Leaders of LPD advisory board resign before the panel's first meeting

Mayor selected panel to help LPD through scandals

LAKELAND, Fla. - The panel tasked with trying to repair the scandal-plagued Lakeland Police Department, is now having problems of its own.

The two co-chairs resigned Monday, before the advisory board even had its first meeting.

President of Polk State College, Dr. Eileen Holden sent a letter to Mayor Gow Fields announcing her resignation, and Lakeland businessman Joe Ruthven resigned a short time later.

They were supposed to be the two leaders of the citizen panel.

"It certainly was a disappointment, but we have the same work to do, whether they're with us or not," said Gow Fields, Lakeland City Mayor. "We do have a lot of talent that remains on the commission. We look forward to their work. We believe they're going to add a great deal to what we have ahead of us to accomplish."

Fields personally selected the 15-member panel to help guide LPD through a tumultuous time.

In her resignation letter, Holden did not give a specific reason, but listed the challenges the board faces.

She also criticized the attempt to make the meetings private. The mayor since decided to make them public.

During a town hall meeting Monday night, citizens voiced criticism and support for the department riddled with scandals.

The biggest black eye: a sex scandal involving more than a dozen on and off duty officers and a civilian employee, Sue Eberle, who claims some of the sex was against her will.

More than half the officers involved have already lost their jobs.

Some critics question whether the advisory board has what it takes to get the job done.

"Having the lack of expertise and background in law enforcement could really be a detrimental problem," said Commissioner Howard Wiggs, who is running for mayor and is a vocal opponent to the idea.

He believes it's a job for the city commission.

The mayor has no plans to replace to two leaders the board just lost.

Their first meeting is Thursday at 3:30pm.

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