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Commission: No major changes in Lakeland top managers... for now

4:14 PM, Oct 4, 2013   |    comments
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Lakeland Police Chief Lisa Womack

 

Lakeland, FL -- It looks like the Lakeland City Manager and Police Chief will both keep their jobs for at least another three weeks.

A majority of the city commission voted Friday morning to hold off on deciding whether a lack of leadership at the top is to blame for issues stemming from the city's on-going sex-scandal.

It was, at times, a heated debate between current Mayor Gow Fields and the man who wants to be mayor, Howard Wiggs... and whether it was now time for Chief Lisa Womack and/or City Manager Doug Thomas to step aside and put it to a vote by placing it as an item on Monday's agenda.

"I just think we have totally failed as a commission to address this responsibly," said Wiggs.

Wiggs' fellow commissioner, Don Selvage agreed when it came to Chief Womack, but not Doug Thomas.

"Now, I think chief Womack has tried, but in my view it's not working," said Selvage.

But several commissioners said such drastic measures seem premature, and noted the citizens advisory board looking into the department's sex scandal doesn't report its findings and recommendations until October 21st.

"The last thing we want to do is do something prematurely and then end up with lawsuits that we're fighting for years to come," said Commissioner Edie Yates.

Several commissioners also expressed concern that the whole firing issue seemed more about politics than policy. Wiggs is looking to unseat Mayor Gow Fields in the November election.

"And I'm particularly concerned that everything we're looking at today is seen through the prism of an election cycle," said Commissioner Keith Merritt.

So by a vote of 5-2 commissioners decided to put off any discussion on Thomas or Womack at least until after they hear from the advisory committee later this month and possibly after the election three weeks later on November 5th.

"Absolutely, I would hope that puts that discussion to rest, yes," said Chief Womack.

Commissioner Wiggs concluded that at Monday's commission meeting he wouldn't bring up the potential firings of Womack and Thomas.

He accepted at this point, he said, that his fellow commissioners have no appetite for that debate.

But Wiggs also said he may still being up the idea of bringing in Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd to audit the management at Lakeland PD, which Wiggs says the sheriff has offered to perform for free.

Despite the offer, an audit from Judd may also face an uphill climb.

Several commissioners expressed concern that Judd is too politically tied to Lakeland, and said an outside agency with no ties to Lakeland might offer a more independent opinion.

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