Florida official under sheriff's investigation after coronavirus vaccine VIP list scandal

Manatee County Commissioner Vanessa Baugh said Gov. Ron DeSantis chose her district for its high concentration of seniors

A Florida sheriff’s department is now investigating whether a county commissioner violated state law after creating a vaccine VIP list and helping establish coronavirus pop-up clinics in two wealthy ZIP codes.

The Manatee County Sheriff’s Office has since launched an investigation into Commissioner Vanessa Baugh since she became embroiled in a scandal last week. In emails first obtained by the Bradenton Herald, Baugh allegedly discussed putting herself and some of her friend whom did not qualify to receive the vaccine at this time on a VIP list to skip the line.

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But a board of commissioners’ vote for her ouster failed Tuesday, meaning she can stay in the position.

A recent complaint filed with the sheriff’s office by Sarasota paralegal Michael Barfield alleges Baugh may have violated at least one of three state statutes: misuse of public position, official misconduct and misuse of confidential information, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

"When Baugh inserted individuals and herself on a COVID-19 vaccine distribution list, she acted contrary to the adopted Vaccine Standby Pool and used her official position to secure a special privilege, benefit, or exemption for herself and others," Barfield wrote. 

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Gov. Ron DeSantis allocated 3,000 vaccines to two ZIP codes within Lakewood Ranch. Baugh said it was her idea to choose the two specific ZIP codes, one of which is where she resides, and DeSantis chose her district in the first place because he wanted to concentrate vaccines in areas with a high population of seniors, Bay News 9 reported.

"I have apologized to my constituents and my colleagues for a lapse in judgment," Baugh said in a statement to WWSB on Monday. "These petty partisan political calls are nothing more than the divisive politics our Nation needs to steer away from. I will continue working to bring more vaccine to Manatee County and lead us through this pandemic."

Baugh told the station she has not received the vaccine herself. She did not respond to a Fox News request for comment Thursday.

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Manatee County Democrats, as well as U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, D-Fla., had called on Baugh to resign. But a vote on a motion to remove Baugh called by Commissioner Reggie Bellamy failed to pass Tuesday.