Not long after the City Council wrapped its March 15 meeting, Canton Police Officer Daniel Henley spotted a silver convertible speeding on Railroad Street.
Henley didn’t know the man behind the wheel of the car.
But when he pulled the vehicle over at the Chevron Gas Station on Marietta Highway and Waleska Street, the driver made sure that Henley knew he wasn’t dealing with an ordinary citizen.
“I’m Scott Wood, and I’m the Canton City Manager," he told the officer. "And I just left a 4-hour City Council meeting.”
“Mr. Wood,” Henley said, “I don’t know you, sir.”
“Well, I don’t know you, either,” Wood said. “But I’m just telling you who I am and what I just left.”
Much of what was said after that exchange between Wood and Henley is a mystery. After asking for Wood’s license, Henley turned off his microphone, a violation of department policy.
What is known is that Wood drove off that night with a warning for failing to maintain his lane and driving 45 m.p.h. in a 30 m.p.h. zone.
And until a WSB-TV report on Thursday night, the city said nothing about it.
The exchange, caught on a dashboard recording released to Canton-Sixes Patch today, has some wondering if Wood received preferential treatment because he's the city manager, a position that pays $150,800 a year.
A message left for Wood has not been returned. His assistant said this morning that he was headed to a meeting that would last for much of the day.
But Wood told the WSB-TV reporter who broke the story on Thursday evening that he “neither asked for and hopefully did not receive any kind of preferential treatment.”
In an interview with Canton-Sixes Patch, the interim chief of the Canton Police Department said that Wood wasn't treated any differently than any other person who is stopped for alleged traffic violations.
Henley’s primary duty, Todd Vande Zande said, is to look for DUI offenders.
“It is not uncommon for somebody assigned to a detail like this to issue warnings when, after their initial contact with the driver, they realize that this driver is just doing something other than being under the influence of alcohol,” he said.
“Through the course of a night, Officer Henley probably makes more than a dozen traffic stops—the majority of which he probably issues warnings for minor violations. That’s how he’s able to spend the greater part of his time seeking out and detecting impaired drivers is by not spending a lot of time writing out citations for minor violations.”
Vande Zande said Henley is a good officer who has been with the department for five years. He didn’t turn off the microphone the night of the traffic stop “with the intent of hiding anything that was taking place,” Vande Zande said.
“Once the officer realized that he was going to issue a warning and that there wasn’t any fear of a complaint being levied against him, the officer shut the audio on his mic off. And that was the end of it.”
Still, Vande Zande gave Henley a verbal warning.
“According to the letter of the policy, he violated the policy,” he said. “Our requirement is that you keep your audio and your video on for the entire traffic stop.”
Meanwhile, it remains unclear why city officials kept quiet about Wood’s traffic stop until the WSB-TV report.
Officials didn't address it in that report or in today's interview with Canton-Sixes Patch.
Mayor Gene Hobgood told the station that if he had been in Wood’s position, he “would have asked for a ticket and I would have been down City Hall the next day and paid it.”
MORE FROM THE DASHBOARD CAM RECORDING
According to the nearly 5-minute dashboard recording, Wood jumped out of his car and walked toward Henley’s vehicle.
Three times, Henley uttered the same command.
“Have a seat back in your vehicle, sir.”
“Is there something wrong?” Wood asked.
“If you have a seat back in your vehicle,” Henley said, “I’ll talk to you, sir.”
A minute later, Henley approached Wood’s vehicle and explained why he stopped Wood.
“It’s not very good to jump out though, like that,” Henley said.
Wood responded by telling Henley that he was the city manager for Canton.
“OK. Got your driver’s license with you?” Henley asked.
“I sure do,” Wood said.
“You have a seat,” Henley said. “I’ll be right back with you, OK?”
Slowly, Henley walked backward to his police cruiser, his eye never leaving the driver's side of Wood's car.
“I’ll be right back with you, sir.”
Shortly thereafter, the audio goes silent.