Lakeland city manager takes heat over police chief's hiring prac - FOX 13 News

Lakeland city manager takes heat over police chief's hiring practices

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LAKELAND (FOX 13) -

The Polk County State Attorney's office has suggested Lakeland City Manager Doug Thomas knew outgoing police Chief Lisa Womack was breaking city rules involving hiring, promotions, and transfers.

That's according to a statement issued to FOX 13 by Thomas himself.

Womack is accused

Last month, Womack was placed on leave after Polk State Attorney's office issued a report accusing her of lowering standards on tests to get more candidates, including her nephew.

Womack was already set to resign in May.

Thomas released a statement saying, "I strongly deny accusations that I would knowingly allow any department head to violate the city's personnel procedures...I am personally shocked by the allegations being made against me by a former employee."

Thomas says the report is based on allegations made by a former HR director Tommy Hamrick.

Editor's note: FOX 13 attempted to get a copy of the state attorney's report. We requested that the city of Lakeland post it on their website; as of Friday evening, it had not been placed there.

Here is the full text of the statement from Doug Thomas that our reporting of this story is based on:

I have just received a copy of a document from the State Attorney's Office in which they have alleged that I had firsthand knowledge that Police Chief Lisa Womack was acting outside the scope of her authority as it relates to City Policies and Procedures involving various hiring, transfers and promotions within the Lakeland Police Department. Although I have only just received the document and have not gone through it in great detail, I can state that I strongly deny accusations that I would knowingly allow any Department Head to violate the City's personnel procedures. As City Manager, I uphold myself to the highest levels of integrity and ethics, and am personally shocked by the allegations being made against me by a former employee.

I find it interesting that the State Attorney's Report is centered on the statements of Mr. Tommy Hamrick, who is the City's former Human Resources/Civil Services Director. Mr. Hamrick separated from the City on September 6, 2013 following the completion of an outside investigation that involved a variety of allegations regarding a hostile workplace environment and retaliation claims. Attorney Andrea Smith, who is now a Sitting Judge in the 10th Judicial Circuit, conducted the investigation.

The State Attorney's report states that it "does not dispute or minimize the findings of the Smith report, but deems the matters identified to be unrelated and of no effect to the sworn testimony given by Tommy Hamrick in this case." That appears to be in direct conflict with Ms. Smith's findings in her investigation of Hamrick in which she "found Tommy Hamrick to be untrustworthy and not a credible witness based upon his conflicting answers and demeanor."

The City previously opened an investigation regarding allegations raised in a January 30, 2014 report from the State Attorney's Office regarding their review of the hiring practices used for a 2012 Lakeland Police Department Public Safety Aide position and other alleged deviations from Lakeland Civil Service and Personnel Policies and Procedures. Given that the allegations in today's report are related to the original investigation, I am working with the City Attorney's Office to ensure that the City's review is carried out objectively. I will make myself fully available as part of the investigative process in response to the allegations.

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