Lakeland Commissioners call for Police Chief Lisa Womack's job

8:25 PM, Sep 30, 2013   |    comments
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Lakeland Police Chief Lisa Womack
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Lakeland, FL -- For months, the City of Lakeland has stood unified through the political tension and shock waves rippling through the local police department.

But on Monday there are major cracks forming in that foundation as some city leaders are now using words like "fired" and "resignation."

In the last few days Chief Lisa Womack has been blasted by State Attorney Jerry Hill. Today she was criticized by the lawyer representing Sue Eberle, the woman at the center of the Lakeland PD sex scandal.

And now two commissioners are adding fuel to the fire, saying it's time for city manager Doug Thomas to let the chief go.

One of those commissioners also says Thomas should follow Womack right out the door.

Although there has been political pressure and grumbling since the Lakeland Police sex scandal first broke, Lakeland commissioners Howard Wiggs and Don Selvage are now publicly calling for chief's Lisa Womack's dismissal.

"She needs to be dismissed and we need to begin an immediate search for a new police chief," said Wiggs, who is also running for Mayor.

"Yes, I do think she should be fired," said Commissioner Don Selvage.

Selvage says last week's arrest of police officer Julio Pagan was the final straw. Not the sexual battery allegation itself against Pagan, but the Lakeland dispatcher and police sergeant's seemingly cavalier reaction to the alleged victim's complaint call.

The two chuckled, and it ended with no unit initially sent to investigate. Not until the woman called back three weeks later saying Pagan had shown up at their house yet again.

That, says Selage, shows an ongoing culture which Chief Womack has been unable to turn around, "and to me it's an indication that things are out of control," said Selvage.

Over the weekend, a group of citizens showed continued support for Chief Lisa Womack. City Manager Doug Thomas has stood by the chief as well.

In part, perhaps, that's why Commissioner Wiggs says at this Friday's council meeting he'll also suggest it's time for Thomas to go too.

"We have a very competent deputy city manager in Tony Delgado and that would be fine with me of him serving in that position as an interim," said Wiggs.

So far, however, Commissioner Selvage says he is sticking by Thomas.

"He's been deliberative, methodical, and with stood attacks in a professional manner," said Selvage.

Thomas released a lengthy statement in response, outlining the steps he's taken to address the sex scandal, his past successes, and his good relationship with the commission.

"I am confident that this foundation," wrote Thomas, "will enable us to successfully resolve our current challenges as well."

Commissioner Selvage says he doubts at this point that there is a majority of four or more commissioners who would call for Womack to be fired on Friday, and even fewer who would want to let Thomas go.

But there is bound to be some increased tension in Lakeland leading up to and beyond Friday's meeting now that some have laid their cards on the table.

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