Manatee Port Authority to delay action against executive director after arrest

cschelle@bradenton.comSeptember 9, 2013 

Port Manatee Executive Director Carlos Buqueras after his arrest last month. MANATEE COUNTY SHERIFF'S OFFICE.

MANATEE -- Manatee County's Port Authority will not take any immediate action against its executive director who was arrested over the weekend and faces domestic battery charges.

Carlos Buqueras, port executive director, was charged with a misdemeanor after a dispute with his wife Saturday over household bills, according to the Manatee County Sheriff's Office. Buqueras was released from Manatee County jail Sunday on $500 bond.

Port Authority Chairwoman Carol Whitmore said the authority will wait to make any decision about Buqueras' employment, based on advice by the port's law firm of Lewis, Longman & Walker of Bradenton.

Buqueras returned to work Monday while port officials discussed the Berth 12 expansion and luring more businesses to the port, Whitmore said. His arrest comes at a challenging time for a port preparing for increased traffic from the Panama Canal without a permanent second-in-command.

Buqueras fired the port's

deputy executive director, Robert J. Armstrong, on June 27, after criminal charges were lodged against Armstrong's son, also an employee at the port. Robert B. Armstrong, the son, was charged with a felony after sheriff's investigators said he stole thousands of dollars worth of port property to fund a drug habit.

But his father wasn't charged until July 23 with being an accessory to the crime, also a felony. Both Armstrongs were dismissed from the port before being prosecuted.

Whitmore said she isn't sure how the authority will handle a misdemeanor arrest in a domestic case.

"This is distressing, but we have to wait until all the facts come out," Whitmore said Monday.

Buqueras could lose his job for the battery charge, according to the Port Authority employee policy handbook.

Policy 5-702 (r) states port employees can be disciplined or dismissed for "any fraudulent, criminal or dishonest act(s) committed alone or in collusion with others, including but not limited to stealing, embezzlement, extortion, assault, battery or vandalism, whether committed on or off the job, and whether criminally prosecuted or not."

"Until the investigation and until all the facts are presented, I'm not going to make any judgment and not make any other comment besides that," Whitmore said.

Buqueras' arrest came after a dispute over bills at the couple's Parrish home, according to a Manatee County Sheriff's Office report. The argument prompted his wife to throw her ring into the pool, according to the affidavit.

The dispute turned physical when Buqueras allegedly pushed his wife to the ground and started to punch her, then dragged her into the house, according to an arrest affidavit. A sheriff's deputy took pictures of Buqueras' wife's back and noted a "red abrasion on her back" that would corroborate her story of being dragged.

This is Buqueras' first criminal offense in Manatee, according to court records.

Buqueras did not return calls for comment.

Charles Schelle, business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7095. Follow him on Twitter @ImYourChuck.

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