Former Lakeland Police officer Rusty Longaberger has sued the City of Lakeland to get a new arbitration hearing. He was fired by former chief Lisa Womack for his involvement in the LPD sex scandal. He appealed his dismissal but, in August, an arbitrator found that just cause existed for Longaberger’s termination. The new lawsuit, filed in Circuit Court in Bartow, alleges that the arbitration was procedurally flawed in several respects. The suit was filed on behalf of both Longaberger and his union, the West Central Florida Police Benevolent Association.
Document: Petition to Vacate Arbitration Award
Another LPD officer fired because of the scandal, David Woolverton, got his job back, although he was demoted, after a different arbitrator in his case reached the opposite conclusion.
The lawsuit was filed in November. This week, the City filed a motion to have the case dismissed. The next step would typically be a hearing on that motion, but it does not appear from the docket that a hearing date has been set yet. The case has been assigned to Judge Durden.
One of the purposes of arbitration is to avoid costly court fights. Therefore, overturning an arbitrator’s decision by filing a lawsuit is usually very difficult. Once parties have availed themselves of the arbitration process to avoid court, judges typically don’t want to make it easy for them to get into court. Longaberger has an uphill battle to fight.
Nita J. Wyrick
December 13, 2014 — 7:10 am
“Longaberger has an uphill battle to fight.” Depending on the new chief. If the LPD doesn’t make some drastic changes, Longaberger will be back.
December 13, 2014 — 7:19 am
I doubt that. His legal position doesn’t appear to have anything to do with who the chief is.
Nita J. Wyrick
December 13, 2014 — 9:26 am
Kemp, Longaberger’s “legal position” has nothing to do with his being re-hired just as it didn’t in the case of Wolverton and McNaab, IMO.
December 13, 2014 — 9:36 am
In the case of Woolverton, he was re-hired only because the arbitrator said he had to be. Like Longabeger, his legal position had everything to do with him being re-hired.
December 13, 2014 — 7:37 am
since they let Hutton, Wolverton, and McNabb stay they should let Longaburger back.
December 13, 2014 — 8:56 am
When an arbitrator’s decision is arbitrary, as evidenced by the opposite outcomes for Longaberger and Wolverton with the same data, it proves that the arbitration process is essentially worthless, no better than the flip of a coin.
They both should have been fired, since State Attorney Jerry Hill won’t take either one of their testimony, but if the LPD and the City Commissioners of Lakeland are irresponsible, they should be required to live with their irresponsible decisions and consequences and reinstate Longaberger too.