NewsSarasota, Manatee County


Manatee commissioner apologizes after criticism over role in vaccine distribution

Manatee commisioner
Posted at 5:51 PM, Feb 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-18 17:57:41-05

MANATEE COUNTY, Fl — Manatee County Commission Chair Vanessa Baugh is publicly apologizing after receiving criticism of her role in the distribution of additional vaccines including putting her own name on the list to receive one.

What started as the state supplying 3,000 additional vaccines at a Lakewood Ranch vaccination pod this week, quickly turned controversial.

Baugh is getting heat for directing county staff to use the county’s appointment lottery system list to hand pick the names of people from two zip codes of the Lakewood Ranch area to receive the vaccine. Other commissioners were not happy about it.

"What happened over the past few days undermines everything I’ve been telling my residents. Favoritism was show and that erodes people’s trust in their government," said Kevin Van Ostenbridge Commissioner (District-3) during a work session on Thursday.

At the beginning of the work session, Baugh publicly apologized after it was reported, and she admitted, to sending a list of names to the public safety director to be included in the vaccine appointments, including her own.

“I want to apologize to all the residents I have disappointed, according to some news outlets,” said Baugh.

Baugh says she has not received the vaccine.

During the session, Manatee commissioners thanked the governor for the additional vaccines, but say they’re disappointed in the Baugh's role in their distribution.

"The only rub I have is that the district’s commissioner chose the winners and the losers, who would get the vaccine and who wouldn’t," said Misty Servia, Commissioner (District-4).

"You’ve made a terrible mistake here. I think Commissioner Whitmore is right, it’s a lack of judgment," said Van Ostenbridge to Baugh. "I am however glad to hear you take responsibility."

Commissioners say going forward additional vaccine distributions will be selected from the lottery system.