(ZIONSVILLE, Ind.) — A fight over the future of Zionsville’s fire chief is spilling into court.
Mayor Emily Styron wants to replace Chief James VanGorder. But the reorganization plan which gave Zionsville a mayor seven years ago says firing a department head requires town council approval. The council unanimously refused, so Styron has placed VanGorder on leave for a week, and is reassigning his duties. She’s also asking a judge to say the council veto power goes against state law.
Council president Josh Garrett calls the suit a waste of time and tax dollars. He argues the reorganization plan was reviewed and upheld by the Indiana Supreme Court. And he says it’s frustrating that all sides spent nine months going through the prescribed process, only for Styron to try to act on her own when the vote went against her.
Garrett says the administration first charged there had been financial mismanagement at the fire department, but after failing to document that claim, argued department morale is poor. He acknowledges there are problems at the department, but says they’re not “insurmountable,” and says a lengthy review by the council didn’t find cause to remove VanGorder.
Styron says the courts need to clear up for future mayors whether they can choose their own leadership team. One issue for a judge is the reorganization plan’s requirement that the council approve an agency head’s “discharge.” Styron argues she’s demoting VanGorder, not firing him entirely. The council maintains removing him as chief falls within the law’s requirement that the council approve.