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County refutes lawsuit
Asks court to toss Chance legal matter
Chance Jeff
Jeff Chance - photo by Submitted
Forsyth County has denied several of the allegations leveled in a lawsuit by its former planning director and wants the matter dismissed from court.

Officials with Buckley Brown, the firm representing the county in the legal battle with Jeff Chance, did not return phone calls seeking comment.

However, in its Aug. 27 response to the complaint, the county maintains Chance doesn’t “qualify as a whistleblower,” and Forsyth did not take retaliatory action with respect to the Georgia Whistleblower Act.

The response also states the county “would have taken the same personnel action” in the “absence of [Chance’s] alleged disclosure.”
Chance filed suit in July asserting that his rights as a whistleblower were violated when the county launched an investigation into his management
practices and computer use.

According to the suit, the investigation was in retaliation for Chance reporting that Planning Commissioner Brant Meadows had allegedly threatened his job when the two disagreed on an administrative decision.

The lawsuit asserts that Meadows told Chance that he would “destroy him” if he didn’t reverse a decision to allow a permit issued in 2000 to United Recycling to apply to a 2009 request for an open storage yard and recycling center off Friendship Road.

The suit states that reporting Meadows’ alleged threats led Commission Chairman Charles Laughinghouse to tell Chance “to reverse his decision so that Mr. Meadows would back off from his threats and the whole matter would go away.”

The county’s answer denies those allegations.

Chance’s attorney, Eric Chofnas, could not be reached for comment.

The lawsuit also states that County Attorney Ken Jarrard suggested Chance reverse the administrative decision prior to a meeting with Meadows and Laughinghouse.

The county states that Chance and Jarrard “mutually discussed all options for approaching the meeting and ultimately concluded that [Chance] would attend the meeting with an open mind and would make the decision that he could personally and professionally support.”

Chance did reverse his decision following the meeting.

Afterward, Meadows wrote a letter to the county calling into question Chance’s professionalism, which sparked the county’s investigation into Chance’s work performance.

Chance was suspended with pay in May.

The investigation turned up 12 violations of county policies, including favoritism to certain employees, inappropriate e-mail activity and putting golf balls in the office hallways.

The commission voted 3-1, with Commissioner Brian Tam absent and Commissioner Patrick Bell opposed, to fire Chance on Aug. 19.

Laughinghouse said afterward that the board’s decision was based on the findings of the investigatory report.

Last week, Chofnas sent an informal notice of appeal to the county personnel services director and Laughinghouse.

The notice is the first required step in securing a civil service hearing to dispute Chance’s firing.

Tom Brown, formerly the assistant director of planning and zoning, has since become interim planning director.