Our network

Lakeland denies less-than-thorough vetting of chief | News

Title (Max 100 Characters)

Lakeland denies less-than-thorough vetting of chief

Lakeland, FL -- The City of Lakeland is defending itself against a report that questions whether they did a thorough enough background check when they hired Police Chief Lisa Womack.

Womack is trying to steer her department through a sex scandal and as it turns out, it's not the first time she's been in that spot.

Chief Womack says there's no secret here. Nothing to hide.

See also: Lakeland Police chief facing scrutiny

When she left the same position at the police department in Elgin, Illinois, there was a sex scandal brewing, but she says any report suggesting that it had anything to do with her leaving that job is just not true.

Womack readily admits she was investigating another sex scandal in 2010 when she resigned as chief.

It involved an affair between two officers, one of them an assistant chief.

But that played no role, says Womack, in her leaving Elgin.

"It's confirmed in writing that that case had absolutely nothing to do - it was unrelated to my departure," she said today.

"There was a new city manager who decided to name his own team and I departed along with several other department heads. And that's been confirmed," she said.

Still, the revelation of another sex scandal at another department under Womack's leadership might lead some to raise questions.

Lakeland city leaders insist they did just that - asked questions - and said they knew about the Elgin sex scandal when they vetted, and ultimately decided to hire Womack to lead Lakeland PD.

"We've subsequently reached out and reconfirmed that issue. Exactly the circumstances- which are the same understanding we had two and a half years ago," said Lakeland City Manager Doug Thomas.

Thomas said a newspaper report accusing Lakeland of doing a less-than-thorough job screening Womack's past is simply not true.

A 700 page report regarding Elgin P.D.'s sex scandal was not requested, they said, but Mayor Gow Fields said Elgin officials did tell them about it.

"Everything that was needed to be done was in fact, done," said Mayor Fields.

"The city attorney and the city manager did not hide that, but they also made it clear it had nothing to do with her," said the Mayor.

"The two cases are different types of cases, different types of issues- completely different. They are not related in any way," said Chief Womack. "There is no relationship between that open investigation there, and my departure - at all."

Chief Womack also said the decision to leave Elgin was a personnel issue, and that she is prepared to answer any questions the public may have about it when she meets with them during a meet-the-chief gathering Monday evening in the Police Department's community room.

Some residents were already raising questions, including why these types of revelations seem to come in drips and drabs.

"She's like - 'Oh it's a coincidence, what can I say...' you know? And I think we're all smarter than that," said Lakeland resident Nicholas Nick.

Another resident named Martina agreed.

"I think if the stories are to be told, they should be told all honestly and all at once. Not a little bit here, not a little bit there," she said. "I mean it wouldn't feel like someone's trying to hide or cover-up anything."

As for answering such concerns?

"I'd be happy to. My background speaks for itself," said Chief Womack.

During the meeting the chief may also try to bolster confidence in her leadership and her department by bringing up the fact that over the weekend, her department retained its national accreditation.

During a conference in Ohio, an independent body honored Lakeland Police for complying with a tough list of 480 professional standards.

"I certainly still have confidence in the chief of police," said Thomas, "The fact is that anyone that's been in administration at some point in any large organization has probably been involved with some level of misconduct."

Follow 10 News Reporter Eric Glasser on twitter @ericglassertv

Recent Lakeland PD stories


Polk County Deals

Polk County Businesses