Zionsville Fire Dept. Chief James VanGorder on June 18 withdrew his counterclaim for injunctive relief in the lawsuit between Zionsville Mayor Emily Styron and the Zionsville Town Council. VanGorder’s legal representatives stated the decision came because Styron had agreed to restore his core functions as the ZFD department head.
“Out of respect for the court process — and being placed squarely in the middle of a legal dispute between the Mayor and Town Council — Chief VanGorder (and his family) has remained painfully silent throughout the pendency of this case,” VanGorder’s legal representative Jeff Jacob stated in a media release. “Now that the Court has ruled that the Mayor’s actions in removing Chief VanGorder as the department head of ZFD exceeded her authority, and the Mayor has agreed to restore Chief VanGorder to his core functions as the head of ZFD, Chief VanGorder has obtained the relief he initially sought when he intervened in the lawsuit.”
Styron sued the town council after it unanimously voted to deny her request to discharge VanGorder in March, asking a judge to determine whether the town’s mayor has the authority to unilaterally discharge department heads. After the vote, Styron also placed VanGorder on a one-week paid administrative leave and assigned him project manager duties, reporting directly to her and the town’s deputy mayor when he returned. The town council claimed the move was paramount to a demotion/discharge.
In a June 4 ruling, Boone County Judge Matthew Kincaid determined Zionsville’s mayor does not have the authority, settling a core issue of a lawsuit between Styron, the Zionsville Town Council and VanGorder. But until June 18, VanGorder’s counterclaim for injunctive relief, which would have argued for a judge to restore his job functions, remained, and a hearing for the injunction was scheduled for July 1-2.
Styron, Town of Zionsville officials, VanGorder and Jacob declined to comment for this story.
“Chief VanGorder is thankful for the Court’s speedy resolution of the dispute and appreciates the support of Town Council,” Jacob stated. “He also recognizes, and wants to thank, his colleagues at (the) ZFD and members of the community for their support. The support of the community has been overwhelming.
“Sadly, this could have been handled differently. The Mayor could have sought direction from the Court prior to discharging Chief VanGorder from his core duties. He was unnecessarily required to retain private lawyers to keep his job and defend his reputation. Chief VanGorder, who has faithfully and successfully served his community for 28 years, deserved better. Finally, while we respect the Mayor’s right to seek appellate review, we are hopeful that she opts not to appeal and this matter can be put to rest. Chief VanGorder looks forward to working with the Mayor’s administration to continue to protect the safety of the Zionville community.”