a drug problem and had stolen and pawned some of his personal property as well.
Originally hired as a part-time grass cutter, the younger Armstrong was quickly promoted, receiving five raises during a period in which port wages were frozen, according to a report by the Herald Tribune. Armstrong was hired despite a history of multiple arrests on heroin and prescription drug-related charges. The elder Armstrong earns a current salary of $149,510 and will continue to be paid until further action is taken.
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