Manatee Administrator covers County error with his own money

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BRADENTON, Fla -- Imagine a government administrator dipping into his own pocket to make up for a mistake by somebody else. That's exactly what Manatee County Administrator Ed Hunzeker did when employees were told they had to pay back money they weren't supposed to receive.

Donny Combs handles landscaping at Manatee County beaches and parks. He was one of 25 workers who were mistakenly told they'd get one-time raises if they obtained extra certifications for their work out here. The error didn't come to light until after they received the money, money ranging from a few hundred to over a thousand dollars. The county said they had to pay the money back.

"I was shocked," Combs said, and he was the first to approach supervisors with his disappointment.

Manatee County Administrator Ed Hunzeker heard about the problem while he was out of town.

"When I became aware of it, I said 'we don't penalize the people who didn't cause the problem,'" he said.

So Hunzeker offered to cover the nearly $12,000 mistake with money deducted from his personal vacation time.

"If I don't do it, who will?, he asked.

Is that beyond the call of duty, a reporter asked.

"It depends on your definition of duty. I thought it was important to lead by example and so I did what I did," he said.

"I couldn't believe it, this was great," Combs recalls thinking.

Combs was already a fan of the county's top man--and now even more so.

"Thank you very much to our county administrator, that was very...thoughtful and great," he nodded.

Hunzeker shrugged off the compliments, "You have to do what you think is right."