On Friday, Todd Vande Zande sent a letter to City Manager Scott Wood and Mayor Gene Hobgood through his attorney, Lance LoRusso, requesting the city reconsider his Aug. 6 firing.
Vande Zande also asked Wood to recuse himself from the process and for Hobgood and the City Council to assign a hearing officer “who has no stake in the outcome and who does not report to the city manager.”
Vande Zande originally threatened to sue the city if he were removed from his position, but LoRusso said no lawsuit has been filed in Cherokee County Superior Court.
“We are giving them an opportunity to work through the process that way,” LoRusso said of the city, adding that Vande Zande stands by his allegations.
City Attorney Bobby Dyer said he believes Wood will respond to the letter in the coming days and said the city will take the letter as a request to review in accordance to its employee policy.
“There is nothing in the employee policies that provide for anyone else to review a disciplinary action,” he said. “Therefore, the city manager will review the termination.”
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.”
It also notes any decision made by the city manager would be subject to review by the city attorney “in order to assure full compliance with city policy and prevailing state and federal laws.”
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 City Manager Scott 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.”
Vande Zande in his most recent letter goes on to say that if Wood does not remove himself from the proceedings, he will call upon the mayor as the chief executive officer of the city “to act to remove the city manager from this decision.”
The former assistant police chief also asked the city to turn over documents and electronic devices pertaining to any communication between Merchant and Wood.
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.
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.