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Fired Manatee employee says Scott Hopes told him to suppress sexual harassment claim

By Jesse Mendoza, Sarasota Herald-Tribune,


After his sudden resignation in February, new claims against former Manatee County administrator Scott Hopes shed light on the strife within his leadership team.

Hopes separated from Manatee County after attempting to hire longtime colleague Mitchell Teitelbaum as the fourth deputy administrator. Teitelbaum ultimately declined the role after a sexual harassment allegation against him .

Robert Reinshuttle, another former deputy administrator who worked under Hopes and was also terminated the same week, claims he witnessed the incident involving Teitelbaum. He said Hopes directed him and human resources staff to suppress information and is adamant his termination was an act of retaliation for reporting the matter to county commissioners.

In case you missed it: Hopes responds to resignation, describes separation from Manatee County as 'mutual'

Also: Trail of settlement payments paints picture of turbulent years at Manatee County

"I was privy to the conversations Mr. Hopes had with the HR Director instructing her to take a series of adverse actions against the victim in this situation as well as a supervisor and a witness," Reinshuttle wrote in emails sent to Manatee County commissioners on Feb. 10 and Feb. 15.

"Hopes stated that we had known each other for 25 years and asked me to suppress that information," he wrote. "He instructed me not to speak with commissioners about this. Subsequently, he took away responsibilities for HR (which was one of my departments) and took away my role as acting director of the Department of Public Safety."

Manatee County commissioners decided not to pursue an investigation in January, with the majority of the board reasoning that Teitelbaum had declined the position and had never been officially employed by the county. No official vote was cast, but commissioners immediately voted 6 to 1 rescind their vote that had confirmed Teitelbaum to the deputy county administrator role.Reinshuttle's email indicates Hopes, unhappy with the decision, referred the complaint to an outside law firm regardless of the vote. Hopes contests that assertion, and said he only engaged with a third party firm prior to the board's decision.

Also: Manatee County declines a third-party investigation requested by Teitelbaum

"This action was directly contrary to the BOCC vote last month NOT to investigate this matter any further," Reinshuttle said. "Consequently, I took this information to the BOCC as Hopes actions were completely insubordinate ... as a direct result, I was terminated."

Reinshuttle told the Herald-Tribune the county has only contacted him once since sending those emails, where he also asked commissioners for his old job back.

Caught in the crossfire

Reinshuttle's termination was not clean cut.

Hopes gave the former deputy an ultimatum to resign within 24 hours or be terminated; except Hopes himself resigned before Reinshuttle had the opportunity to choose either of those options.

He said he did not terminate Reinshuttle. Instead, he was terminated by acting administrator Lee Washington, who previously worked as director of Community and Veterans Services under Reinshuttle. Washington was named acting administrator during the same meeting Hopes resigned.

"Numerous Directors who reported to Mr. Reinshuttle did not feel adequately supported, and I had begun to reduce Mr. Reinshuttle's workload to provide him an opportunity to be successful," Hopes said.

Reinshuttle remains adamant his termination was retaliation and doubled down on his claim when reached for comment by the Herald-Tribune on Monday.

"Washington was one of my subordinates," Reinshuttle said. "He had very little to do with any of this. Make no mistake. It was Hopes retaliating against me."

Deleted text messages

Mystery surrounding Hopes resignation has led to questions about the handling of public records during his final day working for the county.

Manatee County Sheriff's Office is investigating a complaint made by Michael Barfield, Director of Public Access at Florida Center for Government Accountability , that claims Hopes reset his county devices before turning it in to Information Technology staff. The investigation is ongoing, and no further details are currently available.

Hopes said records on both devices were automatically backed up remotely by the county's IT department and that text messaging was disabled on county phones in mid 2022.

"The sequence of events surrounding Dr. Hopes last day as county administrator is disturbing," Barfield said. "I’m confident that the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office will investigate and determine whether any laws were broken.”

This article originally appeared on Sarasota Herald-Tribune: Fired Manatee employee says Scott Hopes told him to suppress sexual harassment claim

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