A small-town Georgia police chief who left to face enemy fire in Iraq only to return and be fired by town officials got his job back Wednesday, thanks to an angry mayor.
Doraville Mayor Ray Jenkins deemed his council's recent vote to oust Police Chief John King contrary to state and federal laws and put the chief back on the job.
"I support him 100 percent," Jenkins told FOXNews.com. "The community is really upset and disturbed. I am trying to get it under control."
King, a colonel with the Army National Guard, came under fire by council members who were upset after he was sent to Iraq, calling him a part-time police chief. Doraville is about 16 miles outside of Atlanta with about 15,000 residents, King said.
"Apparently they feel it takes away from my effectiveness as police chief," King said. "I think my service to my country has made me a better chief."
One of the three members who voted to fire King, Bob Spangler, said his vote was not personal. Ed Lowe and Tom Hart also voted against King.
“The City of Doraville must have a fair, honest and present Chief of Police. As a City Council Representative, it is my responsibility to ensure that happens. While some are attempting to spin our decision as personal, I assure you it was based on solid facts,” Bob Spangler said in a statement released to FOX 5 News Atlanta.
Federal law protects the jobs of members of the National Guard when they are called up to serve. Employers have to hold their jobs or offer a replacement when they return under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, said J. Tom Morgan, King's attorney.
If the council tries to override the mayor's decision and effectively fire King, Morgan will sue.
"If they terminate him, then I will have to turn around and file a lawsuit," Morgan said.
King called council members' vote a "personal attack."
"This is just petty small-town politics at its worst," King said. "I give my heart and soul to this community. Even while I was in Iraq, I was committing time to managing and running the police department."
King, who joined the National Guard in 1981, helped train Iraqis in south Baghdad and served as a task force commander. King became police chief in 2002 and began his career as a police officer in 1986.
Marlene Hadden, a council member who supports King, called out her fellow council members for trying to oust King.
“He has done nothing wrong,” Hadden said. “There is no corruption in our police department. They have no evidence that they have even put on the table that looks or smells or walks or talks of corruption.”
Hadden, serving four years on the council, said criticism of King’s service in Iraq is un-American.
“Chief King is the best thing that has happened to this city in 30 years,” Hadden said.
Hadden was first approached last year about an attempt to oust King. She consulted with an outside attorney and believes there is enough legal ground to end the “assaults” on King.
In December 2004, King was called up to Iraq, and he finished an 18-month tour last year. The Georgia Army National Guard recently promoted King to the rank of colonel from lieutenant colonel.