2 Manatee commissioners boycott Gov. Scott's visit

skennedy@bradenton.comMay 29, 2014 

FL Governor Rick Scott speaks during a campaign stop at Marine Concepts in Bradenton today. The business recently moved from Cape Coral to the Whitfield business district. Standing immediately behind and to the left of Governor Scott are Lt. Governor Carlos Lopez-Cantera and Rep. Jim Boyd, far left. PAUL VIDELA/Bradenton Herald

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MANATEE -- Five Manatee County commissioners attended a campaign event Thursday for Gov. Rick Scott, but two colleagues boycotted the visit, contending a postponed budget workshop should have taken first priority.

"I wanted to go to this event, but I didn't like the way it was handled," said Commissioner Robin DiSabatino, a Republican who stayed at county headquarters to intercept anyone who might not have heard the budget session was postponed. "The public wasn't noticed in enough time. I don't think it was proper notice.

"It could even have been announced to 100 people last night," she added, referring to a health care session Wednesday attended by a crowd and all the commissioners.

Commissioner Michael Gallen, a Democrat, also waited at the county building to inform anyone who may not have gotten word the 1:30 p.m. budget hearing was postponed.

"I wanted to make sure people planning on coming didn't show up to an empty room," said Gallen.

Those attending the governor's event at Marine Concepts on Whitfield Avenue included commission Chairman Larry Bustle and Commissioners Carol Whitmore, John Chappie, Vanessa Baugh and Betsy Benac, all Republicans.

"When the governor comes to Manatee County to celebrate 200 jobs in South County, which desperately needs economic redevelopment, as a county commissioner I had to be there," said Whitmore after the governor's visit.

"We went there as Manatee County commissioners and supporters of South County to a business that hired 120 more people than they originally had committed to," she added, noting her position as port authority chairwoman also dictated she attend.

Benac said she "was kind of surprised that some people thought it was a problem," since notice was provided, although there was "a little bit of a hiccup" in the process.

She said only one person showed up for the budget meeting, and that was because his phone was off, and he didn't hear a message about its postponement.

"I think it was a great event to celebrate the growth of jobs ... and I'm really happy I had the chance to attend," said Benac, adding she hoped everyone would note the revised budget session schedule.

"Although two commissioners complained about it, it's sad we don't stand together as one, but if that's what they want to do, it doesn't change anything. I don't think it changes anything as far as the budget goes," Baugh said. "I think we can make a mountain out of a molehill, but I don't think there's any need."

Bustle and Chappie did not respond to calls for comment.

This week, the governor's office invited Manatee and Sarasota county commissions to attend, and Manatee commissioners asked to reschedule the workshop, according to Nick Azzara, county information outreach manager.

Staff members Tuesday postponed it by adjusting commissioner calendars and posting the change on the county website calendar and a public notice board on the first floor of the county building, said Azzara.

Azzara said he mistakenly assumed notice went to a broad distribution list of local media and residents who have asked to be informed on meeting agenda items, and he did not do a press release announcing the change.

"We regret the confusion, but we've learned from it," he said.

Going forward, the same broad group will be included anytime a meeting is postponed or canceled, he added.

The budget session was rescheduled for 1:30 p.m. Tuesday at Manatee County Administrative Center, 1112 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton.

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

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