Former Essexville public safety director disputes reasons for him being fired

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ESSEXVILLE (WJRT) (7/12/2019) - William Gutzwiller believes the reasons he got from the city of Essexville for being fired from his public safety director position are a lie.

William Gutzwiller is the former director of the Essexville Department of Public Safety.

He was told the decision was based on budget considerations, but believes it was actually related to age discrimination. Now he is fighting back with possible legal action against the city.

"I feel betrayed," Gutzwiller said.

He said that betrayal came from members of his own pubilc safety department in Essexville. He said a command staff member expressed concerns to him in early June.

"We feel that you just no longer want to be a police officer," Gutzwiller recalls the officer telling him. "You are not the same Gutzwiller that worked at the county and you are not pulling your weight."

He believed he still had the support of Essexville City Manager Dan Hansford, who told Gutzwiller there's nothing to worry about.

"You have two renegades within the organization that are doing nothing but looking out for themselves. He said, 'You can work here as long as you want,'" Gutzwiller recalls of a conversation with Hansford.

However, on June 25 Gutzwiller said Hansford handed him a note, essentially saying the public safety director was laid off.

"'So you are going to succumb to union pressure and push me out of a job?'" Gutzwiller said he told Hansford. "And he said, 'That is your interpretation.'"

A few days later, Gutzwiller said the city sent him another letter, saying he was now terminated.

In an interview a week after Gutzwiller's departure, Hansford said he laid off Gutzwiller because of budget problems and wanted to keep as many road officers as possible. Gutzwiller says that's not true.

"Had my manager came to me and said we need you to work the streets, it would have been done in a heartbeat," he said. "And the way the union presented this to me is, this is nothing more than the fact that I'm too old to do my job."

Gutziller is planning legal action and is represented by the Mastromarco Law Firm.

"It's them viewing him, it's substantially younger guys saying you are not the same old guy -- you are too old," attorney Kevin Kelly said of the case.

Gutzwiller is 62 years old and has 37 years of experience in police work.

"This is not the way I wanted to end my law enforcement career," he said.

Hansford declined to comment on Gutzwiller's claims Friday because of the possibility of legal action against the city.