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Chance issue heads to court
Ex-official appeals civil service ruling
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Forsyth County News

 

Forsyth County's former planning director hasn't given up on regaining his job.

Jeff Chance was fired in August by the county commission amid allegations that he failed to follow and comply with county policies.

He appealed the dismissal to the Forsyth County Civil Service Board, which upheld the commission's decision in December following an eight-day hearing.

Chance's attorney, Eric Chofnas, has since filed a petition asking a Forsyth County Superior Court judge to sustain his client's appeal or order the board to reconsider its decision.

Chance, who was a 15-year county employee, contends his dismissal was politically motivated.

The petition asserts the civil service board erred in several ways, most notably that the decision was contrary to its findings.

In its ruling, the civil service board noted the majority of the 12 findings on which the county commission based Chance's firing were false and not supported by evidence.

The findings came from an investigative summary of Chance's work activities.

The petition also contends the civil service board's ruling was arbitrary and capricious because Chance's dismissal "was based on the selective enforcement of vague and contradictory standards."

Furthermore, the board was required to return the issue to the county commission, which it didn't do.

According to the petition, the civil service board also found that "the investigation and eventual discipline against [Chance] was motivated in large part by improper political motives" and that the responsible county officials "may have acted improperly and unethically."

Chofnas said he thought the hearing went well, based on the board's finding that Chance's termination was "based on improper political motives."

"My position in the petition is that once they made that finding that's the ultimate finding of fact," Chofnas said.

He added that the board was "required to hold that the termination was illegal.

"They say, 'Well, we can't consider that.' And my position is you have to consider it as a matter of due process and you do consider those type of issues all the time," Chofnas said.

Dana Miles, an attorney who also acts as the civil service board's hearing officer, deferred comment to Tim Buckley and Dennis Brown. The attorneys represented the county during the civil service proceedings.

Buckley was out of town late last week and attempts to reach Brown were not successful.

Chofnas said the board has 90 days to submit a record of the hearing to the court.

He argued during the civil service hearing and in the petition that the investigation of his client was instigated by Brant Meadows, a former planning commissioner who ran unsuccessfully last year for a seat on the county commission.

The document goes on to say that Meadows threatened Chance's job if he did not reverse his decision on a zoning matter and attempted to force a public hearing on the issue to bolster his campaign.

Meadows wanted to oppose a request for a conditional use permit and Chance's decision as planning director removed the matter from the planning commission's jurisdiction.

Chance filed suit against the county in July on the basis that his rights as a whistleblower had been violated.

He contends that Meadows told him he would "destroy him" if he failed to reverse his decision on the planning issue.

Chofnas said that case is still in its preliminary stages.