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Lakeland commission discusses $130,000 PR bill

7:28 PM, Mar 3, 2014   |    comments
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Lakeland Mayor Howard Wiggs
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Lakeland, FL -- As promised, Lakeland's Mayor Howard Wiggs raised the topic: close to $130,000 the city has spent on a public relations firm. 

The growing price tag is for advice and strategy to handle the city's police department sex scandal.

"I would have thought maybe $5,000 to $10,000 would have been a reasonable request," said Wiggs.

"I think we should be done with their services. We have a bunch of smart, highly paid people here that can take care of that," said Commissioner Justin Troller.

On Friday, an attorney for Sue Eberle, the woman at the center of the scandal, called the PR campaign "character assassination."

Eberle, who has since been fired, has threatened a civil suit.

The PR price isn't sitting well with citizens either, who think that money could be better spent.

Kevin Kayden, a resident who spoke at Monday's commission meeting, talked about worn-out library books and scratched DVD's for the city's children.

"And it isn't necessary to spend $130,000," said Kayden, "to distort the truth into an Orwellian fact."

City manager Doug Thomas, out on medical leave, took the brunt of the criticism. But four of Lakeland's current sitting city commissioners signed-off on the original decision to hire the firm.

"We spent far more money than any of us would have approved if they would have brought it back to us," said Mayor Wiggs, criticizing City Manager Thomas.

"I don't think it was a deliberate omission, but I think we could have been better informed," added Commissioner Keith Merritt.

Lakeland's city attorney told commissioners he could not foresee a reason they would spend any more money with the same PR firm in regard to the sex scandal.

The expensive lesson may eventually lead to a change in city policy.

Mayor Wiggs says when it comes to such contracts in the future, commissioners should be kept more apprised of how that money is being spent each step along the way.

Recent Lakeland PD stories

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