Ousted Smithsburg chief to get day in court

November 08, 1997


Staff Writer

Fired Smithsburg Police Chief Tommy Bowers will have a due process hearing Nov. 25 at 5:30 p.m., a U.S. District Court judge in Baltimore ruled Friday.

"Sounds good to me. I just want a chance to defend myself," Bowers said after hearing the decision.

Bowers' attorney, Lewis C. Metzner, said Friday that the defense may include testimony about a specific incident that allegedly occurred before Bowers' firing in August.

"We believe one reason Bowers was fired was his total disagreement to put his signature on forms he feels were fraudulent," Metzner said. He didn't elaborate.


Smithsburg town attorney Ed Kuczynski said the hearing will be open to the public unless Bowers wants it closed.

"We are not conceding that Smithsburg or any other municipality is required to give notice or due process to a department head," Kuczynski said Friday. "But the mayor and council have determined that a hearing is advisable."

The decision Friday came on the heels of a hearing held the day before in Baltimore. At that time, U.S. District Court Judge Benson Everett Legg challenged Smithsburg town officials to give Bowers that due process hearing.

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

The town does not have to reinstate Bowers pending the hearing, Legg said.

Dan Karp, the town's co-counsel, told Legg the town would not agree to a reinstatement.

The issue of back pay will be addressed after the outcome of the Nov. 25 hearing is known, Legg said.

At one point Friday, Bowers' co-counsel, Paul Weiss, told Legg that Daniel Moylan, a retired Washington County Circuit judge, might be available to serve as an impartial finder of fact at that hearing.

But Karp argued against that tactic. "We agreed to give Bowers a hearing - we won't agree to give him more than he's due," Karp said.

Kuczynski assured Legg Friday that the town wouldn't hire either a permanent or interim police chief until after the hearing. Interviews were conducted in October.

Legg told both parties to work out the logistics of the hearing and report back to him in writing by Nov. 14.

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

A referendum will be held May 12 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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