LAKELAND, Fla - The monthly chief's chat at Lakeland Police Department went on as scheduled Monday night. But the one at the helm was not embattled Chief Lisa Womack but Assistant Police Chief Larry Giddens.
Giddens was named interim chief last week after Womack was placed on paid administrative leave. The chief was accused by the State Attorney's Office of bending the rules to try and get her nephew a job. The accusations came on the heels of Womack's announcement she plans to resign May 1.
The events have thrown Giddens into the spotlight. An open investigation into Gidden's actions while under Womack's command is leaving some second-guessing his new role, and he doesn't like it.
"What I ask is that everybody don't pass judgment until all the facts have been revealed," Giddens said.
Giddens talked proudly of the agency in front of more than 10 people who gathered for Monday's chat. Giddens didn't bring up Womack's latest issues or address his investigation with the public.
However, he answered questions from ABC Action News.
Giddens is under an internal investigation related to allegations that he threatened retired LPD officer Jimmy Mock Jr. at Womack's request.
"He was the one the chief sent to threaten me when the chief didn't like things that I was saying, things that I was posting on my own personal Facebook," Mock said.
Mock spent 23 years at the agency. His father served 33 years. He said he retired in good standing but was told by Giddens that if he didn't cool it on Facebook, the chief would change his status to retired in poor standing.
"For him to come out of the station and threaten me, that just is not right," Mock said.
Mock was interviewed by internal LPD investigators Monday morning.
We tried asking Giddens directly about the allegations. He said he couldn't comment because it is an open investigation, but he did not want to avoid the issue either.
"Anybody can be investigated," Giddens said. "All I ask is to give me the opportunity to defend myself at the conclusion and once we know all the facts allow the public to pass judgment."
Giddens noted that the investigation against him is not criminal.
He also chose to align himself with the embattled chief despite a vote held two weeks ago in which the bulk of Womack's employees said they had no confidence in her leadership.
Giddens explained that Womack did give him advice about upward mobility.
"She has given me advice for the past three years that I will never forget," he said.
While Giddens won't forget Womack, some city leaders also find her unforgettable, but for other reasons. They said she has scarred the city and dragged down the agency's reputation, ultimately bringing national attention to LPD for a sex scandal.
City Commissioner Justin Troller told ABC Action News he wants Womack to leave office immediately, not in 90 days as her resignation states.
"I don't think she needs to step foot in that back office again," Troller said.
Giddens would not say whether or not he has decided to put his hat in the ring to become the city's next police chief. He did explain how he plans to move the agency forward.
"We don't want to forget the lessons of 2013," he said, "but we don't want to dwell on them either."
Mock said making Giddens chief is equivalent to Womack staying on board, calling the two "birds of a feather."
"I don't think the department is any better off with him than with her," Mock said.
Womack, according to commissioners, is currently in Texas on an extended weekend.