Abbeville police chief sues city council for alleged policy violations

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ABBEVILLE, Ala. (WDHN) — Abbeville police Chief Noel Vanlandingham filed a lawsuit Friday against the entire Abbeville City Council and the city itself for violating disciplinary procedure.

According to the lawsuit, the city did not give proper notification as to what his offenses were, keeping him out of the loop and bringing a new alleged offense to the table that wasn’t previously discussed.

It all began on May 13 when Mayor Billly helms summoned Vanlandingham to his office to ask about a complaint brought before the council. However, the lawsuit states that Helms never explained what the complaint was, saying it was “made during an executive session of the City Council and was therefore not subject to disclosure.”

Because of this, Vanlandingham couldn’t respond to whatever the complaint was.

Around two days later, Vanlandingham received a letter from Helms that said he allowed Vanlandingham to address a complaint made “regarding an audio recording of (Vanlandingham) being published on the internet” and was going to place the issue on the city council’s May 20 agenda.

This was the meeting where the council announced that Vanlandingham would be suspended for 10 days without pay for insubordination following an executive session — which excluded Vanlandingham and his attorney.

According to the lawsuit, the insubordination in question was an alleged failure to follow a directive to “get along with the Henry County Sheriff.”

Helms then held a disciplinary hearing on May 23 that accused Vanlandingham of disgraceful conduct and allowing a city employee to use a city vehicle while on leave.

Vanlandingham’s legal counsel objected to these claims, saying that the first matter was not the same violation presented to the city council and the second offense was put forth without proper notification.

At an appeal hearing on June 3, Vanlandingham asked the council who made the original complaint, to which Helms responded that the city was the accuser.

Vanlandingham says that the city violated his right to due process as it relates to his hearing and suspension, as established by Abbeville’s personnel policy.

You can read the full lawsuit and list of complaints in the file below.

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