After the Perez kicking-payoff incident last summer, it was just a matter of time.
It would have taken almost a miracle for the pieces to fall into place to allow Sarasota Police Chief Peter Abbott to redeem himself in the eyes of his boss, City Manager Bob Bartolotta.
The miracle didn’t occur. There were too many cosmic negative vibes:
• The worst one: A police advisory panel, which constantly ranted against the police department and its leadership, fueling a public perception that the police department was ill-managed. It provided a raison d’etre.
• A cauldron inside the police department, where officers were split into two groups — those in favor with the chief and those out of favor. This was on top of what is normally a bubbling pot of politics and gossip.
• Police union chiefs, who, like most union chiefs, do more to foster dissent than create harmony with management.
• A city manager, whose cool, hard style contrasted with the chief’s Mr. Rogers likability; whose Mr. Inside City Hall style contrasted with Abbott’s Mr. Community persona.
In the end, this was just too much for Chief Abbott to overcome. So he resigned Tuesday, a mutual agreement between him and Bartolotta.
Abbott and Bartolotta parted professionally. Give them credit for not turning Abbott’s departure into an ugly, tell-all, political spectacle.
But they know a lot about their relationship they don’t want to share. And that has spawned street talk, speculation and gossip that will only fuel division in the city and heighten the public’s suspicion and skepticism of the city manager.
Bartolotta says he gave Chief Abbott six months to change the police department’s culture — a culture that has become increasingly demoralized because of the completely farcical Police Advisory Panel.
But Bartolotta — and probably Abbott — had to know. They had to know there was no way Abbott, much less anyone else, could change the 176-officer department’s culture in the allotted time. It was unrealistic.
It was part of the process. When it’s difficult to dismiss a publicly popular employee, you build a case.
Eventually, the target figures it out. And he reaches a choice: Move on with dignity or stay miserable until you get fired.
The pressure is off Abbott. Now it’s on Bartolotta.
What’s the saying? Watch out what you wish for.
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