Manatee County extends county administrator’s contract

SCOTT HOPES(Shane Battis)
Published: May. 24, 2022 at 10:50 PM EDT
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MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. (WWSB) - Manatee Co. extends county administrator’s contract, votes down investigation into complaints.

A lengthy meeting pitted the Manatee County Board of Commissioners against each other as they discussed the future of Dr. Scott Hopes, who’s been publicly criticized for mismanaging the county.

Manatee County is holding on to its administrator, despite passionate complaints from inside and outside local government. The Manatee County board of commissioners approved an extension on Dr. Scott Hopes’ contract, along with a raise, in a narrow 4-3 vote.

Commissioners spent more than three hours locked in a fiery discussion over Hopes’ future with the county, ignited by an alarming letter penned by the clerk and circuit court and comptroller. In that letter, Angel Colonneso laid out a series of complaints against the county administrator referencing issues with communication, organization and fiscal responsibility.

The board considered a motion that would put Hopes on leave for at least a month while an investigation into those allegations was conducted.

Commissioner Vanessa Baugh called the motion “outrageous” saying if any issues are found with the administrator, they can be fixed without an investigation. Later, Commissioner George Kruse agreed, and noted the timing of such an investigation would be a big problem because it would pull a key player from the county during the budget season.

On the other side, Commissioner Misty Servia argued the board should work to get to the bottom of the clerk’s complaints, warning that the problems won’t go away.

A lineup of residents also called in or spoke in person at the meeting during public comment demanding more transparency from the board. Several of them insisted the board needs to approve the investigation to see if Colonneso’s claims have merit and to ensure transparency between the county and taxpayers.

“The investigation itself will show your constituents, will show Manatee County citizens, the people that voted you in, that their commissioners value transparency,” one caller told the board. Another called in asking, “If you didn’t do anything wrong, why do you have anything to hide? Why not have an investigation?”

Despite this, the board voted down the motion for an investigation.

Commissioners also squabbled over Hopes’ salary. Two commissioners, Misty Servia and Carol Whitmore, pushed to keep his salary as is considering the county has lost roughly 600 employees under Hopes’ watch

However, another 4-3 vote passed to give the county administrator another $10,000 with his contract extension, lifting his salary to $215,000 along with deferred compensation. Hopes’ contract will not be up for renewal until Sept. 2023.

ABC7 asked Hopes for an interview to discuss the meeting and Colonneso’s letter, but he declined to comment.

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