Tales from the Mark Side: The Conservative Voice in Manatee County
Manatee County takes action on code enforcement corruption. Will it be enough?
By Mark Young
I applaud Manatee County Commissioner Vanessa Baugh for turning over the county’s Inspector General’s report relating to code enforcemen’s culture of “favoritism,” to the state attorney’s office for review.
The IG’s report outlined one of the county’s biggest scandals in recent memory where code enforcement officers were looking the other way over illegal development practices at the new home of the Medieval Fair in Myakka City.
Baugh recently said that the IG report was the “tip of the iceberg,” and wants a full review of every county department while planning to implement new ethics policies.
I know this situation has been an issue for Baugh and some of the other commissioners, and I also know their hands were tied during the IG investigation in terms of speaking out.
It’s good to see that happening now, to include Manatee County Administrator Scott Hopes who said, “This has got to stop.”
I had a problem with allowing the Medieval Fair to take place this past November after all the lies that were told by the fair owners.
It is my hope that the fair will be held accountable for its actions in all of this, as well. I hope their development will undergo a full review and that it does, indeed, meet all county and state requirements, and that significant penalties will be included in any future permit approvals.
Perhaps the county allowed the fair to go on as scheduled despite all of the reports that the IG ultimately confirmed, because a process had to be followed to reach the point where we are now.
I disagree with that notion, but the decision can be forgiven if there is retribution for how the fair owners took advantage of personal and professional relationships at the expense of taxpayer trust.
In short, Baugh is right. The IG findings can’t be the end of this. It will take more than talk and policy reviews to regain trust. It will take actual consequence from the violators to those who were complicit.
These are positive first steps, but they cannot be the last steps taken, to include the county’s policy regarding whistleblowers. For the only person to have suffered actual consequences being the one person who came forward with the truth is not acceptable either.
I’m not a legal expert so I don’t know if incompetence and corruption can be prosecuted by the state attorney’s office, but I imagine to intentionally allow the violation of county codes – which are essentially county laws – will be enough to see some level of prosecution at some point.
This is a chance for the state attorney’s office to tell county taxpayers in no uncertain terms that a violation of citizen trust will not be tolerated. If not, I hope the county will do more on its own and weed out anyone and everyone who has turned their backs on the citizens they serve.
I will look forward to following this process. Regaining our trust is an easy fix if the right steps are taken.