Van Ostenbridge Avoids Theft Charges by Entering PTI

The sign that was on display at the entrance of the property.
The sign that was on display at the entrance of the property.
Staff Report
BRADENTON — Facing misdemeanor larceny charges following the theft of a large potted bougainvillea from a constituent's property, Manatee County Commission Chair Kevin Van Ostenbridge has entered a pre-trial diversion program with the state's attorney's office, according to documentation obtained by The Bradenton Times.

Commissioner Van Ostenbridge (R-Dist. 3) will receive three months of probation and have to complete 25 hours of community service, according to the agreement. The elected official will also have to take an 8-hour class and write an apology letter to the victim. If the conditions are met, the charge will not be prosecuted.

The victim provided the following statement to TBT:

"It's disappointing to see a county commissioner do this to a small business owner who grew up here. We are hopeful Kevin has learned from this, and his next bougainvillea will be purchased from one of manatee county's great family-owned nurseries."

Commissioner Van Ostenbridge did not return TBT's request for comment on the PTI.

On the evening of September 22, Van Ostenbridge was captured on surveillance video entering a privately owned parking lot/parcel. TBT obtained copies of surveillance video clips that show Van Ostenbridge's pickup truck leaving the property with a large bougainvillea bush towering over the cab in the bed of the truck. On an earlier visit to the property, Van Ostenbridge is seen without his truck, walking his dog onto the property.

The first video clip showed the pickup truck entering the property and driving around a traffic cone placed in the middle of the driveway just feet away from a yellow "Private Property- Keep Out" sign positioned at the edge and entrance of the driveway. The truck is seen driving toward the back of the property, out of the surveillance camera's view.

Approximately four hours later, Van Ostenbridge was captured on video surveillance walking his dog, and entering the property again. Van Ostenbridge can be seen kicking the traffic cone away from the middle and front of the driveway's entrance before walking to the back of the property where the bougainvillea was located.

At 10:30 p.m., the truck returned to the property where the traffic cone and "Private Property" sign can be seen in the glow of the truck’s headlight beams. The pickup truck drives toward the back of the property, out of the surveillance camera's view, toward the potted bougainvillea. It can then be seen exiting the property with an approximately 5-6 foot tall, bushy, bougainvillea plant towering from the bed of the vehicle.

The bougainvillea plant, valued at $300 according to the incident report, was later recovered from the backyard of Van Ostenbridge’s Bradenton home. The commissioner initially asserted that, despite both the signage and the plant's healthy condition, he believed it to have been abandoned and felt that he was merely "rescuing" it.

