Lakeland City Manager Doug Thomas
Response to Media
As reported in at least one media outlet, I did speak with Commissioner Wiggs yesterday afternoon. We have worked together for 10 years and I am obviously disappointed by his statement. I have carefully followed the plan of action that was publicly outlined at the July 22nd Town Hall meeting including working closely with the Commission endorsed Lakeland Police Advisory Commission (LPAC) as we address the issues facing the Lakeland Police Department. Howard is a respected member of the Lakeland City Commission but as City Manager, I work for the Mayor and City Commission as a whole and therefore understand that different opinions regarding my management of the City are inevitable, especially during the stressful times we are experiencing.
I believe I have been responsive to what the City Commission has asked me to do. As requested at the June 28th Agenda Study Session, I had Police Chief Womack meet with the City Commission on July 1st to speak about the actions she and the command staff were taking in response to the issues facing the LPD. Further, during my comments at the July 22nd Town Hall Meeting, I outlined the specifics of a plan to ensure our investigations followed all required state laws, collective bargaining agreement provisions and due process and to issue appropriate levels of discipline based upon the results of those investigations.
I promised and have delivered upon my commitment to keep both the City Commission and the public informed as to results of the various investigations as they were completed, which have included advance notice to City Commissioners followed by public media releases, press conferences and posting on the City’s special LPD microsite. Recognizing the importance of transparency in response to these issues, this same microsite also includes a robust listing of virtually every piece of information that has been generated throughout our efforts and has become a widely accessed and trusted source of information by our community, our employees and the news media.
I also pledged the support of both myself and the entire municipal organization to work with and promptly respond to any information or request by the Commission endorsed LPAC as they carried out their mission and charge to address the following:
1. Do we – the City of Lakeland and the LPD – have the appropriate processes in place to address the challenges we are confronting today?
2. What can be done to improve a speak-up culture within the LPD and City Hall?
3. What can be done to improve a culture in which citizens can know their complaints will be heard, fairly evaluated and acted upon promptly?
4. What measurements can we set in place to fairly judge our success?
The LPAC was asked to provide an update to the City Commission within 30 days of their first meeting which was done on September 3rd and complete their final report within 60 to 90 days. They are on schedule and are planning to present their findings and recommendations at the October 21, 2013 City Commission meeting.
Lastly, in addition to my commitment to work with the LPAC, I stated as City Manager that I would simultaneously be developing a specific plan of action that will address what we learned from our investigations; why our established policies and procedures failed; and outline a framework of initiatives that I and the LPD administration will be implementing to prevent such matters from occurring in the future. In our September 11thpresentation to the LPAC, Chief Womack and I highlighted our accountability for our respective operations, the status of our investigations, disciplinary actions taken, current responses to issues and most importantly, a comprehensive blueprint of the steps and programs we believe will be required going forward.
At a Lakeland Chamber of Commerce function that very same evening, I encouraged Commissioner Wiggs to watch the presentation on the LPD microsite as several of his colleagues had attended the meeting and were very complementary of the information provided. I was surprised to learn during yesterday’s conversation that he has not yet watched the video presentation. That presentation was intended to serve as the basis of my final report and recommendations to the City Commission on October 21st following their receipt of the LPAC report.
My job as City Manager is to professionally lead and oversee the operations of this organization and I will continue to do so to the best of my abilities during these trying times. I have carried out exactly what I committed to do dating back to the July 22nd Town Hall meeting. I reaffirmed that same path of action with the consent of the City Commission at their August 5th meeting and we are within weeks of completing that process. The City of Lakeland has accomplished tremendous success during my tenure as City Manager through a productive and collaborative relationship with the City Commission, and I am confident that this foundation will enable us to successfully resolve our current challenges as well.