Canton denies firing appeal from former assistant police chief
by Kristal Dixon
August 25, 2012 12:55 AM | 2676 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
CANTON — Canton’s former assistant police chief has lost his appeal of his recent termination at the city level.

However, the former employee is still examining other ways to appeal the firing.

In a letter dated Aug. 15, City Manager Scott Wood informed Todd Vande Zande he saw “no reason to overturn” Police Chief Robert Merchant’s decision to fire him.

City Attorney Bobby Dyer informed Vande Zande’s attorney, Lance LoRusso, of the city’s decision in a letter dated Aug. 17. Dyer said Wood’s decision is the “end of the process provided in the city’s employee policies.”

On Friday morning, LoRusso said Vande Zande was “disappointed” in Wood’s decision. LoRusso said the city traditionally held face-to-face meetings with employees in appealing terminations, but added this was not done in that case.

“The decision to allow Scott Wood to review the termination of deputy chief Vande Zande is extremely disappointing,” he added.

To “avoid the appearance of impropriety,” LoRusso stated the city should have had someone else review Vande Zande’s appeal.

“Rather than adhere to that standard, the city chose to allow the person accused of wrongdoing to review the decision in which we believe he was directly involved,” he added.

Police Chief Bob Merchant gave Vande Zande the choice to resign or have his employment terminated by Aug. 6 and ultimately fired him.

Vande Zande has alleged his termination was the result of his “refusal to violate state law and my oath of office when asked by Wood to perform an illegal background check on an individual who publicly criticized Mr. Wood in an open meeting.”

He noted his firing is “clearly retaliatory and also a violation of state law.”

According to the city’s personnel policy, any employee may request the city manager review any disciplinary action, which includes termination. The city manager is then authorized to make personnel decisions as the “final level of administrative appeal.”

Vande Zande asked Wood to remove himself from the process.

LoRusso said the recourses within the city’s policy have been “exhausted,” but added he and his client are considering other avenues. He noted he’s currently exploring whether there is any way to challenge Wood’s decision and if there isn’t, LoRusso said they will “then consider going to court.” LoRusso stated that option is something both he and his client would like to avoid.

“I think we owe it to the citizens of Canton to try to conserve taxpayer resources,” he added.

Along with accusing Wood of requesting a background check with no cause, Vande Zande also raised questions about the process of the police chief search after overhearing a conversation between Wood and Cherokee County Sheriff Roger Garrison in which Vande Zande was a topic of discussion.

Vande Zande was in the running to become the police chief before Merchant was brought on.

Wood had said it wasn’t unusual for city managers to reach out to other law enforcement officials to inquire about candidates for police chief positions.
Comments-icon Post a Comment
No Comments Yet
*We welcome your comments on the stories and issues of the day and seek to provide a forum for the community to voice opinions. All comments are subject to moderator approval before being made visible on the website but are not edited. The use of profanity, obscene and vulgar language, hate speech, and racial slurs is strictly prohibited. Advertisements, promotions, and spam will also be rejected. Please read our terms of service for full guides