New Manatee County Commissioners move to fire County Administrator
Manatee County Administrator Cheri Coryea.

Kevin Van Ostenbridge took office Tuesday.

Days after three Manatee County Administrators took office, a motion was made to fire County Administrator Cheri Coryea.

After a heated discussion, a special meeting was set for Jan. 6 to vote on whether to fire the county’s top executive. That meets a contractual requirement allowing the administrator 15 days notice before a determination, but County Commissioner Reggie Bellamy stressed that also puts the decision off until after the holiday season.

County Commissioner Kevin Van Ostenbridge made the motion, citing a $32.5-million land deal finalized four days before new commissioners, including himself, were sworn in.

Van Ostenbridge said he considered the deal bad business. He motioned to fire Coryea without cause but said the county must take a new direction quickly.

“You cannot run a $1.5 billion business based on feelings and emotion,” he said.

County Commission Chair Carol Whitmore, who voted against the termination motion, chastised Van Ostenbridge for raising the issue.

“I’m really upset (with) what you just did,” she said. “You have been in office for 50 freaking hours.”

But new County Commissioner James Satcher said there should be no surprise at the unhappiness about the land deal, and that new commissioners are put in the position of taking action. He defeated one of the incumbents who supported the deal.

The third commissioner who took office this week, George Kruse, said he was only supporting the motion because it allowed time to investigate the situation. He would not have voted to terminate Coryea immediately, he said, but will talk with Coryea and department administrators about her leadership in the coming weeks.

Bellamy said it was wrong to fire Coryea over a board decision.

“Evaluate whether she is doing what she is evaluated to do,” he said. ”It seems like the decision is about the Lena Road deal. Cheri did not make that decision. If you are just looking for an excuse, allow yourself time to understand.”

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected]


  • Sonja Fitch

    November 19, 2020 at 3:20 pm

    The blame game! People’s lives and livelihoods be damned!

  • Palmer Tom

    November 19, 2020 at 9:23 pm

    What land deal? It would have been useful to add some grafs on it.

  • DisplacedCTYankee

    November 20, 2020 at 11:58 am

    Palmer Tom: A good question. Not everybody lives here in Manatee County, the center of the universe. I do. The land deal is simply turning open land, and a lot of it, over to a developer who basically runs the county. Green space? Who needs any green space? Pave over it, all of it. We need more car dealerships and tattoo parlors here in my hood.

  • Terri Wonder

    November 20, 2020 at 5:03 pm

    Correya has served the county honorably in her tenure and with good intentions, but having said that, in Manatee County one walks into a minefield, especially the higher up you go in the administrative chain. It did not help her any that the BOCC changed the rules and ratified her her into her current position despite her not having the academic credentials for the current job. Even Democrats were upset by that at the time, although their tune has currently changed because Tea Party is currently involved in this recent orchestration against her. About the land deal. The county paid a high price. She and the staff were charged to investigate it but there is ordinarily a 30-day due diligence for citizens to inquire and that did not happen in this situation. This never sits well with the people of Manatee County. How can citizens know if there were not hidden costs or other problems with the land? Why 160 acres? There were many unanswered questions. I’m not saying that this is Correya’s fault entirely but she walked into a minefield when she got hired and the majority Republicans on the BOCC in that county and its administrators have always had a history of sowing citizens mistrust. It’s always Democrats and Tea Party who mistrust the BOCC and for good reason. This week it’s the Tea Party–and the Democrats, having lost against the Tea Party, are up in arms against the Tea Party. But the reality is that both political groups have good reason to mistrust Manatee County and its administration because both groups care about certain things locally: the abuse of children, the bankruptcy of the indigent care fund, the exploitation of the emergency reserve fund, the county’s failed NO KILL policy, etc. Maybe they should be acting together in order to see where they could agree on certain issues instead of arguing all the time. The public’s perception lack of transparency and the fact that the public did not get a 30-day review on Lena Road would have prevented this current fiasco. In Manatee, there is always someone hiding something downtown. And usually more than one thing.

  • Henry Raines

    November 22, 2020 at 10:45 pm

    The previous County Commissioner voted to approve this twice. The county administrator was carrying out their wishes. She was not the driver behind this. Sheriff Wells has spoken in favor of purchasing this land for Sheriff’s Department expansion in the east county.
    For more info from on the purchase:
    On Tuesday, Manatee County Commissioners voted 5-2 (Baugh and Jonnson dissenting) to spend $32.5 million to purchase 161 acres of a former dairy farm next to a county landfill off State Road 64 and Lena Road, in order to build a future operations center that will extend the life of the landfill, while also housing a facility for the public works department, utility field infrastructure, fleet support services, and a new east-county Manatee County Sheriff’s Department station.
    The purchase price came under fire because a market appraisal of the land came in much lower at $110,000 per acre, as opposed to the $187,488 per acre the county is paying. The fact that the sale was presented to commissioners with the urgent need to include only 30 days to perform due diligence further fueled speculation that a bad deal was being rammed through before the public could understand the issue and weigh in.
    There is no question that because of the rampant growth that continues to take place in east Manatee, the county must exercise foresight in acquiring land that will be needed to deliver services to taxpayers. The county currently has two such facilities, both in west county, that are used to do so now. Their use is being stretched toward capacity, however, and, as staff explained Tuesday, tremendous cost through inefficiencies as service trucks and patrol cars spend more time on the road and less time on site.

Comments are closed.


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