Reader Comments
JAN 27, 2023  •  The agreement states 25 hours of community service work may be satisfied by payment of $15 per hour to the Manatee County Crime Stoppers, so he'll be out $690 using that option $55 per month (3 months) to the Clerk of Court $50 to the Comptroller $375 service $100 to BPD ==== $690
Janet Aubry
JAN 23, 2023  •  What an embarrassment to all of us. Why on earth is this criminal still “representing” the people of Manatee County! And take a look at the other commissioner guilty of cronyism and probably far worse. Is this the group that State Rep Will Robinson wants to overthrow the 3 city governments on Anna Maria Island? We don’t want people like this representing us! Vote people!!
JAN 22, 2023  •  I agree with Christina! Make him pick up trash on the island! Holmes Beach, to be exact!
JAN 22, 2023  •  The guy is a known thief .. Cannot stand people who steal .
Henri Leclerc
JAN 21, 2023  •  As voted for Van Ostenbridge but will likely not repeat that mistake. I do find it funny that so many people posting here somehow believe that voting democrat will fix the obvious problem we have with lack of integrity among our politicians, especially in light of what's recently transpired in that Sewer we still call a Capitol.
Danielle Masters
JAN 21, 2023  •  All the BOCC are weirdos. Dysfunctional and fail to follow the laws. We voted misfits in office. Disgrace to us all.
JAN 21, 2023  •  I support KVO for standing up and admitting he made a mistake. All republicans controlling the BOCC has been a disaster.
Debby Pellom
JAN 21, 2023  •  He's a lousy Commissioner and a thief...way to go manatee county...Reaping what you sowed...he's cocky and arrogant...little man syndrome
James Morgan
JAN 21, 2023  •  Wonder when KVO will run out of assumed names in this story of TBT or as he frequently calls it “The Tabloid” below or friends he has recruited to help make comments on how great of an upstanding guy he is to take responsibility for being a “Thief”. Newsflash, taking PTI means he was guilty, which is nothing to be proud of since you had the choice like the rest of us to not commit a crime on private property under any circumstance. Notice how he is trying to throw criticism away from himself by slipping little tidbits about Baugh and her circumstances and Kruse drinking/adultery. Maybe George Kruse and Vanessa Baugh would like to know that it was actually KVO that leaked the Kruse DUI story directly to the Sarasota Herald Tribune. Not someone else and that he also, leaked the Vanessa Baugh Vaccinegate to the press before it went national news. George Kruse, Scott Hopes and all the Commissioners should be upset to see that KVO is really the leaker for the County. He runs the County through intimidation and scare tactics. Part of that is planting something personal about Kruse or making it up to be sure that Kruse will be disliked or removed from the BOCC as well as Baugh because then he could get rid of them from the board. Back to the reason I am commenting, somebody, anybody step up and run against this thief for District 3, before he has time to do more damage to the reputation of our community. WE WILL SUPPORT YOU!
Jared Hill
JAN 21, 2023  •  Let’s face it, the BOCC Commisioners all live in what they believe to be the Wild West. All are lawless individuals bought by developer money and led by a fool. Crimes go unpunished for the privileged, while working class people like me, have gone to jail for the same offense.
The Truth
JAN 21, 2023  •  Kevin Van Ostenbridge made a mistake. No doubt that the person that it affected prosecuted him to the fullest extent of the law. That was the owner’s rights. On the other hand, an abandoned plant on vacant property, neglected and not taken care of is fair game for those that garden. Does not make it right. Kevin is known for his fairness and leadership of the BOCC. Glad you put this behind you. Contrast Vanessa Baugh and George Kruse. They are hot messes. The Ethics Commission will reject her settlement because it cost lives on innocents who were denied the Covid-19 vaccine. George Kruse, well, he denies any responsibility at all and is a belligerent at all times. Denies cheating on his wife, which he still does- (known fact) and cannot stop drinking. I suggest two words - “Betty Ford”. Either way, glad to see at least one of the Commissioners has common sense to do the right thing. Baugh and Kruse should quit now, before they are forced to. We would all be better off.
JAN 21, 2023  •  All these comments saying how great little napoleon was to "take the deal" are silly. He committed a crime and he is CHAIR of the board. What else has he been up to but hasn't been caught? He took the deal because the videos are a slam dunk. He clearly planned his crime and intended to return to the property to commit it and then was quoted in the Bradenton Herald saying it was a big misunderstanding. that is NOT "taking responsibility" this board is a joke and they are making manatee a joke all while raising the debt sky and order "conservatives" my ass.
