Former political candidate tells Port Manatee board to put official on leave after son's arrest

skennedy@bradenton.comJune 20, 2013 

PORT MANATEE -- A top Manatee County Port Authority official should be put on leave until questions are answered about his ethical conduct and criminal charges lodged against his son, who also worked at the port.

That's what former Manatee County Commission candidate Corie Holmes told the authority board Thursday, saying, "I tell you today, you had a serious failure."

"Clearly, security concerns that were lacking" should be addressed, Holmes told the board.

He asked that port Deputy Executive Director and Chief Financial Officer Robert J. Armstrong be put on leave until an investigation into the arrest of his son, Robert Benton Armstrong, 24, is complete.

The younger Armstrong was arrested earlier this month on charges of possession of stolen property and false ownership of pawned items, and remains in jail, according to the Manatee County Sheriff's Office website. Some of the items were taken from the port, according to reports.

The board listened to Holmes, but took no action.

An investigation is underway by the port's attorney, Jennifer R. Cowan, who declined comment after the meeting, saying she preferred to wait until her report is complete.

"We have an ongoing investigation, and will have no further comments until we find out something more," said Port Executive Director Carlos Buqueras after the meeting.

Buqueras said he did not know anything about whether the younger Armstrong had had a previous criminal record, adding that the young man had passed a required security check before he was hired as a part-time worker to cut grass.

Later, the younger Armstrong did other types of work for the port involving computers, but Buqueras said he didn't know exactly what job title he had. The elder Armstrong was not at the meeting because he was attending the funeral of a family member, port officials said.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twitter @sarawrites.

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