Zionsville Mayor Emily Styron appealed a Boone County judge’s ruling that she needed approval from the Zionsville Town Council to demote department heads.
Styron filed the notice of appeal to the Indiana Court of Appeals on July 19. In a June 4 ruling, Boone County Judge Matthew Kincaid determined Zionsville’s mayor does not have the authority to demote department heads without approval of the town council.
In March, Styron requested the town council discharge Zionsville Fire Chief James VanGorder. The council denied the request, saying there wasn’t sufficient evidence to demote VanGorder. Styron, in response, placed VanGorder on a one-week paid administrative leave and assigned him to a managerial role reporting directly to her and the town’s deputy mayor when he returned. She also sued the council, asking a judge to determine whether the town’s mayor, under the town’s 2014 reorganization resolution, has the authority to demote department heads without council approval. Kincaid ruled that the mayor does not have the authority. Styron stated VanGorder’s traditional duties as fire chief were restored after the ruling.
Zionsville Town Council President Josh Garrett said he is “enormously disappointed” by Styron’s appeal.
“I had really hoped the mayor could move past this and we could start working on things that would better the town and the community,” Garrett said July 19. “And now we have more legal action that she is continuing to only take up time and, more importantly, take up taxpayer dollars that could be better spent elsewhere. So, I’m incredibly disappointed and disheartened to learn of this.”
Garrett said bills for the lawsuit are still coming in. Through the end of June, expenses related to the lawsuit were $69,854 for Styron and $61,253 for the town council, totaling $131,107.
On July 19, Styron issued the following statement:
“Today Emily Styron, as Mayor of the Town of Zionsville, filed a Notice of Appeal to the Indiana Court of Appeals of the determination by the Boone County Superior Court that the Mayor does not have authority to demote the Fire Chief without the approval of the Zionsville Town Council, and other related matters. The Mayor retains the authority to supervise and direct the daily activities of department heads, such as the Fire Chief and the Chief of Police, who serve under appointment by the Mayor. The Mayor continues to assert that she also retains the authority to withdraw the mayoral appointment and return the Fire Chief or Chief of Police to the last rank held prior to appointment, without the approval of the Town Council, pursuant to Indiana law and the Town’s governance rules. Because the allocation of authority between the Mayor and the Town Council on this issue pursuant to the Town’s Reorganization Resolution has not yet been determined by a higher court, it is important to appeal this decision so that the Indiana Court of Appeals can make a determination that will provide clarity not only on the issues that exist now, but also those that may arise in the future. Mayor Styron remains committed to protecting the interests of the residents of the Town of Zionsville and to working on behalf of the best interest of the Fire Department. There will be no further comment at this time.”