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News Section: Local Government

BOCC Chairman Loses Cool, Threatens to Ban Speakers

No Kill advocates demand answers on ineptitude

Published Wednesday, July 30, 2014 10:30 am

BRADENTON -- It could have been a scene from the movie ... And Justice for All, only Manatee County Commission Chairman Larry Bustle didn't take home any Academy Awards, just a reprimand from some fellow commissioners, some legal advice from the county attorney and an earful from Manatee County citizens. The sentiment from all: You went too far.


It is no secret that Bustle is not what you'd call a comment friendly chair. He is known to routinely cut the microphones of members of the public who disagree with his positions and abruptly end any commentary that casts one of his political allies in a negative light under the guise of condemning them as "personal attacks."  Bustle even tried unsuccessfully to have the already brief limit of three minutes per citizen/per meeting further reduced. At Tuesday's meeting, Bustle reached even further, saying he would ban certain members from giving comment as long as he is chair.


In a couple of locations inside of the BOCC chambers, there are mounted digital countdown clocks with a tiny yellow light that comes on during the last 30 seconds of the allotted three minutes. For a couple of weeks, Bustle had the clerk put the little timer that beeped at the end up to the microphone, sending a piercing noise ecoing through the chambers. However, the three-minute limit is not uniformly enforced and Bustle's reaction to what is being said seems to be a deciding factor.


On Tuesday, Bustle was so disturbed by a stern reprimand directed at the commission by Bill Wheeler for coming up short on their responsibility to county residents, that he only recognized Wheeler among the commenters that had gone past their allotted three minutes to that point.


Bustle was quick to call Wheeler to sit down without letting him finish his statement. Wheeler responded, "When I am done."


Bustle must have taken the 85 year-old Wheeler's slow and measured response as disobedience, because he threatened to turn off Wheeler's microphone and have him removed from the podium. Wheeler, a longtime citizen watchdog and FMCCA officer, replied, "Well, you will just have to do that."


As the female Sheriff's deputy slowly migrated to the front of the dais, softly telling Wheeler that it was time to return to his seat, Wheeler said, "What are you going to do, arrest me?" After putting his hands together in a cuff-like fashion, then extending his escort arm out to the deputy, he and she walked to the back of the room.


Bustle must have seen this as a victory, because from that point on he became Quick Draw McGraw with split-second timer calls and cutting the microphone, then publicly announcing that he would never let Wheeler or fellow regular Linda Neely speak at his dais so long as he was chairman.


Nathan Levinson, one of the lead advocates for "No Kill" spoke of the "illegal retaliation by Animal Services" that resulted in even more dogs being euthanized since the No Kill program began three years ago. When Levinson said the orders must have come from "the top of the chain of command," his microphone was turned off.


During her turn at the podium Neely told Bustle, "You may not like what someone might say up here, but it is our constitutional right." Neely told the commission that their actions were often rude and out of order. Bustle threatened Neely with the kill switch. 


Seemingly owed to sheer embarrassment by the spectacle, some other commissioners suggested the chair needed to find another way to deal with calming the crowd. But the commission was just back from a month long vacation and the No Kill issue was one of the passion-driven items that was left hanging over the edge of no resolve when they recessed. The people wanted to be heard.


Commissioners Baugh, Benac and Whitmore did come to the rescue of the incompetence that was being slung at Bustle for not responsibly taking action to address the debacles of the county's Animal Service Department's No Kill program.


All three repeatedly said, "There is nothing we can do until the Sheriff has completed the investigation and gives us the report." Then all three reminded the audience that if they fire someone without the proper grounds, they will be sued, adding again, "We are waiting for the report."


During Commissioner comments, County Administrator Ed Hunzeker said, "Well, the Sheriff won't be giving us a report. He will, or won't, arrest someone, and that will be that."


Hunzeker also said "…the States Attorney doesn't give reports either, and neither does the Clerk of the Court." Hunzeker said he talked to Clerk of the Court Chips Shore and that his office had pulled any idea of investigating the matter. 


Hunzeker also said that the county has contracted a private company, "one that specializes at these kind of things," to deliver a matrix of where to go from here regarding Animal Services. 


Commissioner DiSabatino asked when and how the matrix would be produced. The answer was the commission voted to put an independent investigation together, but the who and when was not voted on. 


DiSabatino also inquired to the cost of that independent investigation and Hunzeker responded that it would be $50,000.


Commissioner Whitmore said, "I am the one who has gotten the most criticism, and blame."


It might be noted that Whitmore also received the proclamations and accolades for her efforts as the leading No Kill advocate, yet it has been almost a year since emails of complaints exposing the follies surrounding the No Kill policy. As they say, own the drought, own the flood.


Whitmore also said, "Just because somebody says something on some social media page, we just can't fire someone," mentioning nothing of the hundreds of emails she has received complaining about the horrific conditions over the last year, or the fact that two employees seem to have indeed been fired over the recent YMCA scandal, before the investigation was even handed over to the Sheriff's office.


The next regular meeting of the board is scheduled for Tuesday August 12 at 9 a.m. The board will also convene for a land use meeting on Thursday, August 7.

