One of two police sergeants fired after he admitted to having a sexual relationship with a former crime analyst attended a hearing Wednesday in an attempt to rejoin the force.
On one side of the table was the City of Lakeland, which stood by its decision to fire Sgt. Rusty Longaberger based on the evidence found during an investigation.
On the other, the Police Benevolent Association, which tried to prove he was fired based on public pressure rather than the evidence itself.
Representatives from both sides gathered at the Lakeland Center on Wednesday morning with a mediator, the public and potential witnesses.
“This case actually started in the spring of 2012 when a major sex scandal developed in the City of Lakeland Police Department,” said Michael Malfitano, the attorney representing the city in the arbitration hearing.
After the dust settled, nearly a dozen officers were implicated in the scandal, one being Sgt. Longaberger.
Questioning during the investigation revealed he, along with many others, engaged in sex with former crime analyst Sue Eberle.
The key witness at Wednesday’s hearing was former Police Chief Lisa Womack.
“There were 14 to 15 hours of interviews between internal affairs and Ms. Eberle, to gather all of this information,” said Womack. “She provided a list of various names.”
Sgt. Longaberger was on the list. The city stated he was fired based on the fact he broke supervisory code of conduct by engaging in sex with Eberle.
The State Attorney’s Office issued a letter following the investigation. It stated Longaberger’s credibility was compromised and he would no longer be allowed to testify in court, an essential part of a police officer's job.
An arbitrator will make a decision on Longaberger’s fate within the next 30 to 60 days.