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Code Enforcement Controversy: KVO Accused of Improper Directives

Republished with permission from The Bradenton Times.

Text messages provide peek behind the scenes

Questions are being raised concerning Manatee County’s Code Enforcement Division and whether a county commissioner may be inappropriately giving directives to code enforcement officials. The allegations are related to political signs regarding the commissioner and a separate directive for code enforcement officers to pay “visits” to local businesses.

In recent weeks, TBT received information from a source who claimed personal knowledge of a situation alleged to involve a local business property, code enforcement, and a political sign regarding Commissioner Kevin Van Ostenbridge.

The source requested anonymity in exchange for sharing the information with our publication and using the information provided by the source, TBT was able to verify much of the source’s claim.

According to the source, the business had erected a yard sign that read, “Hell No!! KVO” that included a photo of Commissioner Van Ostenbridge’s face with a red circle and diagonal crossline over it—similar to what is seen on a no smoking sign. The bottom of the sign read, “Register and Vote.”

The business’ property is located in west Bradenton along 59th Street West, less than a mile from the Pointe West subdivision’s 59th Street entrance. Pointe West is also the location of Van Ostenbridge’s residence.

The source said that a county code enforcement officer paid a visit to the business in late April and spoke to an employee about the sign. According to our source, the code enforcement officer told the employee that they were sent to the establishment to inspect the sign per a “directive from the ninth floor.”

The “ninth floor” is the floor of the county administrative building where the offices of the county administrator and county commissioners are located.

According to the source, the code enforcement officer told the business that he would not remove the sign despite the directive because it was legally placed on private property.

Public records obtained by the Florida Center for Government Accountability and reviewed by TBT appear to corroborate the details of the source’s story.

Records of text messages sent and received between Code Enforcement Lieutenant Brad Szinc and a code enforcement officer reference the “KVO” sign and an instruction to the officer to remove it despite having verified that it was placed on private property.

On April 22, 2024, at approximately 12:30 p.m., a code enforcement officer referenced only as “Dan” in the text records writes to Szinc, “The sign KVO wants down is on private. The office is full, too. Ain’t gonna be my pic blasted for touching that thing. He can get it.”

Lieutenant Szinc texted back, “Send me the picture.”

The officer then sent his superior two photos as instructed. The first appears to show the sign’s proximity to the sidewalk, while the other shows that when looking straight on, the sign was placed further back than a nearby power pole. 

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