published Sunday, January 5th, 2014

Cleveland City Manager Janice Casteel: Rehire of Wes Snyder 'not in city's best interest' (with video)

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. -- Police Chief Wes Snyder said Saturday that he thought two city officials told him he could withdraw his intention to retire, but they say that is not quite correct.

Snyder contacted the Chattanooga Times Free Press following a story in Saturday's edition stating that he had asked to withdraw his Jan. 5 retirement and stay on as chief and that City Manager Janice Casteel had refused the request.

"I just find it a little strange that I am not allowed to withdraw my resignation even though I have not violated any city policies to the best of my knowledge," Snyder said. "This was a personal matter between me and my family and I acted under a great amount of stress and anxiety."

Snyder told the Times Free Press he'd had a recent discussion with Cleveland Personnel Director Jeff Davis, who told him "without hesitation" that he could withdraw his intent to retire. Assistant City Manager Melinda Carroll was present during the discussion, he said.

Carroll said Saturday that she and Davis discussed with Snyder on Friday whether he could withdraw his retirement application from the Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System and his intent to retire as chief of police.

She said Davis advised Snyder only that he could withdraw his application to TCRS. As for rescinding his intent to retire, that is a decision that only the city manager can make, said Carroll.

On Friday, Snyder submitted a letter rescinding his retirement, which was abruptly announced Dec. 6.

That was two days after surveillance video footage surfaced that showed him meeting with MainStreet Cleveland Executive Director Sharon Marr numerous times in late November and early December at a self-storage facility on Old Tasso Road.

The meetings took place during business hours, and Snyder was seen to be in uniform at least once.

"My decision was made hastily and under significant emotional duress," Snyder in the letter. "I apologize for the confusion but I would respectfully like to continue my service to the City of Cleveland. I will accept any noted reprimand in accordance with the current progressive disciplinary processes afforded all City employees."

Casteel gave a firm reply to Snyder in a memo issued late Friday evening.

"After careful consideration of your request to rescind your retirement ... I believe it is not in the City's best interest to accept your letter of rescission," said Casteel's memo.

Elected city officials who were willing to comment Friday and Saturday supported Casteel's authority over personnel decisions.

"I'm surprised at the request to rescind the retirement decision, but the city manager is in charge of personnel matters," said Cleveland Mayor Tom Rowland.

He said Snyder "has been a great asset to Cleveland."

On Friday night, Councilman George Poe praised Snyder's control over the police department and its ability to keep gangs out of Cleveland.

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

On Saturday, Councilman Richard Banks echoed Poe, saying he has "the utmost respect for Chief Snyder."

However, Banks said, "I leave it up to the city manager to decide what is in the best long-term interest and safety our citizens."

"We don't vote on personnel matters," said Councilman David May. "Giving the city manager the authority in personnel matters keeps politics out of those decisions."

Councilmen Avery Johnson, Charlie McKenzie, Bill Estes and David May either did not wish to comment or could not be reached Saturday.

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

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