Report: Lakeland city manager ignored questionable hiring practices of police chief

LAKELAND, Fla. - A former Lakeland human resources manager says City Manager Doug Thomas ignored several warnings about the questionable hiring decisions of Police Chief Lisa Womack, including the attempted hiring of her nephew.

Tommy Hamrick, who resigned from his position last year amid misconduct allegations against him, accuses Womack and Thomas of telling him not to document his concerns in records, such as emails, that could be discovered by the public.

Hamrick’s accusations are detailed in a State Attorney’s Office investigative report released Friday. His sworn statements suggest Thomas “did have real time knowledge and was cautioned about numerous improper administrative decision” by Womack.

Hamrick told a State Attorney’s Office investigator there are documents and witnesses to corroborate his statements. The investigator decided to leave it to city officials to investigate further.

“The information contained in the sworn testimony will stand on its own merit and will be left to the discretion of Lakeland city officials as to whether it is deemed relevant to pursue further,” Investigator Mike Brown wrote.

The report says the Civil Service Board that controls the city’s hiring “morphed into Chief Womack choosing who ever she wanted for some positions regardless of the established selection process in place.”

Womack announced her resignation last month. Shortly after, the State Attorney’s Office released a report accusing her of bending the hiring rules to get her nephew a job at her agency.

The chief has long faced questions surrounding the hiring of Ann Dinges, her close friend, as a public information officer.

In both of those cases, Hamrick told the state attorney’s investigator, Thomas ignored  warnings about Womack’s actions.

In addition to those cases, Hamrick says Womack went outside established rules to promote an employee, Rick Taylor, from a lieutenant to a captain.  

“Hamrick remembered that Rick Taylor was out of town when Chief Womack conducted a phone interview with him for the position,” the report says. “He was subsequently promoted to the surprise of many.”

He also raised issues with the hiring of former Assistant Police Chief Bill LePere, who was among candidates for chief with Womack, as a communications director.

Hamrick “said that he told them that it sounded a lot like they were ‘buying off’ Bill LePere to get him out of the assistant chief of police position in order to select somebody that was one of Lisa’s guys or gals.”

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