Manatee County Commission to consider $11,485.50 legal fee reimbursement

skennedy@bradenton.comNovember 19, 2013 

MANATEE -- A plan will be considered today to reimburse Manatee County Commissioner Larry Bustle $11,485.50 for legal expenses he incurred last year dealing with an ethics complaint.

The Florida Election Commission cleared Bustle of wrongdoing after allegations were investigated over the course of more than 11 months, according to an opinion written by County Attorney Mickey Palmer.

The complaint dealt with a press conference Bustle held Aug. 28, 2012 at McKechnie Field to announce plans to build new Little League baseball fields at Blackstone Park, the opinion said.

It contended that Bustle unlawfully used the services of county employees during working hours to further his re-election campaign.

Corie Holmes, a Democrat who last year lost to incumbent Republican Bustle in a commission race, showed reporters documents that listed as complainants Perselphone E. Johnson, and Kelmie Bigelow.

Neither could be reached for comment late Monday.

Bustle hired local attorney Alan Prather to handle the matter, at an hourly rate of $310.

"It is the opinion of the county attorney that Commissioner Bustle's actions relative to the press conference constituted the performance of official duties and that the activities served a public purpose," according to Palmer.

He recommended commissioners approve payment of Bustle's attorney's fees.

Holmes, who is now running for a different county commission seat, objected to the arrangement.

"It's just sad the county's going to pay $11,000 in legal fees, all because people don't understand Sunshine laws and violations," he said.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7031. Follow her on Twittercface fontname="Roman" naxe="0" iaxis="0"/>

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