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New Manatee County Commissioners Recommend Firing Administrator

A long, u-shaped table with county commissioners seated around it.
Manatee County Board of Commissioners/YouTube
The Manatee County Board of Commissioners has voted to discuss on Jan. 6, 2021 the possible termination of county administrator Cheri Coryea.

The Manatee County Board of Commissioners has voted to discuss on Jan. 6, 2021, the possible termination of county administrator Cheri Coryea.

Less than a week after three newly-elected Manatee County Commissioners began their work on the board, they've decided to try to oust the county administrator.

Cheri Coryea was confirmed by Manatee commissioners last year, but she's served in various county roles for 30 years.

Newcomer Commissioner Kevin Van Ostenbridge proposed at a special meeting Thursday, Nov. 19 that the board terminate Coryea without cause, citing a need for a "shift in culture."

“I'm a private sector person. And she's more of a public sector person. And my vision, as I said earlier, is that government should, wherever possible, mirror the private sector."

The three new board members expressed their displeasure over a $30 million land purchase, 161 acres on Lenda Road, made by the county earlier this year, calling it a waste of taxpayer dollars.

Carol Whitmore, Chair of the board, criticized Van Ostenbridge’s proposal to fire Coryea.

“I'm very upset. I never get upset ever… I just can't believe - what has she done wrong? She followed the direction of the board of Manatee County Commission.”

Commissioner Reggie Bellamy called the decision “hasty” and said that in the less than three days the commissioners have been in their roles, they couldn’t be educated enough to make this proposal.

“I apologize if you take this the wrong way, my man, there's no way in the world we’re going to know everything in three days. So if you're that good, to know it in three days, we have missed you because we needed it not only here, but at the governor's mansion, as well as at the White House.”

“Because all of the things that's been going on with this pandemic, we need that level of brilliance.”

Commissioner Vanessa Baugh told commissioners to “take a breath” and that “I don’t believe it is fair to make accusations at the new commissioners who have been working out there for a year to get elected and might know more than you think.”

When Van Ostenbridge likened his proposal to a necessary “turning of the ship,” Whitmore replied in tears.

“Kevin, I supported you 100% and I’m ashamed I did right now. Whatever happens, I’m gonna work with you, but I’m really upset with what you just did.”

“There are employees crying right now, because of what you've just done, and maybe you don't care, but you should.”

Commissioner Misty Servia accused Van Ostenbridge of hurting employee morale, saying the proposal would keep people from applying for government positions, and make it more difficult to attract future businesses to the county.

She also criticized Van Ostenbridge’s decision to make a proposal Thursday with the intention of passing a vote, without notice to the public so residents could have an opportunity for public comment.

Coryea’s contract requires at least 15 days notice prior to conducting a meeting to make a decision.

Bellamy proposed that the board at least wait until after the winter holidays to make a decision. The motion passed unanimously, so the board will meet Jan. 6 to decide Coryea's fate.

I took my first photography class when I was 11. My stepmom begged a local group to let me into the adults-only class, and armed with a 35 mm disposable camera, I started my journey toward multimedia journalism.
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