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Woes for Womack: Former Elgin chief resigns top cop post in Lakeland, Fla.

Former ElgPoilice Chief LisWomack. | Sun-Times Medifile

Former Elgin Poilice Chief Lisa Womack. | Sun-Times Media file

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Updated: March 3, 2014 11:32AM



LAKELAND, Fla. — Former Elgin Police Chief Lisa Womack has resigned her post as Lakeland’s police after a no-confidence vote from police officers and employees.

Lakeland City Manager Douglas Thomas said Womack turned in a letter of resignation on Friday, two days after employees voted 152-123 to express no confidence in Womack’s leadership.

Thomas said he did not ask for Womack’s resignation and that the decision was her own. She will remain chief until May 1.

The Lakeland Police Department has been plagued for at least a year by a series of scandals, including a sweeping sexual misconduct investigation, criminal cases fouled by search and reporting procedures, the arrest of an officer on charges he sexually abused and stalked a woman while on duty, and a grand jury investigation into problems with Womack and the department’s handling of public records.

A grand jury document called a presentment from Feb. 14, 2013 in the 10th Circuit Court of Florida in and for Polk County found two major problems under Womack’s watch: Womack’s “attitude regarding public records and Chief Womack employing a longtime friend, Ann Dinges, as public information officer, Ann Dinges was hired by Chief Womack in October 2011.”

Dinges also worked for Womack in Elgin and in Sugar Land, Texas. Dinges is listed on the city of Lakeland website as police department public information/community relations officer.

“Based on the facts we uncovered, there is no question that Ann Dinges is woefully unqualified and completely incompetent to properly perform the role of public information officer. Ann Dinges answers to Chief Womack only, and based upon the facts we have uncovered, she remains in the position of public information officer because of her personal relationship with Chief Womack.”

“Under the leadership of Chief Womack, there is within the Lakeland Police Department, a culture of indifference at best, or hostility at worst, in complying with the public records law,” the document states.

Hiring questioned

The presentment states, “we doubt whether Chief Womack should continue as chief of LPD. Indeed, we have concerns about whether hiring Womack was a wise decision. Womack was initially ranked somewhere between eighth and 15th among multiple applicants, by the Selection Advisory Committee. We learned that the city of Lakeland did not sufficiently investigate Chief Womack’s background, particularly the questionable and unknown circumstances of her leaving her position in Elgin, Illinois. To this day, it is not known why Chief Womack was asked to leave her position in Elgin. No Lakeland investigator traveled to Elgin to discover that information.”

Womack started her police career in 1992 in Fort Worth, Texas. She became police chief in 2004 in Sugar Land, Texas, and from 2005 until spring of 2010 was top cop in Elgin.

In late 2010, she worked in Arlington, Texas on an interim basis in time for the Texas Rangers to make the World Series and was responsible for coordinating strategy for those games, for college football’s Big 12 Championship football game, and for the 2011 Super Bowl at Cowboy’s Stadium. She also oversaw the day-to-day field operations for Arlington police. She started her job in Florida in March 2011.

In Elgin, about a month prior to resigning, Womack met with city staff about her stepping aside and went on administrative leave. By federal law, she was allowed 21 days to consider any severance agreement that was offered.

Womack was the first woman to hold the chief’s spot in Elgin. Her family never moved to the area and her frequent trips out of state may have been one of the contributing factors in her leaving, sources said.

With Associated Press Reports



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