Recorded interviews reveal how LPD chief may have pressured colleagues to bend rules to hire nephew
Police captain said chief ordered him to "fix it"
7:49 PM, Jan 31, 2014
LAKELAND, Fla. - Taped interviews released by the State Attorney's Office on Friday appear to show the great lengths Lakeland Police Chief Lisa Womack took to try to get her nephew a job at the department.
City Manager Doug Thomas put Womack on paid leave Thursday after receiving a copy of the state attorney's report. She's still set to resign May 1.
The audio recordings include an interview with Capt. Victor White, who expressed concern about the chief's disregard for the department's hiring policy.
"She raised her finger, pointed at me and used the term 'fix it' and walked out," White told a state attorney investigator.
He said "fix it" essentially meant to bend the rules to help her nephew land an entry-level job at the agency.
"My understanding is that it's illegal," White said. "Certainly improper."
According to the state attorney's report, Womack's nephew, Rhett Hughes, failed a first round of testing, which usually ends an applicant's chances of getting hired.
But in an unprecedented move, Womack threw out the first test and moved all 35 applicants -- even though half of them failed -- to the next round.
"I mean nobody is going to pass somebody who failed a test, it's just silly," Jim Osburn, LPD director of employment, told investigators.
But that's exactly what Womack's accused of doing.
Womack ended up taking her nephew out of consideration after colleagues suggested what she was doing is illegal.
Of the pool of applicants, LPD eventually hired two people who failed that original test, which usually would have meant they'd be excluded from the hiring process.
"She's entitled to due process, like any other city employee. And that's the process we use -- that puts someone on paid administrative leave," City Manager Doug Thomas said.
Thomas is planning his own investigation to determine if Womack violated the city's policy.
State Attorney Jerry Hill said her actions may have risen to a criminal level, but his office chose not to pursue charges.
The 20-page report even calls out the chief's husband, Jimmy Womack. Capt. White told investigators he was in the office when the chief's husband called an assistant chief to complain about the testing process and questioned its validity upon hearing his nephew failed.
The report said the assistant chief immediately took action to confirm the accuracy of the test.
Investigators asked Jimmy Womack how his wife came to the decision to throw out the first test and advance all candidates.
"She made the executive decision, I guess," he said.
Lisa Womack still has not commented publicly about the state attorney's report.