Lakeland, FL- The City of Lakeland and the Lakeland Police Department were recently rocked with a sex scandal involving high ranking officers and workers from other City departments. A nearly three month long investigation revealed sexual misconduct, some of it not consensual, involving 10 officers within the Police Department as well as the Fire Department. The allegations all surround one female civilian employee over the last seven years.
The report lists detailed allegations of forced sex, sexual harassment, and consensual sexual contact. However, the report also stated any criminal allegations could not be proven. The report and an accompanying letter was sent to Lakeland Chief of Police Lisa Womack from State Attorney's Office and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Lakeland Mayor Gow Fields is seeking re-election and his challenger, City Council member Howard Wiggs, is wasting no time in bringing the scandal into the election. Mr. Wiggs has repeatedly stated that the City needs to bring in an independent third party investigator to handle the investigation into the allegations.
""There is no confidence that we are moving toward an acceptable community-wide resolution to our problem," Wiggs wrote in a recent letter to the editor. "Too much is at stake to leave this entirely to an internal investigation."
Mr. Wiggs asked City Manager via a letter to schedule an emergency meeting to discuss the issue. "The opportunity to do that was lost on Monday when Gow decided to not allow public comment until the end of the meeting," Wiggs wrote. "By the time the chief's comments and our questions were answered, people were tired and left."
Mayor Fields stated that he was forming an Advisory Panel of community leaders to address the problems with LPD. His announcement came during an hour long discussion at an agenda study session. The City commissioners supported Mayor Fields' decision to appoint a panel to look into the ongoing problems with the police department.
At a recent City commission meeting the mayor's race finally spilled over into the regular meeting. "You have been repeatedly asked to not pretend to speak for the entire commission without consulting us and yet this is another of the same type of behavior," Mr. Wiggs read from a four-page letter to Fields and commissioners at the end of the commission meeting.
"I need someone to explain to me how a group with no legal authority, but dealing with issues that clearly would have great impact on our Police Department, the City Commission and the entire community can be appointed and activated unilaterally by the mayor without allowing the commission to help craft the scope of responsibilities or to assist with the appointments," Mr. Wiggs said. "These problems are too big to be hijacked by anyone.
The situation was made more tense due to the fact that Mr. Fields was sitting next to Mr. Wiggs during the meeting. Mr. Fields defended his decisions and stated that he has tired of being stabbed in the back by Mr. Wiggs.
"You may not agree with it or respect it but I notice you didn't have that problem when Mayor (Buddy) Fletcher was the mayor," Mr. Fields said.
The other commission members sat silently during the 17-minute exchange that included Mr. Fields accusing Mr. Wiggs of holding private meetings. Mr. Fields used a recent meeting about the future of downtown Lakeland that was held at Grasslands Golf and Country Club in which after the initial meeting, a reporter and photographer were asked to leave the meeting. Mr. Wiggs had said that some of the business owners attending the meeting may be unwilling to speak openly and honestly with a reporter present.
Mayor Fields said the commission will be co-chaired by business leader Joe P. Ruthven and Polk State College President Eileen Holden. He stated that he anticipated the panel having 13 members, however, just a few days before the initial panel meeting both Mr. Ruthven and Mrs. Holden resigned from the panel for unknown reasons.
The voters will get to have their voice heard on the Mayor's race on November 5.