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Washington’s Whistleblower Complaint Sheds More Light on BOCC Machinations

The Bradenton Times by Dennis “Mitch” Maley

A whistleblower complaint filed by former acting Manatee County Administrator Lee Washington alleges that sunshine, ethics, and malfeasance violations occurred when Manatee County Commissioners Vanessa Baugh and Mike Rahn conspired to influence Washington to hire their close friend and associate John Mast as a deputy county administrator.

In a document dated June 15, 2023, first obtained by the Florida Center for Government Accountability, Washington alleged that on March 1, 2023, he was summoned to lunch with commissioners Baugh and Rahn, who had also invited Jon Mast, CEO of the Manatee-Sarasota Building Industry Association. Washington said both commissioners advocated for him to select Mr. Mast for the deputy administrator position that had been left vacant following the Teitelbaum debacle.

According to Washington, he was told the county could benefit from him “finding a way to bring (Mast) on board,” as it moved forward with the rewrite of both the comprehensive land use plan and land development code. Washington alleged that Commissioner Baugh told him, “Courtney (De Pol) is cute and bright, but she’s too young and needs a mentor.” Two members of the board discussing what was sure to be a future agenda item outside of a public meeting is a clear violation of Florida’s extensive government in the sunshine laws.

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