As you read that meddling Ledger’s latest excellent story detailing the open season on women that Lakeland City Government’s frat boys allow to continue, consider this fact first:
Doug Thomas promoted Tommy Hamrick to director of Human Relations 10 months ago. Tommy Hamrick had worked for the city for almost 10 years. Yet, we’re all expected to believe that a switch flipped in precisely November 2012.
Read this from investigator’s report:
“The investigator found Tommy Hamrick to be untrustworthy and not a credible witness based upon his conflicting answers and demeanor,” Smith wrote.
“While Tommy Hamrick’s alleged actions are inappropriate, they do not rise to the level of creating a hostile work environment. Further, Tommy Hamrick appears to treat men and women equally poor when he does not agree with their opinions or when his opinions are challenged.”
Note the absurd contradictions of that paragraph, written by a now sitting circuit judge. Imagine her courtroom. I find that the defendant shot and killed someone illegally, but I wouldn’t call him a murderer. Maybe that quality of thinking and moral/legal assessment explains the abysmal state of the courthouse right now. But also put it aside for second.
The key question is this: Do we think a person who “appears to treat men and women equally poor when he does not agree with their opinions or when his opinions are challenged” started behaving that way just in November 2012?
Please. Tommy Hamrick, with that approach to management, thrived in Doug Thomas’ city government culture. He got promoted. He was a leader. Within 10 months, by my count, five different women had observed abusive behavior or filed formal reports. Good for them. I’d rather have any one of them in charge of my city government than Doug Thomas.
Hiring is the most important job any leader has. Good leaders surround themselves with people who welcome people who challenge them. Doug Thomas has surrounded himself with authoritarian, frat-boy time bombs. That goes for the Sarah Palin he hired as police chief, by the way, who is more frat boy than most of the boys. These people lurk in our government like worthless derivatives on a bank balance sheet, just waiting to wreak havoc. And yet the man who put them there has our city commissioners convinced that he’s too big to fail. It’s a bizarre spectacle. And it’s not going to stop as long as Doug’s in charge.
I can think of at least one well-known city government stalwart that everyone in City Hall knows is just such a time bomb. I bet 80 percent of you reading this know exactly who I’m talking about. (Don’t send me names. Not publishing. I have no intention of being sued.) When it finally comes down on this person, all the usual suspects will throw up their hands and say: Who could have known? Only everybody.
Some time back, City Commissioner Keith Merritt said in a big public meeting that some official from some other city once told him, “You’ve got the best city manager in the state.”
God help our state if that’s true. But honestly, as Charles DeGaulle once said, “The graveyard is full of indispensable men.” And somehow, I think we will survive if we trade the person who keeps planting bombs for someone who can defuse them.
Another city commissioner, who I won’t name because I didn’t hear this first hand, recently told someone to tell me that he just loves what I write. My response to that is, so what? I don’t write to entertain you. I’m writing because I want you to publicly and clearly pick a side — preferably the right side — and acknowledge it.
Because inaction is action, the commission as a whole has picked a side. As of now, it supports the culture and leadership that allowed Tommy Hamrick to rise and then leave with all his benefits in place. This includes the commissioner who supposedly loves what I write. The commission has been allowed to pick this side without publicly explaining or justifying it.
I hope to change that. The next scheduled City Commission meeting appears to be Oct. 7. I plan to take some vacation time and attend. And I will ask each of the commissioners to explain, in public, on camera, why it’s important to keep their two employees in power — that’s Thomas and City Attorney Tim McCausland. What’s the positive argument that justifies the horrific embarrassment you are inflicting on us every day?
I suspect that no one will answer, that this question will simply hang in the air and everyone will look at each other awkwardly. Because, you know, leadership. But it’s time that you all tasted some awkwardness as a consequence for embarrassing the rest of us.