JAN 20, 2023  •  It was prudent to take the deal. An excellent choice and something that shows accountability to us all. Contrast predatory George Kruse and Crooked Covid Vanessa Baugh. Both make excuse after excuse for their bad acts. I agree that Vanessa Baugh led to the death of countless others in Manatee County by her selling precious Covid-19 vaccines at a time where so many in real need could have benefited. Baugh is guilty of mass genocide. Kruse, you are a disgusting womanizing drunk pond scum. Embarrassment to this County. Your corruption knows no bounds.
JAN 20, 2023  •  What the hell is going on here? What kind of freak show do we have for County. District 3 used to be great. Now it is a joke. Baugh, Van Ostenbridge and Kruse - step the hell down. We are sick of you. Embarrassed beyond belief.
JAN 20, 2023  •  I agree with the comments. It was a great move to take a PTI. The penalty is severe enough. Vanessa Baugh got away with murder. How many people died because she denied them the Covid vaccine. Too many to count. She put her own personal interest in front of those in our county. She needs to step down. Resign now Vanessa Baugh -
JAN 20, 2023  •  What a joke. Cannot make this up. It is like going to the circus. Baugh and Kruse, own your mistakes. Take the plea deal like Van Ostenbridge. Why waste taxpayer money. You two are dispicable, corrupt excuses. No moral fiber. Baugh, you sell anything for a buck. Kruse, simply pitiful. A scared man, that has to deal with his pain through a bottle. Know your type well, My dad was the same, beat my mom, slept around and eventually got AIDS and died.
JAN 20, 2023  •  Baugh is found guilty of bribery and fraud. Van Ostenbridge at least knows when to take the deal. Kruse by far is the worst of them all. His arrogance matches his sexual appetite and need to drink booze. He is well known to drink and try to hook up with women at events. His wife must be stupid or ignorant. Would not surprise me one bit if he is having an affair at the County. Whitmore got it right.
Alene Gauthier
JAN 20, 2023  •  Good! Glad he will have to do "service"... but please make sure he doesn't slide on this and maneuver a way out of it. And I would also like to respond to the others' comments regarding the "bad commissioners" ..... they are awful because they are bad human beings, NOT because they are Republicans.
Mary Givens
JAN 20, 2023  •  My Uncle, Tom Slaughter, was on the Manatee County Commission as Chaie a long time ago. My, how things have changed. One wonders if anyone on the Commission has the slightest interest in serving the County. It appears not. Shame.
JAN 20, 2023  •  TBT=The Bradenton Tabloid
JAN 20, 2023  •  What we have here is someone who made a mistake and took full responsibility. Chair Van Ostenbridge, you owned it. Contrast Baugh and Kruse, who are known criminals. Baugh was selling Covid Vaccines to the highest bidders. Kruse, well, cannot mention his adultery, public drunkenness and chasing women even after his wife caught him. What a disgrace. Baugh and Kruse need to go.
JAN 20, 2023  •  Our commissioners are both incompetent and shills for developers. As for KVO, every hour of his service should be served in Holmes beach doing the most public, menial tasks possible.
JAN 20, 2023  •  If a 5-year old "lifted" a pen at school they would be sent to the principal's office and made to stay after school. This appears to be the slap on the wrist given Van Ostenbridge. Really, people are we going to continue to allow our County to me mis-run by a group of unethical drunken thieves who are in bed with the developers. All three of these Commissioners should be asked to step down. They could be pilfering the County for all we know. Do we really want this caliber of people to continue MIS-representing us? No one could possibly make all this stuff up! We need to clean house and elect Commissioners with more maturity and character to take care of business and stop all the monkey-business.
JAN 20, 2023  •  Kevin isn't remorseful and he isn't taking responsibility. He says the property owener is a nutjob yoga liberal and the whole thing is a big "misunderstanding" that the property owner is making it into something for political reasons. Based on the filings on the Clerk's website there was a capias and probable cause affidavit filed by state attorney. State attorney believes he committed a crime or there would be no "pti"
