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State investigation concludes Van Ostenbridge had ‘no wrongful intent’

Written by on Friday, February 2, 2024

Florida Ethics Commission looked into the Manatee commissioner’s use of public funds to buy voter data.

Staff report

The Bradenton Times

Van Ostenbridge

BRADENTON — The Florida Commission on Ethics has concluded its investigation into Manatee County Commissioner Kevin Van Ostenbridge over a citizen-launched complaint that he violated ethics rules when he used a county credit card to purchase highly detailed voter data in his district.

The expenditure was flagged in an audit conducted by the Manatee County Clerk of the Circuit Court’s Inspector General’s office.

“One (1) purchase for $1,609 was made by Commissioner Van Ostenbridge from McShane LLC, a Nevada-based political consulting firm, for the purchase of District 3 registered voter data. According to the commissioner and his aide, the purchase was to obtain a district-wide (District 3) resident email list for distribution of the commissioner’s non-political, informational email newsletter. However, in addition to including email addresses for more than 19,000 registered voters, the data purchased also contained more than 200 fields of personal and voter demographic information of the individuals,” the report detailed.

Van Ostenbridge initially defended the purchase. However, the commissioner did an about-face and reimbursed the county for the data purchase the day after the story broke in The Bradenton Times. The ethics investigation found insufficient evidence that the commissioner had displayed “wrongful intent” in purchasing the data. This threshold is required for finding probable cause in violating Article II, Section 8(h)(2) of the Florida Constitution which deals with the misuse of a public position.

Click here to read the investigation report. Click here to read the advocate’s recommendation.

 

This article first appeared in The Bradenton Times. To read the original version, click here.