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Manatee Commissioner Remains Chair After Vaccine Controversy, Investigation Started

A county government building with American flag.
Manatee County Government
Manatee County Commissioner Vanessa Baugh requested five names, including her own, to be added to a list of people to be vaccinated at a recent pop-up distribution event in Lakewood Ranch.

The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office is investigating whether Commissioner Vanessa Baugh broke state law by putting herself and others on a VIP vaccine list in Lakewood Ranch.

Manatee County Commissioner Vanessa Baugh will keep her position as board chair following controversy over her role in helping Governor Ron DeSantis secure a COVID-19 vaccination site in Lakewood Ranch.

On Tuesday, a majority of Baugh's colleagues voted against a motion to remove her.

Commissioner Reggie Bellamy made the motion to remove Baugh as chair, stating that he believes there should be consequences for her role in the event.

The vote followed public criticism when it was revealed that Baugh directed county health officials to secure vaccinations for herself and political donors. Additionally, the one-day pop-up event was restricted to just two ZIP codes in wealthy, predominantly white areas in Baugh's district.

DeSantis defended the event — saying his priority was getting vaccinations to senior citizens. However, Baugh has since apologized.

Michael Barfield, a Sarasota paralegal, filed a complaint against Baugh on Monday saying her actions violated three state statutes including misuse of a public position.

The Manatee County Sherriff’s Office is investigating Baugh's actions.

As a reporter, my goal is to tell a story that moves you in some way. To me, the best way to do that begins with listening. Talking to people about their lives and the issues they care about is my favorite part of the job.