Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Scandal Apparent to All except Bustle

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Scandal Apparent to All except Bustle

Article excerpt

It took a county commissioner to give me a surprising new perspective on what looked like an obvious nepotism scandal at Port Manatee.

Everyone else I talked to had the same idea I had about events that led to the arrest of the drug-addicted son of Robert J. Armstrong, the port's chief financial officer and deputy executive director.

The younger Armstrong was allegedly stealing and pawning thousands of dollars worth of electronic items and power tools and such from the port. The son, Robert B. Armstrong, had access to the loot because he also worked there.

He was hired two years ago to cut grass there despite a dozen arrests involving possession of heroin, cocaine, marijuana, oxycodone, Xanax, Klonopin and other drugs.

Given the security concerns at the port -- a potential entry point for everything from illegal drug shipments to dirty nuclear bombs smuggled by terrorists -- it seems surprising he was approved even for that $10-an-hour job as a grounds laborer. Was influence by his father involved?

A logical guess, I thought. But what makes it more logical is the way the young addict made an amazingly fast rise from part-time grass cutter to full-time employee with an indoor office and a $40,000 salary.

Each step up was approved by a supervisor who sounds, in reports, like a real fan of the man's work. But maybe that supervisor just knew what his boss wanted. Fast rises up the ladder for grass cutters are only likely for amazingly good and dedicated workers. Employees actively enmeshed in full-blown drug addiction rarely come off that way.

And this young addict was allegedly stealing and pawning everything he could get his hands on at work. It seems unlikely he was doing an exceptionally fabulous job otherwise.

There's more evidence of extreme fatherly favor. Dad tried to keep his son from being busted, by going to pawnshops to buy back items his son stole. The father brought that stuff back to the port without making a report.

That settled it for me. I felt sorry for the dad trying to assist a very messed up son, but that desperate effort was an enabling act that does an addict no good. …

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