+ Two school administrators depart; three suspended
Two Manatee County School District administrators stepped down and three others were suspended without pay based on findings from a misconduct investigation of a former Manatee High School assistant football coach.
Former district investigator Debra Horne retired from the district, and former staff attorney Scott Martin resigned from the district.
The three other administrators — Assistant Superintendent Bob Gagnon and former Manatee High assistant principals Matthew Kane and Gregg Faller — were suspended without pay by the School Board Oct. 14, with unanimous 5-0 votes on each.
This comes after a two-month internal inquiry determined the administrators, including Gagnon, an East County resident who formerly served as assistant principal at Lakewood Ranch High School, poorly responded to groping allegations against Rod Frazier, the football coach.
The five administrators have been on paid leave since August.
Superintendent Rick Mills had recommended the termination of the five administrators.
The school board cannot vote on that recommendation until the close of the window in which the administrators can request a hearing. They have 21 days from Oct. 4, when they were served with administrative complaints, to do so.
The district’s inquiry supported a police investigation that concluded with Frazier being charged with seven counts of battery for alleged lewd behavior toward students and staff at Manatee High.
Frazier resigned from his post in July.
In August, the state charged Gagnon, Horne, Faller and Kane with failure to report child abuse, a third-degree felony in Florida.
Gagnon, Kane and Faller were also charged with lying to police.
All have pleaded not guilty.
Gagnon, also a former principal of Manatee High, was briefly the interim superintendent of the district after Tim McGonegal resigned last September.
+ MCAT/SCAT joint transit meeting canceled
An effort by Manatee and Sarasota counties to merge their transit systems has been put on pause.
In an Oct. 10 email to Carolyn Mason, the Sarasota County Commission chairwoman, Randall Reid, Sarasota County administrator, said the Oct. 15 joint commission meeting on the topic was canceled because of the inability of the neighboring counties to come up with a plan both sides support.
The email says Ed Hunzeker, Manatee County administrator, contacted Reid to say he believes, “It is in best interest of the commissions to cancel the Oct. 15 joint meeting until a single agreement exists both sides can support.”
Commissioners representing both counties have already met privately to discuss jointly operating their services — Manatee County Area Transit (MCAT) and Sarasota County Area Transit (SCAT) — under a single, private manager.
The Oct. 15 meeting was scheduled so county commissioners could try to set an interlocal agreement allowing them to secure a procurement for private-sector bids to run a shared system.
In an email, Nick Azzara, Manatee County information outreach coordinator, confirmed the meeting has been canceled, saying, “Though we have yet to reach a consensus at the staff level on how a joint system will operate regionally, staff from the two counties will continue to work on a feasible solution for the two commissions to consider at a later date.”
+ County merges natural resources, parks departments
Ed Hunzeker, Manatee County administrator, announced Oct. 8 the merger of the Parks and Recreation department and the Natural Resources Department.
The new department will be called the Parks and Natural Resources Department, and it will be headed by Charles Hunsicker, Manatee’s Natural Resources Department director.
“Under Charlie’s leadership, we will accomplish a truly global view of the recreational amenities needed to serve our growing community at a critical time as we implement the How Will We Grow plan,” Hunzeker said.
The county expects to save $250,000 annually from the merger, which also resulted in the elimination of five Parks and Recreation Department positions.
Those positions include the parks and recreation director, a spot held by Cindy Turner, an East County resident.
Nick Azzara, county information outreach coordinator, said county administration and human resources are seeking a new spot for Turner within the organization.
Azzara said the merger will create greater efficiencies by bringing together two departments that formerly shared responsibilities for several areas.
+ Planning Commission OKs Eagle Trace expansion
The Manatee County Planning Commission recommended approving an expansion of Eagle Trace, a subdivision under construction in East County, at its meeting Oct. 10.
The new plan, which Neal Communities, the project’s developer, dubs “phase three,” calls for a rezone of 43.53 acres on the south side of State Road 64 and west of Pope Road from general agriculture to planned development residential.
It adds 95 units to the overall development plan, increasing the number of single-family homes to 164 units and the amount of semi-detached residences to 114 units.
The first two phases of the project will be finished in December.
Pat Neal, Neal Communities’ president, said the developer will break ground on the new third phase Jan. 1 — pending the Manatee County Board of County Commissioners approving the plan in November.
Eventually, there will be a new alignment of Pope Road as the development grows.
Neal Communities will be responsible for construction of part of the new unnamed road, which will connect existing Pope Road to the project entrance.
In an Oct. 3 article, we incorrectly spelled Conner Dutting-Morrell’s name. Conner is the USAC Northeast Series Champion in Junior Animal.
Meetings & agendas
Manatee County Board of County Commissioners Meeting — 9 a.m. Oct. 22, at the Manatee County Government Administrative Center, 1112 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton