RELEASE OF GRAND JURY PRESENTMENT
LAKELAND, FL (December 13, 2013) The City of Lakeland welcomes the release of the Presentment today. The grand jury was convened about a year ago to look into the Lakeland Police Department’s ability and intention to comply with the Public Records Laws of Florida, and the manner in which those primarily responsible for public records in the department were employed, trained and evaluated.
STATEMENT FROM CITY MANAGER DOUG THOMAS
The Grand Jury process was followed, every criticism has been judicially reviewed, and the conclusion is that no one has been charged with a crime. “Put simply, you will see that there is no smoking gun in the Presentment – there is not even a water pistol.” He added, “Additionally, and despite rumors to the contrary that have occurred between when the Presentment was issued and today, you will see that it has nothing to do with the various LPD workplace misconduct issues that have been reported in the media during this past summer.”
There are 3 points that that I would like everyone to remember:
1. First, no one has been charged with a crime
2. Second, the Presentment is the grand jury’s opinion based upon a closed-door process that by its very nature is one-sided and can often result in half-truths, distortions and inaccurate conclusions. While we respect the service of the grand jury, unlike a criminal indictment issued by a grand jury which has to be proved in a court of law, those who are the subject of a Presentment have no way to prove the errors in a Presentment until after it is written. As such, the Presentment does not represent the whole truth and nothing but the truth – but rather a one-sided opinion developed behind closed doors.
As you will see, there is a lot to object to in the grand jury’s opinions. The procedure for permanently sealing Presentments is provided in state statute and it is the only way individuals can protect themselves from information, opinions and conclusions in a Presentment that they believe to be incorrect. Several individuals availed themselves of that protection which is their right, and filed motions to ask the court to keep it sealed permanently. As such, the legal challenge by City employees that was utilized constituted a legislatively authorized request by those concerned for due process; the opportunity to respond to “improper or unlawful” statements that may accomplish nothing more than to impugn the personal and professional reputations of those involved. The employees believed the criticisms in the Presentment were wrong then, and that they are just as wrong, inaccurate and unfair now.
We will be providing you today with a 19-page document that will provide information which may not have been considered by the grand jury and to tell “the other side of the story.”
3. Lastly, given the time that has passed from the issuance of the Presentment to its release today, most of the issues in the Presentment are old news. A number of changes in policies, training and personnel have already been made to improve the manner in which the LPD processes Public Record Requests to ensure the public receives requested records as expeditiously as possible.