City rejects resignation of top cop in Trayvon Martin shooting

ORLANDO, Florida Mon Apr 23, 2012 7:54pm EDT

1 of 2. Rob Korolowski holds up a sign in support of embattled Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee during a special meeting by the Sanford City Commission in Sanford, Florida April 23, 2012. The five-member city commission rejected the resignation of Lee, who had stepped aside amid withering criticism over his department's investigation into the shooting death of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin.

Credit: Reuters/David Manning

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ORLANDO, Florida (Reuters) - The city commission in Sanford, Florida, rejected the resignation of the police chief who had stepped aside amid withering criticism over his department's investigation into the shooting death of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin.

Sanford Police Bill Lee, on leave since his temporary resignation announced March 22, had been set to resign permanently as of midnight under a separation agreement submitted to him by Sanford City Manager Norton Bonaparte.

But the five-member city commission governing the city voted 3-2 against the agreement in a special meeting on Monday, adding further disarray to the central Florida city of 50,000 that has been the center of national attention over the racially charged case.

"In light of the vote, Chief Lee will remain on paid administrative leave while an investigation continues into the handling of the Trayvon Martin case by the Sanford Police Department," Bonaparte said in a statement.

Captain Darren Scott will remain as acting police chief.

Sanford police declined to arrest shooter George Zimmerman based on his story of self-defense, leading to a wave of civil rights protests around the country and a media firestorm.

Although the city manager - not the commission - normally has the power to fire the police chief, this particular separation agreement required commission approval, the city said.

The commission had voted "no confidence" in Lee by a 3-2 margin on March 21, leading to his temporary resignation the next day. But Mayor Jeff Triplett, who voted against the chief back then, voted against his resignation on Monday.

"Obviously my questions will be the effectiveness that will be still out there, if he can be effective," Triplett, who had said he was not ready to seal the chief's departure, said after the vote.

Citizens packed the city commission chamber with many people showing support for Lee. One man carried a sign saying "Bring back Billy."

City Commissioner Patty Mahany opposed forcing Lee out, saying the city manager was influenced by the public demonstrations, which drew thousands activists from outside of Sanford to the city.

The regularly assigned prosecutor removed himself from the case the same day Lee stepped aside, and a special prosecutor later charged Zimmerman with second-degree murder on April 11.

Zimmerman was released on $150,000 bail early Monday.

(Reporting by Barbara Liston; Editing by Daniel Trotta and Cynthia Osterman)

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Comments (2)
crbob wrote:
Finally, someone with guts who is not afraid to stand up and be counted, this man was judged by the media and black frenzy stirred up by Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. If the courts find that he did something wrong, then he should be fired, if not, then he has done nothing wrong…….

Apr 23, 2012 8:30pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
drdaj wrote:
In reply to crbob:
It didn’t take very long for someone to mention Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. You forgot Obama. Maybe you should throw MLK and Ghandi in for good measure. They are all peripheral players at best. There’s no black frenzy, just peaceful demonstrations.

Regarding Billy Lee, he was put in a difficult position when Wolfinger (who has remained out of the media scrutiny for too long) failed to support the Sandford police department’s desire to charge Zimmerman. Lee then had to back-track and join the Wolfinger “Team.” Regardless, if a vote of no confidence is handed down, a voluntary resignation should be accepted, it makes zero sense to do otherwise. Also, there is no need no an illegal act to be committed in order to have “done nothing wrong” and deserve to be fired.

Apr 24, 2012 7:54am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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