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WAYLAND, Mich. (WOOD) - Wayland's longtime police chief Dan Miller, recently cleared in a state police investigation, was fired by Terry Hofmeyer Friday, the last day he holds the title of Interim City Manager.
"It's a witch hunt. I think it's a conspiracy between certain police officers, a conspiracy between some personnel at City Hall to get me out of office," said Miller.
What began as a press conference to announce the firing became almost a public hearing in a city council chamber packed mostly with supporters of the Miller, who has served 26 years as chief. They say this issue is dividing the city and they are determined to fight for his job.
Some supporters compared losing Miller to losing the sheriff of the old TV town of Mayberry.
"You've got a lot of Barney Fifes, but you don't have no Andy Griffiths," said one supporter.
But Interim City Manager, Terry Hofmeyer, said, "I really didn't have any choice. There were just too many things that were wrong, too many things that happened not only a short period of time, but a long period of time."
While the Michigan State Police cleared Miller of criminal wrong-doing, Hofmeyer fired Miller saying the investigation pointed to violations of city rules and spelled out the reasons in a 9-page report.
Among those allegations:
- placing a $200 set of golf clubs that had been in police custody for years (as found property) out by a dumpster where a computer technician doing work for the department picked them up
- used a Garmin GPS, seized by the Wayland Police Department, for personal use
- used a Wayland officer to serve a personal protection order outside the city against the estranged husband of Miller's live-in girlfriend.
"In my opinion probably something should have been done before I arrived here," said Hofmeyer.
But when 24 Hour News 8 asked Miller about the golf club allegation he told us that the technician asked if he could have them and Miller told him "no, I can't give them to you, but there's no right to privacy in a dumpster." Miller said he then threw the golf clubs out and the technician took them.
He also said he brought the GPS home so he could plug in into a charge and forgot all about it, while the allegation about the personal protection order was a "service, not a complaint."
Miller, along with his supporters, believe this entire episode began after he and his wife divorced. His wife works at City Hall.
"Certain people took sides on the divorce and they should have stayed out of it," said Miller.
Miller's supporters question why Hofmeyer was allowed to make this decision on his last day as interim city manager.
"You guys basically should take what we've got to say into consideration before making a decision like this and getting rid of a perfectly good chief of police, who's been here for many years," said a supporter of Miller at the press conference.
In a phone interview with 24 Hour News 8, incoming Wayland city manager Michael Selden said he was told of Miller's firing in an email from Hofmeyer on Thursday night.
He has not had a chance to review the investigation or speak with the parties involved, he said, but added, "I am standing by the decision."
Selden -- who takes office Monday -- said he is "keeping an open mind" and expects to review everything next week. He is unsure if Miller -- who is also a Wayland firefighter -- will stay with that department. He will look into fire department staffing once he takes office.
Miller said he plans to meet with Selden soon to try to get his job back.
However, Miller was informed by email late Friday afternoon from Hofmeyer that he has been reinstated to the other position he holds as Wayland's Deputy Fire Chief--an on-call paid position.
"The funny thing is I didn't even know I was off," said Miller.
Miller told 24 Hour News 8 he was glad about being reinstated.
"At least we didn't leave the city short of a firefighter," Miller said.
In a phone conversation with 24 Hour News 8, Miller said he had a predetermination conference Thursday with Hofmeyer which lasted, he said, about three minutes.
Miller described the meeting as "the last chance for me to sell myself and try to keep my job. It was kind of like a job interview. I asked (Hofmeyer) if he had any questions, and he said no."
He said he "handed the sheets I typed up in response to the 32 policy violations" the city alleges he made.
Until contacted by 24 Hour News 8, Miller said he was not aware Hofmeyer would hold a press conference on Friday about his job.
"At least it will be yay or nay," he said. "I have no discipline history in my 36 years here."
Miller has been on paid administrative leave for months after Michigan State police launched an investigation in February about the alleged mishandling of seized property, but has remained the chief.
In March, state police said they found no wrongdoing and did not request charges .
"I've done things right," Miller said. "There may be some mistakes that I made that I don't know of. I've been upfront with the community. The
truth is the truth."
But Interim City manager Terry Hofmeyer said he had more questions that needed answers.
The investigation and suspension of Miller has caused significant controversy in the town.
Supporters packed city council meetings asking how long it would be before Miller was reinstated and how much money it costs to keep the chief on paid leave.
Friday is H ofmeyer's last day on the job. The new city manager starts work Monday.
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