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Lakeland Police fire woman at center of sex scandal

6:11 PM, Sep 11, 2013   |    comments
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Lakeland, Fla. -- A shocking development on Wednesday in the Lakeland PD scandal. The woman at the center of it all, Sue Eberle, was officially fired.

Eberle, who considers herself a whistleblower, has threatened to file a lawsuit against the department for a hostile work environment, accusing several officers of coercing her to have sex.

"As of today, she has been terminated," said Lakeland Police Chief Lisa Womack.

The offense?

"Conduct unbecoming, untruthfulness, and required conduct and cooperation during an investigation for case 12-025," said Womack.

That was the case that started it all.

It involved an allegation of sex in an abandoned church between Eberle and a now-former officer who has since quit the force.

Womack concluded Eberle tried to cover it up, lied, and when faced with termination, went public with what has turned out to be a far more widespread embarrassment.

"This has been a very sad chapter for the Lakeland Police Department," said Chief Womack.

"This is just another hit, you know? She was down. This is just another kick in the ribs," said David Linesch, Eberle's attorney.

Linesch, who sat listening at the back of the room during the hearing, called it shameful. Eberle, he said, was described as exceptionally cooperative in the State Attorney's investigative report which brought he scandal to light.

He repeated Eberle had been the victim of a hostile work environment, and threatened to sue.

"If need be, I will litigate this to the very end. I think a jury would be extremely sympathetic to Sue's claims and I think they would reward her significant damages," said Linesch.

In addition to Eberle being dismissed, 10 Lakeland officers have lost their jobs in the wake of the scandal as well as one firefighter. Seven Lakeland officers have received discipline, reprimands and/or counseling. Five others were implicated, but those allegations were never substantiated.

"I believe that the disciplinary decisions have been appropriate. I believe they've been fair. I believe they've been consistent. And I believe we are now closing this particular chapter," Womack told the civilian panel reviewing the case.

Going forward, Womack outlined steps the department is now taking to ensure higher ethical training and standards.

She called it "the lifeguard" approach: blowing the whistle on rule violations, ready to jump in at the first sign of trouble.

It's a safety net Sue Eberle's lawyer says the now-former civilian crime analyst never had.

"There wasn't any lifeguard on duty when Sue Eberle worked here," said Linesch.

Chief Womack says Wednesday's announcements mark the end of their disciplinary investigation.

Before being fired, Eberle had been on paid leave.

Her attorney says they'd be willing to discuss a financial settlement.

WTSP

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