Police chief's conduct cited in statement

August 19, 1997


Staff Writer

SMITHSBURG - Mayor Mildred "Mickey" Myers and the Smithsburg Town Council Tuesday released a three-page statement explaining their reasons for dismissing Tommy Bowers as police chief last week.

The statement said Bowers' conduct was not up to par the last six months and accused him of not telling them about a traffic accident that caused $700 damage to a police cruiser.

Meanwhile, Bowers charged that his relationship with Myers began to disintegrate last fall and worsened following a heated argument in March. He said Myers placed him on mandatory sick leave an ordered him to undergo a psychiatric evaluation in April.


The statement said the council set specific performance goals in 1997 that Bowers failed to meet. They include allegations that Bowers:

* Failed to adequately handle and investigate citizen complaints against the police department.

* Failed to meet with the mayor and Officer Shawn Tyler.

* Failed to file Uniform Crime Reports on time.

* Failed to provide regular reports to the mayor and council during the June and July meetings.

* Exceeded the $500 spending authority for two purchases made in June. The orders were placed without the knowledge of the mayor and council.

In addition, the statement indicated that Bowers withheld information related to a subpoena and a court order. He also caused $700 in damage to a police cruiser during an accident near Smithsburg High School and then did not report it to the town or to another police agency, the statement said.

Bowers said Tuesday night that he met regularly with Tyler as needed, but found the mayor's scheduling requirements unworkable. He acknowledged that he was three months behind on filing his Uniform Crime Reports, but said he was too busy with other business.

As for citizen complaints against the police department, Bowers said: "They just didn't like the way I handled them."

Bowers said he was asked to investigate complaints against Tyler but found them without merit. In addition, he said he provided oral reports at the June and July council meetings. There was no requirement to provide written reports, which he normally did as a courtesy, he said.

Bowers denied that he exceeded the spending cap.

Bowers also denied that he withheld information ordered by the court. He said he produced information related to a driving while intoxicated charge against a motorist, and then later asked town officials if he also should submit a personal log that he kept. When they said yes, he said he did.

"If I violated a court order, believe me, the judge would let me know," he said.

Bowers also acknowledged the accident, but said he doubted the $700 damage figure. He said it occurred Aug. 11 - the day before he was relieved of his duties. He also noted that the termination letter stated that the decision was made at an executive session of the council the week before.

Bowers also criticized the manner in which he was dismissed from the chief's job, which he said was "designed to humiliate me."

When he was asked to meet with the council Aug. 12, he said no council member was there. Instead, Myers, Washington County Sheriff Charles F. Mades and two deputies greeted him, he said. The mayor read his termination letter and then demanded his badge, he said. He said that Mades removed his (Bowers') gun from his holster and placed it on the desk.

Mades confirmed that he was present on the occasion, but he declined to comment on the specifics.

Bowers said Myers repeatedly asked him to resign and, after a heated argument in March, asked for a letter from his doctor certifying him as physically and mentally fit for duty. When he produced one, he said the mayor told him to undergo an evaluation by a mental health expert recommended by the Maryland State Police.

An April 10 letter provided by Bowers from Dr. Lou A. Lichti, a Hagerstown psychiatrist, cleared the chief to return to work. The letter, which was addressed to Bowers' attorney, said Lichti met with Bowers on March 31 and April 9.

"There was not evidence in the results of the assessment that preclude Mr. Bowers from returning to work at this time," the letter stated.

The psychiatric evaluation was prompted by an argument in March, during which he yelled at Myers while they were arguing about the police department's budget, Bowers said.

Irritable from a respiratory infection, Bowers said he lost his temper when Myers confronted him about the size of a pay increase for Tyler.

"I got angry with her. I got angry and left that place," Bowers said. "I lost control, you know what I mean, but nothing blatant."

Bowers added that Myers also questioned whether a shooting incident last November had affected him. In that incident, he shot a man who was later charged with numerous crimes after a high-speed chase.

"She said, `I think there's something wrong with you.' She thought I had problems with the shooting I was involved in. Everyone has problems when they shoot someone," he said.

But Bowers denied he was suffering from any mental breakdown and said the letter from Lichti proves it.

When Bowers returned to work on April 28 after sick leave and a week's vacation, he said his problems with Myers escalated.

"As time went on, it got worse," he said.

Bowers, who said he was treated for clinical depression in the 1980s, said he began taking anti-depression medication after he began having problems with Myers last fall.

"I could feel myself slipping back into it and I did something about it - and it worked," he said.

Bowers said he decided to make the deeply personal circumstances public, in part to dispel rumors that were "tearing me and my family to pieces."

Several residents have suggested he sue, but Bowers conceded that the Town Charter gives the mayor wide latitude to hire and fire the police chief. Besides, he said he told his supporters that filing suit would make things worse: "If I sue the town, I'm suing you."

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