On Wednesday, February 21, 2024, ABC7 reported that former Manatee County Administrator Scott Hopes had asked the judge presiding over his grand theft case to recuse himself from the case.

Hopes, who faces felony charges for allegedly falsifying time card records and overpaying himself thousands during hurricanes, claimed in a motion filed on February 16th that Circuit Court Judge Stephen Whyte had a conflict of interest due to previously working as general counsel for the Manatee County Clerk’s office.

The charges against Hopes stemmed from an audit conducted by the Manatee County Clerk Inspector General’s office. The alleged crimes occurred between 2021 and 2022. Judge Whyte became a circuit court judge in 2019. Still, Hopes argued in his motion that he feared not receiving a fair and impartial trial or pretrial hearings with Judge Whyte presiding over the case.

Separately, the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office alleges in a probable cause affidavit that Hopes forged signatures and illegally notarized documents clearing debts for three county residents. Hopes is also accused of erasing records from his county-issued phone before resigning as county administrator in February 2023.

That resignation came as part of a separation agreement where Hopes voluntarily left his role in good standing and received four months of severance pay as well as payouts for unused sick and vacation time along with continued health insurance for a year. The state attorney’s office has formally charged Hopes with three third-degree felony counts.



Source: ABC7