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Smithsburg mayor, council statement

August 19, 1997

Following is an Aug. 19 statement by the mayor and Town Council of Smithsburg regarding the dismissal of Thomas J. Bowers.

Recently the Mayor and Council of Smithsburg unanimously decided to terminate Thomas J. Bowers as Chief of Police. Out of deference to Mr. Bowers and his family the Mayor and Council believed that they should not individually or collectively comment on the specifics of this action. However, because of Mr. Bowers' public comments and the reaction from some of the residents of Smithsburg, we believe that it is necessary to clarify and explain the action of the Mayor and Council.

The Charter of the Town of Smithsburg authorizes the Mayor with the approval of the Council to hire a Chief of Police who is an at will employee of the town. The Chief of Police is a Department Head who serves at the direction of the Mayor.

The Mayor of the town of Smithsburg is directly responsible for the overall management of the Chief of Police who is responsible for the management of his department. The Mayor also has the right to terminate the Chief of Police. In this instance, the Mayor as well as each councilperson was fully aware of all of the circumstances surrounding Chief Bowers' service to the town and his ultimate termination.

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Mr. Bowers has attempted to publicly blame his dismissal on the fact that he made or was involved in "unpopular" arrests. The Mayor and Council in making its final decision did not give any consideration to these arrests and these matters had absolutely nothing to do with the Mayor and Council's ultimate decision.

Generally speaking the Mayor and Council within the last six (6) months have not been satisfied with Mr. Bowers' management of his department. The Mayor and Council discussed and addressed their concerns with Mr. Bowers and despite his assurances that he would correct the deficiencies, he failed to do so.

Mr. Bowers has publicly stated since his termination that he is unable to work with the Mayor and did not have a good working relationship with her. The example that Mr. Bowers gave recently is that he was required to meet with Officer Tyler and Mayor Myers several times a week. The Mayor and Council believed that these regular meetings were necessary for the proper management and operation of the Police Department. However, Mr. Bowers believes that these meetings (are) an undue burden on him and believed that he should not have to meet regularly with the Mayor, his boss.

Because the Mayor is charged with overseeing the Police Department, the Mayor and Council believed that these types of meetings were necessary for the proper operation of the department.

In April of 1997 the Mayor and Council, in writing, set forth various goals and expectations for Mr. Bowers as Chief of Police. This action was taken following months of internal dissention which generated primarily from Mr. Bowers' resentment of the Mayor and Council's management of his Department. Of the goals and objectives set for Chief Bowers in April of 1997, he failed to meet the following goals and objectives:

* Adequately handle and investigate citizen complaints regarding the Police Department

* Failed to meet with the Mayor and Office Tyler as specifically directed by the Mayor and Council.

* Failed to file Uniform Crime Reports required by the State of Maryland (three months behind)

* Failed to prepare and present written Rules and Regulations for the Police Department by July 15, 1997. He had been requested numerous times in the past two years to complete this task which is essential to the operation of any police department, large or small.

* failed to provide regular reports to the Mayor and Council at the Regular Meetings for June or July 1997.

* In June 1997 made 2 different purchases on behalf of the Police Department which exceeded the Five Hundred ($500.00) Dollar authority given to him by the Mayor and Council in April of 1997. These orders were placed without the knowledge of the Mayor, Council or Town Clerk.

In addition, the Town was recently required to produce certain documents pursuant to a Subpoena and a Court Order. The Subpoena and Court Order related to information within the sole control of Mr. Bowers and related to police personnel. Despite the clear language of the Subpoena, Court Order, and the instructions of the Mayor, Mr. Bowers elected to withhold certain information requested by the Subpoena and did not produce same until additional requests were made.

Finally, recently Mr. Bowers while operating his police cruiser in the vicinity of Smithsburg High School had a single car accident which caused $700 worth of damage to the cruiser. Mr. Bowers did not report this accident to the Mayor and Council or any other agency as required by Maryland Law. He attempted to have the damage repaired without the Mayor and Council's knowledge and admitted his involvement in the accident to the Washington County Sheriff's Department upon inquiry.

In short, the Mayor and Council unanimously decided to take the action they did. With the information that the Mayor and Council had available to it and Mr. Bowers' continued resistance to the attempts of the Mayor and Council to direct his department in accordance with the Charter, the Mayor and Council believes that it took action which was in the best interest of the citizens of the Town of Smithsburg.

The statement was signed by Mayor Mildred Myers and Council members David Williams, Thomas Hornbecker, James Cunningham, and S. Eugene Pryor. Councilman Joseph Slick was out of town according to a notation on the statement.

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