published Saturday, January 4th, 2014

Cleveland city manager rejects Wes Snyder's attempt to rescind retirement (with video)

Cleveland, Tenn., Police Chief Wes Snyder
Cleveland, Tenn., Police Chief Wes Snyder
Photo by Patrick Smith /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
Casteel's response to Snyder's letter
Casteel's response to Snyder's letter
Wes Snyder's letter rescinding his retirement letter
Wes Snyder's letter rescinding his retirement letter
Wes Snyder Retirement Letter
Wes Snyder Retirement Letter

CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Wes Snyder is asking to rescind a Dec. 6 retirement letter and keep his job as Cleveland's chief of police.

Snyder submitted the retirement letter two days after security video surfaced showing him meeting with MainStreet Cleveland Executive Director Sharon Marr in a rental warehouse unit on multiple occasions in late November and early December. It appeared that Snyder was in uniform on some of the occasions.

Assistant City Manager Melinda Carroll said Friday evening she received his letter asking to rescind the retirement on Friday afternoon and emailed it to City Manager Janice Casteel, who is on vacation.

"As of right now, no decision has been made that I am aware of," Carroll said.

Casteel responded with a letter saying the retirement would stand.

Snyder received support from City Councilman George Poe. The councilman said he didn't know Snyder was trying to withdraw from his scheduled retirement on Sunday, the 10th anniversary of Snyder's appointment as chief of police.

But Poe said the decision is not a matter for him or the rest of the City Council.

"The city manager takes care of personnel matters," he said. "The City Council hires and fire the city manager and the city manager hires and fires city staff."

Snyder's resignation came after a Dec. 4 police investigation made at the request of the warehouse owner, who stated he was concerned that illegal activity was taking place in the rental unit where the couple met.

Surveillance videotapes documenting the couple's meetings, which mostly occurred during regular business hours and lasted from 60 to 90 minutes. Investigators found the the unit was outfitted with pillows, blankets, a folding chair and a plastic three-drawer cabinet. The cabinet contained baby wipes, paper towels, hand lotion, a hair brush and a bottle of brandy.

On Dec. 9, Snyder and Marr both apologized before the Cleveland City Council, receiving loud rounds of applause.

"I made a terrible mistake with a very dear and very good friend that plunged all of us into circumstances that are horrible to say the least," said Snyder. "I take full responsibility and complete responsibility for my actions. Without a doubt I have used poor judgment in this matter. So I'll stand here today and ask you for your forgiveness. ... Healing starts with the first step, so here's the first step."

"It takes a big man to get up in front of everybody and apologize like that," said Poe.

Snyder has been on leave since he submitted his retirement letter, according to city officials.

In the letter, Snyder urged his fellow officers and department employees to "continue to maintain the high standard of professionalism you have provided the citizens of Cleveland during my time as Chief of Police."

Cleveland has not initiated an investigation into official misconduct, Jeff Davis, personnel director for the city's human resources department, said in a recent email.

As a salaried department head who could be called to 24 hours a day, Snyder has some discretion regarding the scheduling of lunches and other short-term absences, Davis said.

Snyder, whose father also served as police chief, has worked at the Cleveland Police Department for 33 years. He modernized the police department's facilities, equipment and training, and in recent years the department has received recognition from national and state law enforcement organizations.

The department also had ongoing disciplinary problems in its ranks, documented in the department's own records and reported in a series of Times Free Press articles in 2011 and early 2012.

Those records stated that some officers -- including Snyder's brother-in-law -- were repeatedly disciplined for sexual misconduct, sometimes with suspects, but were not fired.

On Friday, Poe cited Snyder's control over the police department and his ability to keep gangs out of Cleveland as reason for him to stay on.

"If was left up to me, I'd hire him in a heartbeat," Poe said.

Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at paul.leach.press@gmail.com.

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