Ousted chief sues Smithsburg

October 07, 1997


Staff Writer

Former Smithsburg police chief Tommy Bowers Monday filed a federal lawsuit to get his job back, claiming the mayor and Town Council terminated him in a manner designed to cause "severe and extreme emotional distress, public shame and humiliation."

Bowers, who was dismissed in August, has said repeatedly that he is not interested in returning under Mayor Mildred "Mickey" Myers and the incumbent council members. He also said on a number of occasions that he would not sue the town.

But after unsuccessful attempts to find another law enforcement job and weeks of confronting "lies," Bowers said he felt compelled to act.


The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, charges that the town acted improperly by terminating Bowers without a due process hearing. It asks for reinstatement and back pay.

Bowers said he wanted to file suit to let potential replacements know he still is interested in the post. He said he figures the matter will take time to resolve and predicted a change in administration by the time he would get his job back.

"They're going to get what's coming to them," he said. "I had no choice but to sue the town. I have to restore my good name."

Myers said she was served with the suit on Monday, but declined to comment. She said the matter has been referred to Edward L. Kuczynski, the town's attorney. He could not be reached for comment on Monday.

Councilman David Williams said he has not read the suit but added that officials acted properly.

"I would say the mayor and council feel we went through the due-process procedures," he said.

Myers said the town will begin interviewing prospective police chiefs this week. She said she hopes to select a finalist from an original pool of 43 applications "as quickly as possible." She said the lawsuit will not affect the search process.

"We're continuing on. There's no reason to change," she said.

Supporters who had urged Bowers to sue expressed elation Monday night.

"I'm glad to hear this. We'll be right back in front of Town Hall (picketing) tomorrow," said Jacob Keller. "We want him back on the job because he's done a great job."

Residents staged protests at Town Hall in the weeks after Bowers' dismissal.

Sherry Owen, a member of the Smithsburg Citizens Police Advisory Committee, said supporters will present town officials with a petition demanding recall elections at the council meeting tonight.

Owen said supporters have gathered signatures from about 350 voters. The petition asks officials to amend the Town Charter allowing citizens to recall elected officials before their terms end.

"We're still supporting him. This is coming at an extremely good time for us," she said.

The suit contends the town did not present cause and never provided Bowers a chance to defend himself. This is required even though the Town Charter gives the mayor broad powers to fire the police chief, said Lewis C. Metzner, one of Bowers' attorneys.

"Our position is the state law overrules the charter," he said.

The suit also alleges that town officials falsely accused him of "various and sundry acts of misconduct in office, dishonesty and failure to fulfill the obligations of his office."

Bowers said he gave the suit serious thought for weeks. The final straw was watching a videotape of last month's council meeting, he said.

"I watched the mayor tell lie after lie and the council sat there and let her do it," he said. "That just made me sick. This is the opening salvo. They went over the line."

Bowers said he has applied for several law enforcement jobs since his Aug. 12 dismissal, but has not received any response.

"I've been sending resumes out, but I haven't gotten any replies. I'm not surprised. It's kind of hard when you put `terminated' on it," he said.

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