ABBEVILLE, Ala. (WSFA) - Abbeville city leaders are waiting to hear if the city’s police chief will appeal his recent suspension.
The council voted unanimously Monday to suspend Chief Noel Vanlandingham for 10 days without pay. Thursday, the city held a hearing to discuss the suspension further.
If Vanlandingham decides not to appeal the disciplinary action, his suspension, without pay, would start the upcoming Monday, according to the mayor.
Mayor Billy Helms says he initially asked the council to weigh the decision to remove Vanlandigham from his position. That removal vote didn’t pass, so they decided to give him the maximum punishment laid out in the city’s personnel policy citing insubordination.
“For the past year, in my opinion and the council’s opinion, he has made several bad judgement calls,” said Helms.
The mayor declined to give specifics on previous incidents, but confirmed the city has spoken to Vanlandingham in the past. He says the tipping point was Vanlandingham meeting with a woman at his office who was involved in a controversial arrest by Henry County and providing information the county said it was using as part of that investigation.
Helms says while he is not trying to restrict anyone’s freedom of speech, Vanlandingham’s actions pulled the city into an incident they had nothing to do with.
“There’s several other things I could mention, that I can’t get into because I don’t know which direction it’s going, we’re waiting to hear back from him," said Helms. “We’re not out to hurt anyone, but at the same time we’re responsible for the citizens of Abbeville and the actions of our employees."
Helms says Vanlandigham’s actions follow a trend of ongoing tension between the police department and the sheriff’s office - actions Helms wants to stop.
“To me, there’s no room for that in public service. The people are paying you to get along,” said Helms. “We want our chief’s decision to not be based on what the sheriff’s department does.”
Mayor Helms confirmed the city is bracing for potential legal action from Chief Vanlandigham.
WSFA 12 News reached out to Chief Vanlandigham who said he could not comment and directed us to his attorney. His attorney, Dustin Fowler, said “We disagree with the council decision in suspending Chief Vanlandigham. We are going to explore all legal options that are available to us. We do plan to file an appeal to the suspension.”