Commissioner Keith Merritt withdraws support for Lakeland Police Chief Womack

1:18 AM, Jan 24, 2014   |    comments
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Lakeland, Florida - The day after a no-confidence vote against Lakeland Police Chief Lisa Womack, one commissioner has reversed his stance on what should happen to her.

"I feel bad for the chief. I'm not absolutely certain that she's at fault," said Commissioner Keith Merritt.

STORY: Lakeland PD employees vote 'no-confidence' in chief

But after supporting the chief and City Manager Doug Thomas' decision to keep her on the job, Merritt said the saga has become a distraction for the city.

"The feeling of the group was so strong that I had to make a decision," he said.

Merritt said it is time for Chief Lisa Womack to resign from the post she's held since 2011.

His decision was based partly on a vote taken from department union and civilian employees.

The survey results show that 152 employees gave the chief a no-confidence vote, while 123 supported the chief's ability to lead the department.

Merritt said he heard from a city employee who was afraid to pitch an idea to Lakeland city administration because they were distracted by the police department scandal.

"It's hard to get their attention. If it's a controversial idea, no one is going to want to raise their head. It's kind of a whack-a-mole type of situation," Merritt said from his law offices on Thursday afternoon.

Merritt is also worried about the optics of prolonged discussions about the chief's ability to lead.

For example, Merritt said, companies may decide to do business elsewhere instead of Lakeland, if the saga continues to remain open and publicized.

"The fact is this is an unfair world and the circumstances are what they are. Perception has become reality and that's what we're faced with."

In addition to Merritt, Chief Womack has now lost the support of three commissioners.

The others include Mayor Howard Wiggs and Don Selvage. 

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