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Court rules Zionsville mayor does not have the power to demote fire chief

The issue came up when Mayor Emily Styron expressed concerns with the leadership of longtime Fire Chief James VanGorder.

ZIONSVILLE, Ind. — NOTE: The above video is from a previous report on this story.

A court ruled the mayor of Zionsville does not have the power to demote or discharge a department head without the town council's approval.

The issue came up when Mayor Emily Styron expressed concerns with the leadership of longtime Fire Chief James VanGorder. She asked the council to approve his demotion.

"I requested the council's support of my belief that a change in leadership is needed at ZFD," Styron said in a statement at the time. "I am committed to working toward solutions which continue to keep our town safe."

According to Plunkett, the council reviewed every page of documentation provided by the mayor.

"And we voted 7-0 in favor of not giving her that authority," he said, keeping the chief on the job.

"There was never any doubt in our mind or in that of the administration from what we received there was concern for public safety," Plunkett said.

The mayor struck back and took the issue to court to try to clarify if she had the power to demote or discharge a department head on her own. The court sided with the town council.

Styron issued a statement in response:

It’s a true honor to serve as an elected official in this town. With the uniqueness of our structure of government, the need for clarity on roles and responsibilities arose due to language in the Reorganization document and powers which had been granted to the Mayor. Having the best leadership we can have at the Zionsville Fire Department matters to me, as Mayor and as a citizen. As Town executive, I took action on behalf of the best interest of the Fire Department. The court ruled that the Mayor does not have the authority to demote the Fire Chief without Town Council approval. I am committed to moving forward and continuing to work on behalf of the citizens of our town. There will be no further comment at this time.

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