Did an $8K fine and national embarrassment change a county commissioner’s attitude?

No ***king way

James Leftus
6 min readFeb 14


One of many memorable scenes in the Titanic movie begins with Rose’s mother worrying that the lifeboats won’t be seated by class.

Rose’s response: “Oh mother, shut up! Don’t you understand? The water is freezing and there aren’t enough boats. Not enough by half. Half the people on this ship are going to die.”

Then Rose’s fiancé, Cal Hockley, replies: “Not the better half.”

That scene was recreated in February, 2021, when the Dark Fuhrer, the governor of Florida, contacted Manatee County’s Cal Hockley, known locally as Rex Jensen.

I got an extra 3,000 doses of Covid vaccine that I’d like to personally deliver to Manatee County, the governor told Jensen.

Jensen passes the information on to the then-County Commission Chair, Vanessa Baugh — a Republican, of course — then the two texted back-and-forth like elementary school kids:

Jensen: “Gov said he might show up. Should try to see if that would help him get exposure here.”

Baugh: “Excellent point. After all, 22 is right around the corner.”

(You can almost hear the giggles from these two as they text about their favorite Fuhrer.)

Jensen: “Yup and he is better known on east side. Premiere (the vaccination site) could have a nice setup for him.”

Baugh: “Absolutely, we will make a very big deal about having it at Premier. This can be huge for him.”

(JENSEN stated he did receive the vaccine from the three thousand in question. — MCSO report. Rich, White Guys like Cal Hockley and Rex Jensen always get a seat in the lifeboat.)

Republican Commissioner Vanessa Baugh by-passed the county health department’s vaccine lottery, and involved no other commissioners in her romp into malfeasance.

No wait, it gets better:

Using county staff, Baugh picked the two whitest and wealthiest Zip Codes, including a sizeable part of her district. Anyone eligible — at that time 65 or older, white and wealthy — would be eligible to be vaccinated. The commissioner used county staff to violate a county directive which said all vaccinations will be chosen at random from a county-wide list, and she did so over staff objections.

Perhaps she imagined a Trumpian fantasy of herself as a dedicated public servant, arranging to bring 3,000 vaccinations to Manatee County’s seniors. With the Covid pandemic devouring Florida in early 2021 — deaths just shy of 30,000 by the end of February, 2021 — maybe Baugh envisioned herself as a life saving heroine.


She was in it for the political profit, like every other Florida GQP politician. By adding her own name to the list, she certified her self interest, just as Rex Jensen did.

On February 13, 2021, the local newspaper and the county health department had spent lots of time broadcasting the same message:

It’s entirely up to a computer to decide who will get a vaccine and when. — Bradenton Herald

Meanwhile . . . Baugh was not only directing county staff to develop a VIP Pool, but added a VIP List that included Jensen and herself, invoking the unwritten but traditional Manatee County W&W Rule. (White and Wealthy go first.)

According to the Bradenton Herald, “the two zip codes eligible for vaccines are also two of the county’s wealthiest. According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, the median income in both zip codes is more than double the county’s overall median income.”

If the public’s unified reaction to Baugh’s maneuvering could be expressed, it would be a toss up between WTF and WTAF.

The ensuing outrage resulted in what amounted to class warfare. A criminal complaint was filed with the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office. Another complaint found its way to the Florida Commission of Ethics. People staged protests outside the county commission meetings.

In response, Baugh offered a number of lame excuses:

  • 3,000 seniors are vaccinated because of me.
  • Nobody objected until the media got involved.
  • If I had to do it over again, I’d do the same thing.

To her credit, Baugh’s excuses were very similar to the governor’s statements made during his hissy fit over anyone questioning his motivation.

  • If Manatee County doesn’t want the extra vaccine, I’ll send it to counties that do, DeSantis told the press.
  • It’s the media’s fault. The media doesn’t want the vaccine going to people who do not share their leftist agenda, according to the Dark Fuhrer.

(The Dark Fuhrer was already catching political heat from his other Florida pop-up vaccination sites in W&W neighborhoods, as well as his special vaccine distribution scam with the Publix Supermarkets chain . . . which just coincidentally happened after a $100,000 political donation to the governor’s re-election campaign.)

But while mini-me DeSantis could dismiss the entire incident by stamping his tiny feet on the stage and slinging mud at the media, Baugh had no such standing.

This was abundantly apparent when the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office released its report on the investigation of Baugh. The report appears to have had two goals:

  1. ) Ensure the governor’s office was completely cleared of even the hint of wrong-doing without exception.
  2. ) Play “Hot Potato” with the state ethics commission in order to clear the sheriff and local state attorney of any further involvement in the incident.

There is a phrase in the Florida sheriff’s offices for investigations like this. An investigator is summoned to meet with the sheriff and told to “go un-fuck this.” In Manatee County, the directive went from the sheriff, to a major, and then to a sergeant.

“Go un-fuck this.”

Under the supervision of a major, the assigned sergeant did just that:

Clear the governor

DESANTIS’ Deputy Chief of Staff maintained that she never discussed with
BAUGH restricting the vaccine registrant pool for the PSC event to either residents of any particular zip codes or to any particular community, namely Lakewood Ranch. She maintained that Governor DESANTIS expressly intended the PSC event to target Lakewood Ranch due to the low vaccination rate at that time. — MCSO report

Toss the hot potato to the Florida Ethics Commission.

Barring new evidence coming to light in the future, there is no probable cause to charge Manatee County Commissioner Vanessa BAUGH with a criminal offense at this time. Since statutory ethics violations do not fall within the purview of the Manatee County Sheriffs Office, this investigative report will be promptly forwarded to the Florida Commission on Ethics per their request. -MCSO report

Two years after the pop-up vaccination event for the White and Wealthy of Manatee County, the Florida Ethics Commission fined Baugh $8,000 and issued a public reprimand.

Elizabeth Miller, who investigated the ethics complaints and worked on the agreement deal with Baugh’s attorney, explained the contents of the agreement.

“(Baugh) admits the violation. She admits that while she was a public officer, she used or attempted to use her official position to secure a special privilege or benefit for herself or others,” said Miller. “Also, she admits that her actions were corrupt.” — Bradenton Herald.

“I want to apologize to all the residents I have disappointed, according to some news outlets,” Baugh said, still attempting to blame the media for predicament.

“The sad part is the people of Manatee County have suffered because of it in many ways, some of which I should have handled in a different way, but I didn’t. Lesson learned for me,” Baugh said. “But at the same time, there was a lot more to it that was just false that I find sad that the people of Manatee had to experience.”

(Baugh’s apology sounds about as full of remorse as statements by Arkansas low-life Bigo Barnett, a January 6 defendant.)

With the two year national embarrassment finally over, will Baugh have learned anything?

Not a fucking chance.

Commissioner Baugh now wants to re-install the Confederate monument in the courthouse square in Bradenton. The monument was removed in 2017.

Hanlon’s Razor anyone?



James Leftus

Groucho Marxist writer on the Florida Gulf Coast. Left Behind Volunteer. Former Youth International Party member. Founder AARP ANTIFA club.