MANATEE -- The Bradenton Police Department's second-in-command is facing charges of petit theft, the State Attorney's Office said Thursday.
Three counts of petit theft were formally filed against Deputy Chief Warren Merriman III Thursday afternoon by Chief Assistant State Attorney Lon Arend.
The allegations first became public on Sept. 8 when Merriman, a 17-year veteran with a nearly spotless discipline record with the department, was placed on administrative leave with pay.
The Manatee County Sheriff's Office was asked by Bradenton Police Chief Michael Radzilowski to handle the investigation because Merriman oversees his agency's Internal Affairs Department.
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On Oct. 6, the file was handed over to the State Attorney's Office to determine whether criminal charges would be filed.
"We are obviously very disappointed, but we don't know yet how we are going to handle it," Mayor Wayne Poston, commissioner of the police department, said Thursday.
Poston said he did not know any details about the charges and that officials would have to meet with their labor attorney to determine what actions to take.
"We will probably have a meeting on Monday about this," Poston added.
Arend said he could not comment further on the case. Assistant State Attorney Heather Doyle will also be handling the case with Arend.
Merriman will not be arrested, but will be summoned to appear in court to face the charges. Informa
tion filed Thursday lists a Nov. 18 summons date.
The charges, all first-offense misdemeanors, were detailed in a probable cause affidavit.
On Feb. 25, Merriman along with other Bradenton police officers were working an off-duty detail at McKechnie Field, providing security for a Pittsburgh Pirates spring training game, according to the report. Merriman left at 6 p.m. to play tennis at GT Bray Park, but he recorded leaving at 9 p.m. when he filed his forms for payment with the Pirates.
Merriman was paid $105 by the Pirates for the three hours not worked, the report states.
On July 29, 2013, Merriman and other officers were working off-duty detail providing security for the Bradenton Marauders at McKechnie Field. Merriman left the game for about an hour to attend a work-related crime-prevention event at the Bradenton Municipal Auditorium, but still charged the Pirates for the entire detail.
Merriman was paid $35 for the hour not worked.
On Dec. 14, 2012, Merriman called a sergeant within the department and asked him to come over to his home, expressing urgency, according to the report. The on-duty sergeant arrived and Merriman needed help building a prefabricated garden shed.
The sergeant asked Merriman if he should put in for compensatory time, and Merriman said that it wouldn't be necessary, according to the report. About 4 1/2 hours later, the men finished the shed and again the sergeant asked if Merriman wanted him to use comp time and Merriman told him there would be no need.
Later that evening, the sergeant received a text message thanking him for his assistance. The sergeant's wages amount to $169.99 for the time calculated spent building the shed.
The sheriff's office will resume investigating to determine if any or what administrative policies and procedures were violated.
At the time Merriman was placed on leave, his discipline record contained only three traffic infractions.
Merriman, a U.S. Navy veteran, has worked for the Bradenton Police Department since 1997.
For weeks, questions have circled through the community regarding the allegations, as those handling the investigation remained tight-lipped.
On Oct. 16, a Facebook page was created to support Merriman. The page, Justice for Deputy Chief Warren T. Merriman III, was created by a friend, Chris Sardenga, who said she and others felt Merriman was the victim of malicious and false accusations.
"With success, comes a large bull's-eye on one's back; jealous, and vindictive individuals will always attempt to sabotage one's personal life and professional career," Sardenga wrote. "Warren has never had an internal affairs complaint lodged against him, so why after working his way up through the competitive ranks of a medium-sized police agency would he risk his career? Sounds like dirty office politics!"
Early Wednesday, Merriman posted on the page thanking Sardenga for creating the page.
"Chris, I want to thank you so much for being a close friend, and for taking the time to develop and maintain this page. I want to thank my entire family, and friends who have shown me absolute support throughout this process while having little, to no insight regarding the allegations.
Additionally, I want everyone to know that Mayor Poston, City Council members, and especially BPD Police Chief Radzilowski have maintained an open mind during this investigation when they could have easily acted different towards me and my family! Lastly, I want to thank God, for this has allowed me to grow closer to my wife, and it also allowed me to care for my still-recovering father who had a very rough time following his surgery. Normally, I would have continued to place my work over what really matters in life. It's all in His hands."
Jessica De Leon, Herald law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.