How Many Time Bombs Will It Take?, Part 1: Doug Thomas Is Not Too Big To Fail

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.

4 thoughts on “How Many Time Bombs Will It Take?, Part 1: Doug Thomas Is Not Too Big To Fail

  1. Director of Human Relations? What the heck is that exactly? Was that the old position of George Brooks? You know, the guy who clipped Sue Eberle’s pubic hair and put it in an envelope in his desk drawer? The one who retired with a monthly check and moved to Costa Rica?

    What the heck is the matter with Lakeland? City Managers work at the pleasure of the City Commission. They have very lucrative contracts because they can live on very shaky ground. If things don’t go well, they’re the scapegoat. Embarrass the city and they’re supposed to be out of there. Something’s wrong with this picture.

  2. October 7th you say. That will be an interesting day. I just may have to attend that meeting.

    These commissioners remind me of the thoughtless, mindless, bobble heads I see in the windows of moving cars. They resemble somebody, somebody with a big head and smiles but devoid of thought or action.

    I believe Lakeland needs to rid itself of bobbleheaded commissioners.

  3. This is a great article. I enjoy your writing very much. As I read the … when his opinions are challenged… part of the investigative report, I could not help but think, I have observed several folks that set on the commissioner dais who also get very irate when citizens do not agree with them.

  4. I love ur straight up attitude. U need to be the one for city manager. U got it nailed. Both LPD an Sheriff office is always doing things wrong i know. It just happened to me being wrongfully arrested with others wronged. Now guess what i raised so much stink im not letting it go. We need new sheriffs in town, mayor, townhall, etc. Each helps each to be funny an they think they r the big WHITE HOUSE of DC. But i will do for the people is stand strong; because i am going to get justice for me an others done wrong. They rule an they do it flat out ur guilty before pertrail. Intimedatt u on an on. Arrest u guilty r inccoent is what their doing an harrassing decent people i know. I use to support the law here. But here we r in trouble. An thats, that. Go gettem GRIT-r-DONE GOOD VOICE. GOOD, GREAT, LOVE IT. KEEP THE PRESSURE COOKING UNTIL THEY BOIL OVER. An trust me they will. Doing to themselves. Law will be a change an people if someone steps up too the silver plate for the challegin to do it. Stand with them for thee peoples rights. Wrong is wrong an right is right. I want justice for lakeland an myself, for our future generations. THANKS

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