The League of Women Voters of Manatee County Government Committee observes the Manatee County Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) meetings for items of interest to citizens and the League and notes adherence, or lack of adherence, to good governance procedures and the Sunshine Law. The following are the major points from the Board of Manatee County Commissioners Regular Meeting on 1/10/2023 observed by Ginger McCallum.
The Manatee County Fair Manager and members of its Board of Directors invited all to attend the 2023 Manatee County Fair January 12-22, 2023.
Presentation of the 2022 Employee of the Year January 10, 2023 was proclaimed “Billy Koch Day” in Manatee County Florida. Billy is a Utilities Maintenance Supervisor.
Citizen Comments regarding future agenda items
Four citizens spoke about issues brought up by commissioners at the 1/5/2023 work session which they characterized as culture war items that distract from the actual and important county business.
Another citizen called out the commissioners for their disrespectful treatment of citizens who are speaking such as lack of eye contact, laughing, etc.
Items pulled from Consent Agenda
Ballard pulled items 40, 41 and 42, all public safety items, to highlight the Florida Coordinated Opioid Recovery program. Manatee County is among the first to participate. It addresses the opioid problem and makes resources available for addiction recovery. Items approved 7-0.
Item #63 – Adoption and Execution of Manatee County’s 2023 Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) Transportation Project Priorities Overview
Clark Davis presented the 2023 priorities. The purpose of this item is to request Board action on 2023 transportation project priorities and their rankings. This is an important and necessary step in order to participate in a process that can provide State or Federal funding to certain County transportation projects. Commissioner Van Ostenbridge noted that Manatee County got $3 million in Federal funds through the Omnibus bill for 59th St. Approved 7-0.
Item #64 – Report on Status of Litigation on the ban on retail sale of dogs and cats
Attorney Clague explained that due to the 2021 ordinance banning the retail sale of cats and dogs in Manatee County litigation has occurred (Kaya Nyati Ventures, LCC & Elegant Pet, Inc. v. Manatee County (2021-CA-4858). “Petland.”) Clague wanted to review the situation for the public and commissioners.
Legal action was filed in October 2022 asking for a temporary injunction to stop enforcement of the ordinance. Currently enforcement and legal action is barred for one year following the approval of the ordinance. Clague stated the county can expect a long fight which is unlikely to put a quick end to retail pet sales in Manatee County. He further stated that the law is still in flux on the issue and plaintiffs could have additional actions available to them, so it is difficult to guess outcome and it will be lengthy and expensive.
Long discussion by commissioners that resulted in all commissioners except Kruse stating their interest in ending the lawsuit by retracting the 2021 ordinance. Motion to direct the county attorney’s office to draft and advertise an ordinance to repeal the 2021 ordinance banning the retail sale of puppies and cats made and seconded.
Citizen Comments on the motion to direct the county attorney’s office to draft and advertise an ordinance to repeal the 2021 ordinance banning the retail sale of puppies and cats. One individual supported repealing the ordinance, 10 spoke against the repeal. A number speaking against the repeal noted that they did not want to put Petland out of business, just change their business model to prevent selling puppy mill animals.
Vote on motion to direct the county attorney’s office to draft and advertise an ordinance to repeal the 2021 ordinance. Passed 6-1, Kruse voting no.
Satcher then moved to direct the county attorney to research ways to make the status of the county’s animal cruelty ordinances and statues more effective. Passed 7-0. Clague noted that he would brief the commissioners individually.
Item #65 – Board Initiated Human Resource Inquiry
Van Ostenbridge explained this item is meant to examine whether it is advisable for the Board to initiate a fact-finding inquiry into a recent complaint made by an employee about Mitch Teitelbaum to first determine if the allegations are true. He said he feels the Board must step in given there are questions as to whether the complaint was then handled appropriately. He proposed that a third party be engaged, the scope to be determined by the Board and the results reported to the Board. Administrative staff would have no input to this process and recommend that Commissioner Ballard to be the liaison with the third party.
Long discussion about the need for and advisability of a board-initiated inquiry. Finally, the consensus was that since the individual resigned and is not an employee the situation is therefore resolved and it is not prudent to start an outside investigation.
Selected Commissioner Agenda/Comments
Ballard – would like a work sessions on canal dredging and Manatee County non-profit grant funding to ensure it is going to places our taxpayers are comfortable with.
Van Ostenbridge – A meeting on the widening of 59th St will be on Saturday at GT Bray. Note: This is an open house from 9-10:30AM with diagrams, staff and engineers and Commissioner Van Ostenbridge.
Rahn – We need an overall street light plan and to help the sheriff get more deputies (attrition issues).
Baugh – Ballard is spot on…we need to look at these nonprofits because of the things they are funding. This commission has increased the Sheriff’s budget so he can have the staff he needs; I want to know what the issues are leading to the open positions.
Baugh motioned to unconfirm the 4th deputy county commissioner Teitelbaum. Clague clarified that they need to rescind the confirmation and noted that he rescinded his acceptance of the position.
Van Ostenbridge – he did not want to see accusations/convictions of anyone without investigation. It is concerning to me that we dive into the cancel culture without any due process.
Baugh/Ballard – noted the person chose not to take the position. Since he is not an employee, he is not entitled to any investigation of the complaint process.
Clague – Ballard has stated this situation correctly. It would be different if he had taken the job. Legally I am comfortable with it.
Motion to rescind approval of Teitelbaum’s hire based on the 12/13/2022 letter from him rescinding his acceptance. 6-1, Van Ostenbridge voting no.
Beardon – would like to address the time it takes for veterans to get appointments for services at the VA and pursue a more extensive Temporary Assistance Program (TAP) for vets.
The agenda was originally posted 3 weeks in advance but was updated on 1/6/2023 and again late on Monday 1/9/2023 without a corresponding change in deadline for written comments, which remained 1/6/23 at 2 pm. A particularly controversial item, the banning of retail sale of puppies and cats, was added on 1/6/23 after the written comment deadline.
The cancellation of call-in comments silences citizens who are unable to physically attend meetings The silencing of citizens is particularly notable in light of late additions to the agendas. This leaves many stakeholders with no venue for input on important decisions until after they are made.
Commissioners’ intention to revisit grant funding decisions is unnecessary and keeps them from addressing the many important Manatee County issues that require their attention.