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Dear Mr. Rehil, the two subjects we notice in your article deserved two separate articles in our opinion because both touch us deeply, One because the criminal actions of Mr. Bustle a common politician, who reeks of political manure, which is normal in our escalating world of overbearing government. (Manatee BoCC is not unique when it comes to such bottom dwellers.)

However, Manatee Has one asset our Hardee County lacks, that being an attorney who at least had enough respect for the un enforced statutes, and constitutions. The statement he made that it is illegal to silence a citizen would astonish us, should Ken Evers Hardees County?s attorney make such a similar public acknowledgement. (Ken certainly cast a black shadow over his already shady appearing occupation.)

We make our observation and comparison from the Manatee attorneys? one statement you mention in your article and clarification by commenter, Barbara Angelucci in none Face book comments, along with being well versed in Hardee government.
My point of two articles needed is the issues both are humongous and heart wrenching to people, who have a heart for our God given best friends who show us in their short lives, agape love, unlike human friends, and deserve all the media attention they can get

The other issue of overbearing government also addressed from the beginning of our government, when our forefathers under stood the meaning of freedom from oppressive government, to the point they offered remedy for such government, such as this Manatee CC chairman living out his dictator type government as if he is God.

No fears of the citizenry exist today by the fools we elect to govern us, normally from a pool of already corrupted candidates, narrowing our quality choices to near none. These fools come to us versed in what they can get by with well prepared as self-serving dictators.

At some point in time the rights to air our grievance?s and opinions before government at all levels, ceased to exist because of the over powering government, and the watering of enforcement policies regarding our fundamental rights, including the constitution and subsequent laws mint two enforce our freedom.

Over time over powering government evolved as we sat back and quietly allowed the systematic socialization of our nation, by social-minded fools we elected, and failed to hold accountable for crimes of overbearing governing. Which has become a pragmatically unsurmountable issue.

Because,of good men doing nothing in their local governments, also because we trusted the elected fools of our choosing and chose to ignore their blatant failure as public servants.

Desiccating the oaths and meaning of the oaths that were supposedly administered to these self-serving individuals, mint to guide them through their actions as public serving officials, while automatically reverting to serving themselves, and subsequently become overbearing.

If anyone thinks, they have the solution think twice those you elected have been continually, dewatering most any solution you may consider, including their turning or allowing the election process into a money controlled lobbyist arena.

Where did the word dictator slip off to seemingly it is a curse word or illegal word, when it describes such low life politicians, who dictate what we do in our not so free society. That has embraced such characters who have no leader qualities other, than power control and dictator type service that favors certain lobbyist, colleagues, or benefiters to themselves or their colleagues and family.
Frank being Frank
Posted by Frank Kirkland on August 22, 2014

As one of the victims of Mr. Bustle's short temper at the Long Bar Pointe hearing, it occurs to me that this gentleman may need a medical work-up regarding his frequent flares of temper. It is not unusual for those in the early stages of dementia to become unable to control their behavior, especially in the manner displayed by Mr. Bustle. I suggest an exam be required by rational commissioners if Mr. Bustle is to complete his term.
Posted by Nancy R Dean on July 31, 2014

Why would the conversation about Animal Services at yesterday's BOCC meeting keep coming back to Waiting For The Reports. There are none, but I do hope there will be some arrests. Who is the Clerk of the Court protecting by refusing to investigate the matter. After Bustle was gently reminded by the county attorney that he could not bar anyone from speaking, the attorney did say that no one can filibuster. When did that every happen as citizens just want to give their input which is most times difficult in three minutes. The attorney stated that filibustering would deny other citizens the right to speak. Duh, as long as speaking cards are filled out all citizens would been given their due process to speak.

The County is again hiring a pricey consultant to look into the Animal Services issue. This so call $50,000 matrix reeks of the matrix the County did for an even great dollar amount so that builders would know exactly what was expected of them....they even worked with the County on this. Yet, no sooner was the money spent on this matrix along comes Riva Trace with double digit special and specific approvals to circumvent the LDC and Comp Plan. Mr. Beruff is the master of getting these special/specific approvals and most of the Commissioners and staff must agree with that because they always allow it.

It certainly was a very bad day in Manatee County. The chair was out of order and disrespectful to citizens who pay their salaries. He needs to publicly apologize to these citizens.
Posted by Barbara Angelucci on July 30, 2014

Now Now Larry, you forgot what your expensive service academy preached: Above all be a gentleman. You can't continue to hide behind civility when you fail to set the example. And I wish you would impose a time limit on all speakers, be they Pat Neal, Carlos Beruff and your other pals. And Carol Baby, you bow to your fans but run from criticism. What's that say about you?
Posted by joe kane on July 30, 2014

Now Now Larry, you forgot what your expensive service academy preached: Above all be a gentleman. You can't continue to hide behind civility when you fail to set the example. And I wish you would impose a time limit on all speakers, be they Pat Neal, Carlos Beruff and your other pals. And Carol Baby, you bow to your fans but run from criticism. What's that say about you?
Posted by joe kane on July 30, 2014

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