Lakeland commission split on the future of the police chief and city manager

Two commissioners want chief to step down

LAKELAND - Lakeland city commissioners are split on the future of the city's police chief and city manager.

During an agenda study session Friday, Commissioners Howard Wiggs and Don Selvage said it's time for Chief Lisa Womack to step down.

Wiggs suggested City Manager Doug Thomas fire Womack and then step down himself.

Selvage called it a "crisis in leadership that the current chief can not control."

"It is about leadership. We need someone in here that will demand change, who will tolerate no wavering and will crack the whip so loudly, that everyone in that department will get in line," he told fellow commissioners.

The latest incident last week, the arrest of Officer Julio Pagan for sexually battering a woman, appears to have been the tipping point.

"Last week's incident, ladies and gentlemen, pushed me to this point," he said.

While Selvage and Wiggs want to vote on the chief's future now, the rest of the board disagreed.

The LPD Advisory Board, charged with assessing the commission, is due to present its final report in three weeks. The majority of city commissioners don't think it's right to make a decision on the chief before the advisory board presents its recommendations.

"I just feel it's castrating that commission if we don't allow them to do their work," said Commissioner Edie Yates, referring to the the LPD Advisory Board, charged with assessing the department.

During the entire conversation about her future, Chief Womack stood just a couple feet away.

"I think that was a discussion that was much needed," she told ABC Action News after the meeting. "They have their opinion and it's good for the commissioners to be able to work their way through that."

The chief maintains she and the department are headed in the right direction, even as the voices calling for her resignation keep getting louder.

"It's almost disrespectful to the community," said Commissioner Howard Wiggs. "The community has heard all they want to hear of this mess."

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