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Attorney: Vande Zande, Canton's Interim Police Chief, Given Ultimatum

Todd Vande Zande, who was charged with stabilizing the Canton Police Department after the Jorelys Rivera case, must resign today or be fired, his lawyer said.

The after the brutal abduction and murder of 7-year-old Jorelys Rivera must resign today or be fired, his attorney said.

New police Chief Bob Merchant on Friday "advised (assistant police chief Todd) Vande Zande that his employment would be terminated on Monday if Vande Zande did not voluntarily resign his position by close of business on Monday," Atlanta lawyer Lance J. LoRusso wrote in a letter to Merchant, the mayor, the city manager and all six members of the Canton City Council.

In the letter, LoRusso introduced himself as Vande Zande's attorney, demanded "the City of Canton immediately cease its harassment and retaliatory actions," asked that Merchant and the city manager take no action until an outside agency such as the GBI can investigate the matter and requested more than $200,000 in damages.

He also made a public records request for laptops, electronic devices, files, text messages, emails and other communication that belong to and pertain to Merchant, Vande Zande and City Manager Scott Wood.

LoRusso said his client's ouster is retaliation for Vande Zande's failure to comply with several requests from City Manager Scott Wood, who picked Vande Zande to lead the department after  in January in the wake of the Jorelys Rivera murder case. 

The Wood-Vande Zande partnership was an acrimonious union that played out on television in April when WSB-TV aired a report about a .

Until that news report, the city said nothing about the stop, which led to the and . The officer turned off his microphone during the last portion of the stop, a violation of department policy.

After the story aired, Vande Zande defended the officer, but criticized Wood, who has oversight of the Canton Police Department. He said the . 

At the time, he was . He later after he overheard a meeting between Wood, Cherokee County Sheriff Roger Garrison and resident John Rust about the candidates for police chief. They were talking about Vande Zande. Garrison said there was nothing unusual about the meeting. Before Woodstock selected  as its police chief in February, City Manager Jeff Moon went to Garrison.

But Vande Zande took his concerns and others to the city council, which voted in April to  "to evaluate his effectiveness" as city manager. 

A few weeks later, Wood named Merchant, who had recently retired as chief of the Altamonte Springs, FL, Police Department, as Canton's new top law enforcement official.

Merchant started on the job on May 31. As recently as last week, Vande Zande played .

Merchant could not be reached for comment today. And Wood declined to comment.

"Because it is a legal and personnel matter, (city attorney) Bobby Dyer is going to be handling whatever comments are appropriate from the city," he said.

Patch has left a message for Dyer.

Reached Sunday, LoRusso would only confirm that he "represents Deputy Police Chief Vande Zande" and that he "sent the letter" outlining the allegations against the city.

"It would not be appropriate for me to make any statements to the media before the city officials or their attorneys have an opportunity to respond to me about the letter," he said.

If Vande Zande is terminated, LoRusso wrote in the letter, he will "immediately seek injunctive and other relief through the Superior Court of Cherokee County against the City of Canton and individually against Wood and Merchant."

Stay with Canton-Sixes Patch for updates on this breaking news story.

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Etowahwah August 06, 2012 at 06:41 PM
Wow, here we go again! What is it going to take for our lame City Council fires Scott Wood? Is someone going to have to die first? His antics and mistakes continue to cost the taxpayers more money, and now a settlement in this case can only add to the city's budget shortfall. The City Manager's bullying is not only accepted by the Council but thoroughly endorsed. Canton has become the laughing stock of Cherokee County and Metro Atlanta. What a shame and downright disgrace! Good for Vande Zande for standing his ground and saying no to Wood's shenanigans! God help our city!
Concerned Citizen August 07, 2012 at 10:00 PM
People have no clue how bad Vande Zande was for Canton Police Dept. The truth will all come out. Vande Zande can't handle the fact that the new chief fired him because he wasn't doing anything for the department except beating the morale out of his own officers. Now he wants to run to the media (as usual) and blame it all on some drama with the city manager. All I can say is "hey Vande Zande, what goes around comes around and it looks like its your turn". Finally Canton can rise up and hopefully start over. It's not fair to the officers, that put their lives on the line EVERYDAY, to publicize all the negative politics that do nothing but smear their department.
lifelong resident August 08, 2012 at 04:39 PM
it DOES seem everything is asssociated with Woods doesnt it.

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