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Board sets timeline for Chance case
Arguments in mid-fall
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Forsyth County News

The Forsyth County Civil Service Board will hear arguments this fall in the case surrounding Jeff Chance’s termination.

At the direction of Chief Superior Court Judge Jeffrey S. Bagley, who reversed its decision to uphold the former planning director’s dismissal, the board revisited the matter Thursday morning.

At issue is whether the county commission’s decision to fire Chance was made under false pretenses.

The order shows that Chance must prove the reason given for his termination was not the true one.

It goes on to note that he must either persuade the civil service board that the county ended his employment for a discriminatory reason or that the county’s explanation lacked credibility.

The board met Thursday morning with Chance and his attorney, Eric Chofnas, as well as attorneys Tim Buckley and Denny Brown, who represent the county in the matter.

After some discussion, the three-member board voted unanimously to give the attorneys until Oct. 7 to submit briefs that are 20 pages or shorter. Each side will then get one hour for oral arguments on Oct. 13.

In addition, the board agreed not to reopen evidence presented during Chance’s appeal hearing, which spanned parts of three weeks beginning Nov. 16.

Chofnas has said that if reinstated, his client would likely receive back pay.

Chance was terminated from his 15-year employment with the county in August 2010 after an investigation of his management practices and computer use.

He contends his dismissal was politically motivated, while the county has argued it was based on his failure to comply with and enforce policies.

In December, the civil service board upheld the commission’s decision to fire Chance.

In its report, the board found the investigation and discipline against Chance was "motivated in large part by improper political motives and accompanied by a poor quality investigation. That wrong, however, cannot diminish the wrong of your behavior."

The board asserted that it lacks the proper authority to take action against the improper political behavior, except for an ethics complaint it lodged against former Planning Commissioner Brant Meadows.

The complaint, which was ultimately dismissed, was the result of testimony during Chance’s eight-day civil service appeal hearing.

Witnesses testified that Meadows, upset over Chance’s decision not to require a public hearing on a zoning matter, threatened Chance’s job.

Meadows reportedly tried to force the hearing so that he could publicly oppose a request for a conditional use permit in an effort to bolster his then campaign for county commission.

The county’s investigation was prompted by Meadows’ review of Chance’s county e-mail, which revealed messages of a sexually and racially charged nature between Chance, his girlfriend and other county employees.

Chance, who was making about $92,000 a year, used profanity at work and permitted employees to waste county time, according to the investigation.

The civil service board upheld three of the 12 findings in the county’s probe and partially supported four others. The remaining five were not sustained.

Chance filed suit against the county last summer on the grounds his rights as a whistleblower had been violated.

A ruling has not been issued on the county’s motion for summary judgment, filed in spring, on that case.