- April 1, 2021
Manatee County Administrator Scott Hopes said in November that he was done reorganizing the county's government structure.
On Feb. 7, he was simply done.
During an emergency Manatee County Commission meeting, a separation agreement between Hopes and the county was approved by commissioners.
Hopes, who was earning $215,000 a year, walked out the door with 120 days of severance pay and an additional six months of health benefits.
It ended a rocky 22 months in the county's top governmental role in which many of the county's top administrators resigned under pressure.
In a December 2021 interview, District 5 Commissioner Vanessa Baugh said Hopes had done a great job after "stepping into a hornet's nest."
In May 2022, Baugh wrote a op-ed column in the East County Observer, defending Hopes. She wrote:
"While 593 employees left the county in the 14 months since Scott Hopes took over as administrator, only 243 of those resigned. A look at HR records from the previous 14 months shows 426 people parted ways with the county, with 141 resignations and 58 quitting, and giving less than two weeks’ notice.
"Also, since the new administration took over, 815 positions within Manatee County Government have been filled, including 473 new employees, five dozen re-hires and 166 promotions."
Baugh wrote that Manatee County had hired "a new administrator to help shepherd us through this important period of change."
Hopes had replaced Cheri Coryea, who was fired in March 2021. Coryea was a veteran county employee who was well-liked. By May 2021, the commissioners took the "interim" wording off Hopes title and reneged on a promise to perform a national job search.
Manatee County Commissioner Kevin Van Ostenbridge, the Manatee County Commission chair, confirmed Feb. 7 at approximately 1 p.m. that Hopes and the county had chosen to part ways. An emergency meeting of county commissioners was called for 2 p.m. to name Lee Washington, the county's director of community and veterans services, as the interim administrator and to approve Hopes' separation agreement.
Hopes was present on the fifth floor of the Manatee County Administration Building as commissioners took turns praising his tenure.
Baugh praised Hopes' actions as administrator, especially calling attention to his response to the Piney Point disaster when he was an interim administrator.
“I remember working with you very closely on that, and you acted like you had already been here 10 or 15 years — you stepped right into it," Baugh said. "I think that you have great potential in anything that you set your mind to do, and it's been an honor working with you."
But his tenure had its ups and downs.
Manatee County commissioners had voted 4-3 on May 24, 2022 to extend Hopes' contract even though three of the commissioners — Misty Servia, Reggie Bellamy and Carol Whitmore, all of whom are no longer on the board — had voted against an extension and asked that Hopes be put on paid leave to investigate charges against him made by Manatee County Clerk Angel Colonesso.
Colonesso said Hopes had mismanaged staff and abused his office.
Four of the commissioners disagreed. He was given a raise to $215,000 and his current contract runs through September.
After being hired in 2021, Hopes immediately began reorganizing the county's government and in November announced that process had been completed with the hiring of Mitchell Teitelbaum to be his fourth and final deputy administrator. Before Hopes' hiring, Manatee County utilized two deputy administrators.
Hopes said at the time that the county's three deputy administrators — Courtney De Pol, Charles Bishop and Robert Reinshuttle — had been overwhelmed with projects.
On Jan. 10, commissioners voted 6-1 to rescind the confirmation of Teitelbaum as deputy county administrator in the wake of an allegation of sexual harassment filed with the county's human resources department against Teitelbaum in December.
Teitelbaum had previously informed the county he was not going to take the new position.
Communication issues between the administrator and commissioners began to arise and a commissioners' workshop had been scheduled to discuss Hopes' goals and objectives. along with the direction of the county.
Washington also was present at the emergency meeting.
“I can’t say enough about how thankful I am for your confidence, not only in me, but as you can see, in those who stand with me,” Washington said, addressing commissioners. "We stand united, and moving forward, in ensuring that we carry out the priorities set by this board, we also want to state as as a team that we want to ensure that staff understand that we will always ensure that they have the tools and resources to be effective, and we look forward to the challenge.”
County Attorney William Clague said an official vote on Hopes' separation agreement will take place at the Feb. 14 Commission meeting.
East County Observer newswriter Ian Swaby contributed to this story