JAN 20, 2023  •   Wow, we have George Kruse an accused DUI (see video), Kevin VanOstenbridge an admitted thief and Vanessa Baugh an ethics violator controlling millions of dollars, what an embarrassment to the tax payers and everyone in Manatee County. The developers need to do a better job of picking our county commissioner. I think VanOstenbridge is one of the most arrogant commissioners and a sorry example of a chairman yet the good old boy group quickly reappointed him chairman without any input from the new members.
JAN 19, 2023  •  The Clown Club of Criminals, they should invite George Santos to be an honorary member.
A Concerned Citizen AND property owner”here!
JAN 19, 2023  •  I have been following “All of this” for several years and tend to observe ALL sides of discussion … knowing the “truth” ‘lands somewhere’ within the ‘middle’ most of the time. I find Manatee politics to be humorous ‘at best’ …. I grew up in Chicago and discovered that the “real news” fell somewhere between the Two leading daily newspapers there … As many know “what Chicago politics” display … “they don’t hold a candle” to Manatee County! The answer to this ?? I Really Don’t know … Not At ALL my area of expertise, BUT like “our National political governmental crisis” …. We need to abandon the two party system AND return to Common Sense actions as our Republic on this Continent was based, fought over an worked for almost a hundred years Thank You … and let’s try to bring about Positive change that will benefit ALl!
JAN 19, 2023  •  "Van Helsing" only admitted to it because he was caught on camera, and the owner of the property pressed charges. If not on camera, he would have blamed the theft on one of us.
JAN 19, 2023  •  Manatee County - corrupt leadership! It’s no longer a place to be, it is a corrupt county rapidly being ruined with unchecked growth.
JAN 19, 2023  •  This is a funny story but I agree with other comments about more serious issues. State level repugnicans are committing the real crimes!!
JAN 19, 2023  •  George Kruse cannot take responsibility. Van Ostenbridge does. Kruse is a drunk that cheats on his wife, continues to have an affair with an aide on the 9th floor, all under his wife’s nose. Van Ostenbridge admits when he is wrong. Kruse hides behind the lies. Baugh taught Kruse well.
JAN 19, 2023  •  He could have waited 'til Arbor Day if he needed a free shrub. Thick as a Brick...
JAN 19, 2023  •  Kevin Van Ostenbridge, I applaud you. You took responsibility and the consequences. Contrast the drunk George Kruse. Pitiful excuse of an angry arrogant moron, who cheats on his wife repeatedly, and still Carrie’s on an affair on the 9th floor, but will not admit he was ossified drunk. What a loser.
Misty Servia
JAN 19, 2023  •  As an optimist, I know that Kevin can learn from this experience and be a better person, if he acknowledges that he intentionally stole the plant, it was wrong, and he is truly sorry instead of making excuses. I sincerely hope he takes advantage of this learning opportunity.
JAN 19, 2023  •  KVO is a thief, on film, he should have been arrested the day of the crime
Michael Barfield
JAN 19, 2023  •  PTI - Plant Theft Intervention
JAN 19, 2023  •  All republicans are criminals
JAN 19, 2023  •  A nothing burger I like that description of KVO he has amounted to nothing and through the honest and accurate reporting of TBT we k ow what the truth is. That’s what you meant right?
JAN 19, 2023  •  I love TBT. I ask that you keep focusing on Petland and the Confederate monument. These issues are important to your readers
JAN 19, 2023  •  For those keeping score...we have 1 commissioner who committed ethics violations by abusing her position, 1 commissioner about to go to trial for DUI, and 1 commissioner now on probation for theft. At least 3 doesn't make a majority?
JAN 19, 2023  •  So it’s a nothing burger. TBT went down another rabbit hole
JAN 19, 2023  •  He’s just one of the many Republicans giving the County a bad name. Let’s focus on the big guys like Buchanan, Robinson, and Boyd. They’ll do nothing to save New College from turning into MAGA College.
JAN 19, 2023  •  He did it so close to home. (allegedly) At least the dems entertain by dressing fashionably and stealing from rando’s at the airport. A bougainvillea? Yawn.
JAN 19, 2023  •  He should have to come to the island and pick up trash for community service
JAN 19, 2023  •  He will buy his way out.
JAN 19, 2023  •  Stop the steal! 🤣
Elizabeth Brown
JAN 19, 2023  •  Just move into Manatee County. It is disheartening to hear about the elected officials here who have only a nodding acquaintance with both honesty and morality. Folks need to be more discriminating when they pull that voting leve!
JAN 19, 2023  •  These guys are all crooks. Maybe it's time for some Democrats!
JAN 19, 2023  •  Hmmm, maybe we need some Democrats. This bunch are crooks!
JAN 19, 2023  •  Inquiring minds want to know ... is there a registry for potted plant thieves?
JAN 19, 2023  •  I'd sure like to know where his 25 hours of public service will be served. Probably re-shelving library books.