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Questions Surround Chief's Resignation

City Manager Scott Wood said last week that the police chief's departure came after a mutual decision was reached. This week, inconsistencies in that story have emerged.

When City Manager Scott Wood announced on Thursday that , he said the chief's departure wasn't forced.

"It was a mutual agreement," he said that afternoon, not long after the release of a that found violations of police department policy and other errors during the search for slain 7-year-old Jorelys Rivera.

This week, inconsistencies in Wood's story have emerged.

Sunday, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Wood asked for Lance's resignation.

Today, a city official provided yet another version of the story. Without explanation, he asked not to be identified. Canton-Sixes Patch does not quote anonymous sources if someone says something of consequence.

And in a story set to appear in Wednesday's edition of , Lance will reveal that he didn't leave the police department of his own volition. Wood told him that the City Council asked for his resignation, Lance said in an interview with Cherokee's weekly newspaper.

So what's fact and what's fiction?

"Let people read between the lines," Mayor Gene Hobgood told Canton-Sixes Patch this evening.

• • •

The six council members kept their comments brief. They said they didn't ask for . They weren't even privy to discussions between Lance and Wood. Wood did contact them, brief them about the Jorelys Rivera audit and ask for their input. But that was it. It was Wood, Hobgood and City Attorney Bobby Dyer who met with Lance, they said.

"What happened in the meeting between the four of them," Council member Hooky Huffman said, "I cannot say. No council people were in the meeting."

While Dyer could not be reached for comment, Hobgood said he "wouldn't comment about the content of that meeting." Though taxpayer dollars paid for Lance's severance, which was six weeks salary and a benefits package, Hobgood said the chief's employment was a personnel matter.

Wood responded to Canton-Sixes Patch via email.

"I cannot account for what another newspaper writes," Wood wrote. "I did not say anything at all to the AJC about asking for the Chief’s resignation and I do not know where that came from. You will have to ask them that question. 

"I stand by my comments to you and the two local newspapers during the meeting in my office and I will not speak further to the matter."

• • •

Canton has a council manager form of government. The police department reports to the manager. Any personnel matters fall under Wood's purview, and the council stays out of administrative decisions.

But Council member Bob Rush said Lance's "resignation and termination of employment was a surprise to" him.

Though the Jorelys Rivera audit revealed "that the police department seemed to lack a sense of urgency with regard to the girl's disappearance and was inadequately trained in the proper and timely response procedures in this type of situation," Rush said he did not consider the failure of leadership to be "lethal."

Council member John Beresford said it doesn't matter who initiated resignation talks with Lance.

"Who came to the conclusion first?" he asked during an interview with Canton-Sixes Patch on Monday. "We can play that one all day long."

What matters, Beresford said, is that Lance "made the right decision for what the citizens needed to have done.

"And bless his heart. He's a man for doing it."

Coming soon: Patch's interview with , the assistant chief under Lance and the man tapped to lead the agency until a permanent replacement can be named. Vande Zande said he plans to apply for the position.

KaTee January 25, 2012 at 01:30 PM
What was the severance package? Curious.
Rodney Thrash January 25, 2012 at 11:18 PM
Six weeks salary and a benefits package. The dollar value was not provided. Chief Lance made $80,608 a year.
Ashley Brower Crumbley January 30, 2012 at 03:59 PM
Rodney!! I have made mention about that creep!!!!!! He is managing OUR town backwards!! I want to indulge in his character, not what you would expect from the MANAGER OF THE CITY OF CANTON!! I would expect to find him managing a used car dealership!

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