Residents want mayor, council recalled

September 06, 1997


Staff Writer

SMITHSBURG - Supporters of ousted Police Chief Tommy Bowers Friday launched an effort to amend the Smithsburg Town Charter to allow citizens to recall the mayor and Town Council members.

Residents collected petition signatures from 30 people to demand the mayor and council call a special election in 30 days to allow citizens to vote on the recall measure. The charter does not allow officials to be recalled between elections.

Sherry Owen, one of the leaders of the pro-Bowers group, said she plans to go door-to-door this weekend to collect signatures from at least 20 percent of the town's registered voters.


About 60 people met at an auction house on Friday to support Bowers.

"This is just step one. Don't be surprised if it's turned down," Owen said. "That would be your government telling you you don't have a voice. They're wrong."

Councilman Dave Williams, who signed the letter that terminated Bowers in August, attended the meeting. In an interview afterwards, he said residents should consider several issues before endorsing a charter change, including the cost and time that a recall process would take.

For instance, Williams said, the town declined to change the name of clerk-treasurer position to town manager several years ago because of the cost it would entail.

And he said a recall process might take longer than a normal election cycle.

Williams said the terms of the town's elected officials were staggered three years ago in order to give residents more access to town government. But although he said he would need to study the details, Williams said he supports the idea of responsive government in general.

"There probably should be some mechanism between elections for some recall of public officials," he said. "Government is supposed to be responsible and responsive."

Residents at Friday's gathering expressed frustration at town officials who have stuck by their decision to fire Bowers, who was chief almost three years.

"They're sticking head in the sand and hoping it will go away. It won't go away," said town resident Tom Law. "Recall the election and throw them out."

Owen said she also is registering residents who are not registered to vote. One of those, Amanda Drive resident Jim Jenkins, said he last voted in an election in the 1980s.

"For Tommy, for the reasons they said, that galvanized me. If my vote will make a change, that's why I registered," he said.

Bowers, who spoke to a rousing standing ovation, told residents that he does not want his old job back under current conditions. Instead, he urged people to take a greater interest in their local government and find out how it is being run.

"Forget Tommy Bowers. Forget my situation," he said. "I think you can probably forget about me being chief of police."

Bowers acknowledged that Mayor Mildred "Mickey" Myers had the authority to terminate him for any reason. But he strongly objected to several reasons listed in a statement signed by Myers and the council. One of those reasons was that Bowers was involved a traffic accident and tried to repair the damage without reporting it. Bowers termed it "a lie."

Bowers called on council members to repudiate portions of the statement that he feels are inaccurate.

"By law, the mayor has the right to fire me. I was angry by what was said after I was fired - which took them almost a week to come up with."

Williams declined to respond to Bowers' comments or the mayor and council's explanation letter other than to say he signed it.

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