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Petitioners seek change in Smithsburg Town Charter

October 07, 1997

By TERRY TALBERT

Staff Writer

SMITHSBURG - Residents upset over the Aug. 12 firing of former police chief Tommy Bowers presented the Smithsburg mayor and council Tuesday night with a petition signed by 330 residents, demanding a special recall election within 30 days.

The petition asks officials to amend the Town Charter to allow voters to recall elected officials before their terms end.

Sherry Owen, member of the Smithsburg Citizens Police Advisory Committee and a petition drive organizer, said the petition was in direct response to Bowers' firing.

Owen and others who want Bowers reinstated said they want to see the mayor and council members who voted to dismiss him removed from office.

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Mayor Mildred "Mickey" Myers accepted the petition on behalf of the town at Tuesday night's regular council meeting. She said the town would send the petition to state, Washington County and Smithsburg election boards to check validity of the signatures.

"Then we will send their findings to the town lawyer for review," she said.

Owen said after the meeting that her group wants a special election on the issue held Nov. 2. "There won't be any problem with the signatures. We've checked them all. And the election boards will be getting copies of the petitions from us tomorrow morning," she said.

Owen said 112 residents who weren't previously registered to vote joined voter rolls so they could sign the petition.

"The rolls in Smithsburg increased by 38 percent in the last two months," Owen said. "There were 910 voters. There are 1,022 voters now."

Organizers needed signatures of 20 percent of the town's registered voters to get the recall issue on the ballot. Smithsburg has about 1,250 residents.

Under the proposed charter amendment, officials named in a recall petition signed by 20 percent of the voters would have five days to resign. If they refuse to resign, they could remain in office but would have to excuse themselves from all council actions pending the outcome of a special election.

It would take a majority of voters to oust an official from office.

The move by his supporters came a day after Bowers filed suit against the town in federal court, asking for reinstatement. Bowers claims in his suit that the mayor and council fired him without cause, and didn't give him the chance to defend himself.

The suit also alleges that town officials falsely accused him of misconduct, dishonesty and failing to fulfill the obligations of his office.

Smithsburg residents have picketed Town Hall off and on since Bowers was fired. A group of his supporters were in the council chambers when the petition was presented on Tuesday.

After Bowers was fired, Smithsburg's only other officer was suspended pending the outcome of a court case involving him in Berkeley Springs, W.Va.

Myers has said the town is looking for a new chief. She said Bowers' suit would not change plans to hire a replacement.

Washington County sheriff's deputies are now patrolling the town.

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