MANATEE COUNTY - Manatee County's Clerk of Court stands behind a scathing letter to the Manatee County commission ahead of their Monday meeting regarding whether or not to extend County Administrator Scott Hopes' contract, accusing Hopes of financial malfeasance. She says there's evidence Hopes is improperly using county money and a county vehicle.

In the letter, Angelina Colonneso says she has "grave concerns" about Hopes' performance, saying Hopes has not communicated with her office on multiple projects and is concerned about his use of money.

Colonneso says a $46,000 dollar vehicle was recently purchased as a "pool" vehicle but that there is evidence Hopes is using it exclusively to drive to and from work despite the fact that he gets a $450 per month car allowance. She also says Hopes requested a retirement account be opened for the deputy county administrator despite not being eligible for it.

In response, Manatee County Government information outreach manager Bill Logan gave us a statement from Commissioner Kevin Van Ostenbridge.

Ostenbridge says Colonneso’s letter is a political stunt and says her actions as Clerk have cost taxpayers millions of dollars, to which he is expected to speak about this later this week. Here is his email:

"As Chairman of the Manatee County Commission, I will not sit idly by while an elected official abuses the status of her office to attack one of our county employees. The Clerk’s letter is strategic and politically motivated. Recently, light has been shed on Miss Colonnesso’s actions as Clerk which resulted in the loss of millions of taxpayer dollars. Miss Colonnesso has chosen not to face the music and take responsibility for her own actions. Instead, she has taken a page from the Joe Biden playbook and is pointing a finger at others to distract from her failures. This political stunt attempts to undermine the sovereignty of our Board of County Commissioners. Manatee County taxpayers deserve better from their Clerk. 

Kevin Van Ostenbridge, 

Chairman, Manatee County Board of County Commissioners"

SNN asked Mr. Logan if Ostenbridge is definitively saying that her accusations are not true.

Logan says he can't speak for Ostenbridge but that the letter speaks for itself.

Mrs. Colonneso responded to Van Ostenbridge's comments, saying under her, the county made 70 million on its investments and followed with, in part:

"I would like to extend for the 4th time, an invitation for you to come and meet with my directors and myself to understand our office and how it interacts in its role as comptroller to the board... We mailed you a letter, November 18, 2020 along with the other new commissioners. To date, you are the only commissioner not to respond and even meet with us to find out what we do and how we operate and manage your $1.5 billion budget."

SNN asked if Colonneso stands behind her letter that there's evidence Scott Hopes has engaged in financial malfeasance, including the car he's using and the second retirement account he tried to open for his deputy.

She responded,

"I stand behind the detailed letter that I sent to the board chair."