Commission on Ethics sends censure against Manatee County commissioner to governor

Manatee County Commissioner Vanessa Baugh speaks to thee Florida Commission on Ethics Friday,...
Manatee County Commissioner Vanessa Baugh speaks to thee Florida Commission on Ethics Friday, Jan.27, in Tallahassee.(Florida Commission on Ethics)
Published: Feb. 1, 2023 at 1:19 PM EST
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MANATEE COUNTY Fla. (WWSB) - The Florida Commission on Ethics has submitted its recommendation for censure against Manatee County Commissioner Vanessa Baugh to the desk of Gov. Ron DeSantis.

During its public session meeting, the commission considered a settlement of an ethics complaint against Baugh, that charged Baugh misused her position and public resources to assign COVID-19 vaccine distribution priority to serve specific individuals and ZIP codes in her district, contrary to county policy.

A civil penalty of $8,000 and public censure and reprimand was ralso part of the setllement.

Baugh testified during the hearing last week, apologizing for her actions. “I made a mistake that I wholeheartedly understand,” she told commissioners. “I take responsibility for that.”

Questions about the location of the Feb. 17, 2021 pop-up clinic arose that day during a news conference by Gov. Ron DeSantis at the site. DeSantis was asked why wealthy neighborhoods like Lakewood Ranch were being given preference for vaccine distribution. DeSantis challenged that assertion, saying that vaccines weren’t decided by ZIP codes, rather they were targeted in areas of higher numbers of infected persons.

Ellenton attorney Jennifer Hamey filed the original complaint with the Ethics Commission, alleging Baugh of misusing her public position “by ignoring the county’s lottery system for the COVID-19 vaccine distribution and instead unilaterally picking two ZIP codes in her district to receive 3,000 additional vaccines,” the complaint said.