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Manatee County Administrator Scott Hopes steps down unexpectedly

Photo from press conference
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Scott Hopes, seen speaking at a press conference at the Piney Point processing plant April 2, 2021, stepped down Tuesday as Manatee County Administrator. According to a separation agreement, Hopes resigned without cause.

According to a separation agreement, Scott Hopes resigned without cause and is leaving in good standing with Manatee County.

Manatee County administrator Scott Hopes abruptly resigned Tuesday.

The Board of County Commissioners called an emergency meeting to approve the voluntary resignation. According to Hopes' separation agreement, he resigned without cause and is leaving immediately in good standing with the county.

Hopes, 62, spoke to the commissioners for less than a minute at the meeting.

"I do want to thank the board for the opportunity to have served the people in Manatee County for the past 22 months in this capacity. I do believe our team of leaders have accomplished a majority of what the board wanted me to accomplish, maybe we accomplished a little bit ahead of schedule," he said.

"I appreciate the employees who stepped up to the plate and put the board's priorities at the forefront and worked diligently to continue to do the work that matters for Manatee County."

Hopes will receive severance pay equal to 120 days in a lump sum payment.

He will also be paid for all vacation and sick leave that he accrued, along with other benefits.

Hopes had an annual salary of $215,000.

The board also approved Neighborhood Services Director Lee Washington as interim county administrator. It was not made clear at Tuesday's meeting how long he will serve in the position or whether the county will conduct a search for a permanent replacement.

Hopes was named to the job on an interim basis in April 2021, just hours before a leak at the former Piney Point phosphate plant nearly caused a major catastrophe. He assumed the position on a permanent basis a month later.

He replaced Cheri Coryea, who stepped down in Feb. 2021 after about two years in the job as well. She agreed to a separation agreement several months after newly-elected county commissioners pushed for her firing.

By a 4-3 vote, commissioners approved a one year contract extension for Hopes in May 2022, despite Manatee County Clerk of the Circuit Court Angelina Colonneso raising a number of issues, including include fiscal accountability concerns, an alleged lack of communication, and high employee turnover.

Commissioners praised Hopes' performance Tuesday, with some focusing on his response to the Piney Point leak and Hurricane Ian in 2022, although some residents complained about lengthy delays in debris pick-up following the storm.

Commissioner George Kruse called Hopes a "wartime general."

"You're somebody who came in and knew you were going to take the slings and the arrows and in a number of cases, you stood in front of us and took the hits so we wouldn't have to," Kruse said. "You made the changes that we felt needed to be made. I think we're seeing the benefits of all of those changes."

Before taking the job, Hopes was a Manatee County School Board member from 2018 to 2021. He had also previously served on the University of South Florida Board of Trustees, and was among the candidates to replace Judy Genshaft when she retired as USF president in 2019.

Hopes received all three of his degrees from USF: a Bachelor of Arts in biology in 1983, a Master of Public Health in 1985, and a Doctor of Business Administration in 2017.

He has also served as an executive and consultant to a number of health care companies and hospitals.

Mark Schreiner is the assistant news director and intern coordinator for WUSF News.
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