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Judge delays decision on Bowers' lawsuit

November 07, 1997

Judge delays decision on Bowers' lawsuit

By MARLO BARNHART

Staff Writer

BALTIMORE - A U.S. District judge Thursday held off making a decision on whether to dismiss former Smithsburg police chief Tommy Bowers's lawsuit against the Smithsburg mayor and Town Council.

Judge Benson Everett Legg challenged attorneys for the town to go back to Smithsburg officials and see if they would agree to offer Bowers a due process hearing, which Bowers had requested.

"We will get together (today) at 10 a.m. by conference call,'' Legg said, hinting that he was expecting an answer from Smithsburg town officials through their attorneys, Ed Kuczynski and Dan Karp.

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Bowers attended Thursday's hearing with his attorneys, Paul Weiss and Lewis Metzner, who also is a Hagerstown council member. Smithsburg town officials were not present Thursday.

Bowers' lawsuit alleges the town acted improperly by firing him in August without a due process hearing. It asks for reinstatement and back pay.

The lawsuit contends the town did not present cause and never gave Bowers a chance to defend himself.

The judge's action Thursday caused some concern on both sides.

While agreeing that Bowers' lawsuit stemmed from the lack of a due process hearing before his August firing, Weiss told Legg the climate for a fair hearing isn't what it used to be.

"The well has been poisoned,'' Weiss said, since the parties conducting the proposed due process hearing would be the same people Bowers sued.

Legg advised the town's attorneys that if he ruled in Bowers' favor and the town appealed, not only would there have to be another court hearing but Bowers would have to be reinstated as chief until that hearing took place.

Karp said that the extensive publicity generated in Washington County included Bowers' own statement that he couldn't work with the current Smithsburg town officials.

Mayor Mildred Myers in early October began interviewing prospective police chiefs from a pool of 43 applications.

The lawsuit and a restraining order filed by Bowers' attorneys puts any new hiring on hold.

Bowers' dismissal prompted residents to stage protests at Town Hall and circulate petitions to get Bowers back.

This week it was decided that there will now be a May referendum asking voters whether they want to amend the town charter to allow for a recall of elected officials before their terms end.

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