MANATEE COUNTY (WFLA) – Deputies with the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office are actively investigating at 26-page complaint aimed at Commissioner Vanessa Baugh.
Paralegal Michael Barfield filed the complaint Monday. It accuses Baugh of ignoring the county’s Vaccine Standby Pool process between Feb. 9 and Feb. 15. It also says she “selected two zip codes within her own district, including friends and herself, that would receive the additional doses of COVID-19 vaccine at the pop-up site.”
“I heard from the victims through their emails. I read their emails. It was compelling testimony, if you will, explaining their frustration and aggravation about being essentially kicked out of the line so that affluent, politically-connected individuals could get the vaccine,” said Barfield. “That really moved me to say there has to be some kind of accountability here. This should not happen. We don’t play politics with the COVID vaccine. That is just a crime against humanity, in my opinion,” he continued.
There has been a public outcry for the commissioner to resign, but a motion to remove Baugh from her position as chair ultimately failed during a commission meeting Tuesday.
“At the end, the Board of County Commissioners decided not to remove her from the chair. What I’m saying today is OK, this issue is over, let’s move forward because we have to come together as a board so we can get the county’s business done.” said Commissioner Misty Servia.
Servia voted in favor of Baugh stepping down as chair of the board. She admits the ongoing sheriff’s office investigation is going to make moving forward tough.
“It is a difficult situation, especially if the sheriff finds that there was some criminal violation. We have to remember that this really is Vanessa Baugh’s issue now. I hope it is not the board’s issue. We have a lot of work to do,” said the commissioner.
8 On Your Side spoke with a criminal defense attorney unaffiliated with the case.
“I have read Michael Barfield’s complaint and in my legal opinion, it is a legally well-founded, well-written, well-reasoned complaint. I don’t think the sheriff’s department had any choice, but to investigate it after receiving a complaint written that well,” said attorney Derek Byrd.
Byrd says if convicted, Baugh could be subject to jail time.
“These are serious crimes regarding official misconduct, misconduct of official duties, and things of that nature so it is quite serious,” said Byrd. “I have been a criminal defense lawyer in this town for almost 30 years. If I could give Miss Baugh any advice, it would be to hire a criminal defense attorney, like yesterday, because those are some serious allegations that are contained in that complaint,” he continued.
Commissioner Baugh did not return our requests for comment on this story.