MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – A group of Manatee County residents have had enough and want County Commission Chairman Vanessa Baugh to resign or at least step down as chairman.
Residents like Robyne Richardson are fed up.
“What she did was completely immoral, and wrong and she’s being criminally investigated for it,” Richardson said. “And they won’t even remove her chair position.”
The group, just shy of two dozen residents, held signs and chanted outside of the Popi’s Place Restaurant on U.S. 301 in Ellenton. Commissioner George Kruse had a speaking engagement there on Thursday night, and they wanted to make sure he knew how they feel.
Commission Chairman Vanessa Baugh worked with the governor’s office to set up a pop-up vaccination site for residents in the 34202 and 34211 zip codes, two of Manatee County’s wealthiest areas.
Baugh has declined 8 On Your Side requests for an interview on the matter but addressed citizens at a commission meeting last month.
“I stand by the citizens of Manatee County. And I try to do the right thing,” Baugh said. “So for those who are not happy with me, I’m sorry. But that’s just the way it is.”
Paralegal Michael Barfield filed a complaint with the sheriff’s office, prompting an investigation into the commissioner’s actions and involvement in the clinic.
Text messages obtained by 8 On Your Side indicate the clinic’s placement might benefit Governor Ron Desantis in seeking re-election in 2022.
Dana Dickson can’t understand why county leaders aren’t taking action.
“And they want us to just forget about it. They want us to just forget about it and move on. And we’ve got to stop doing that. And that’s all we do. She needs to be held accountable for what she’s done,” said Dickson. “Vanessa Baugh violated public trust when she coordinated that elite VIP clinic, and I just can’t sit silently by. I mean this is a blatant case of corruption.”
Dawn Kitterman organized the protest. She says the group is simply made up of concerned residents. They have no party or political affiliation.
“This situation is really striking outrage in all of us. Because it’s not about a policy, it’s about principle,” Kitterman adding. “Legitimately, we are just residents coming together. There are Democrats and Republicans and non-party people. It doesn’t really matter what party or non-party you are associated with.”