Ex-Canton interim police chief fired

by: Aaron Diamant Updated:

CANTON, Ga. - There was another big shake-up Tuesday inside a local police department. The City of Canton's assistant police chief is out of a job -- just a few months after serving as interim chief.

Channel 2 Action News confirmed Canton’s new police chief fired Todd Vande Zande on Monday. However, last Friday, Vande Zande’s attorney sent a letter to city leaders threatening to sue -- calling Chief Robert Merchant’s demand for Vande Zande's resignation nothing more than retaliation for a series of ugly run-ins with City Manager Scott Wood.

Investigative reporter Aaron Diamant asked Canton City Attorney Robert Dyer for specifics about why Vande Zande was let go.

"The new chief determined that it was in the best interest of the department," Dyer said.

Vande Zande's lawyer claims his client and Wood got into an argument after Channel 2 Action News obtained video from a March traffic stop involving Wood.

In January, Channel 2 Action News interviewed a then-confident interim chief Todd Vande Zande. City leaders had just tapped him to lead the department after the previous chief, Jeff Lance, resigned amid intense criticism over the way he handled the initial search for missing 7-year-old Jorelys Rivera.

Jorelys was kidnapped and killed in December 2011 at a Canton apartment complex.

"This organization now has the ability to move forward and get out from underneath the shadow that lingers over us," Vande Zande told Diamant in January.

However, in May, Wood hired Merchant to permanently replace Lance. Merchant sent a strong message on day one.

"I'm going to take a look at the way the department was run,” Merchant told Diamant in May. “If I feel like some changes need to be made, then I'll make the changes.”

Dyer told Diamant that Merchant will provide more details about Vande Zande's firing at a later date.

Channel 2 Action News was unable to reach Vande Zande or his attorney on Tuesday.