Norton Bonaparte Jr., the Sanford, Fla., city manager caught in the harsh spotlight of the Trayvon Martin shooting, looks familiar to many Kansans. From 2006 until last July, Bonaparte was the city manager of Topeka, exiting after a challenging tenure marked by power struggles with elected officials and controversies over a police helicopter, the city zoo and more. In 2008, Bonaparte was one of five finalists for the job as Wichita’s city manager, which went to Robert Layton. In taking the job in Sanford last September, noted a Topeka Capital-Journal editorial, Bonaparte unknowingly went from the frying pan to the fire. On Friday, the day after the Sanford police chief stepped aside temporarily, Bonaparte acknowledged: “The issues that have been brought to my attention regarding the black community and the Sanford police department go back 10 years. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done there.”
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