Bonaparte said, “After much thoughtful discussion and deep consideration for the issues facing the City of Sanford, I have determined the Police Chief needs to have the trust and respect of the elected officials and the confidence of the entire community. We need to move forward with a police chief that all the citizens of Sanford can support. I have come to this decision in light of the escalating divisiveness that has taken hold of the city”
Lee stepped down temporarily in March following public scrutiny of the Trayvon Martin case and a vote of no confidence made in him by three of the five commissioners. Approximately a month later Lee turned in his resignation to the commissioners at the urging of Bonaparte, however they did not approve it.
As part of that resignation Lee had requested additional severance terms including extended benefits, however commissioners said they wanted to wait until a review of the department was done before they made a final decision.
Now, since Lee has been relieved of duties by Bonaparte, he will only receive severance as outlined in his employment agreement. Those include three months and one week’s salary, in addition to any earned time off.
“I wish Chief Lee all the best in his future endeavors”, said Bonaparte.
Since Lee’s step-down, several groups have formed both calling for the removal and reinstatement of Lee. The United Sanford Alliance, headed by C.J. Blancett, has repeatedly expressed its desire at commission meetings to see Chief Lee return.
Another group in Sanford has also stated to commissioners that Lee must be removed for healing to occur in the city. They held repeated protests in downtown Sanford calling for his removal.
Bonaparte said he is now in contact with the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) to assist in the nationwide search for a new police chief. In the interim, Chief Richard Myers, who came to Sanford about a month ago, will continue to serve as the head of the police department.
“I believe that there are many law enforcement officials who will find accepting the opportunity to serve as Sanford’s Police Chief a welcome challenge for their careers”, said Bonaparte. “I expect the search for a new chief to take several months.”
Check back for updates on this story.