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Bowers' lawsuit rejected

December 04, 1997

Bowers' lawsuit rejected

By MARLO BARNHART

and LAURA ERNDE

A federal judge Wednesday threw out a lawsuit brought against the town of Smithsburg by fired Police Chief Tommy Bowers.

In dismissing Bowers' suit, U.S. District Judge Benson E. Legg ruled that Bowers "served at the pleasure" of the mayor.

Mayor Mildred "Mickey" Myers said the town would move forward with hiring a new chief.

"I'm very pleased that this decision was made and finally the town can go forth with having a good police department," she said.

Bowers and his attorney, Lewis C. Metzner, were disappointed after learning of the ruling during a telephone hearing with the judge Wednesday afternoon.

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"We'll just have to weigh our options," Bowers said.

"We still say that firing him in executive session was illegal. And a wrongful discharge action still looms," Metzner said.

Bowers was to have had a due process hearing before the Smithsburg Town Council tonight, on an earlier order of Legg's. The hearing was cancelled because of Legg's Wednesday ruling.

Attorneys for Smithsburg officials had argued that a police chief serves at the pleasure of the mayor.

Myers and the town council, which approved the firing, contend they acted against Bowers for his alleged failure to investigate citizen complaints, meet with the mayor and file timely reports.

Bowers contends he was fired for refusing to falsify arrest records or sign fraudulent applications for government grants. Myers denies those allegations.

Bowers' attorneys filed the lawsuit in federal court, saying the town needed to give notice and a reason such as malfeasance, insubordination or inefficiency to fire an appointed public official.

They cited the Maryland code and the 14th amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Bowers' suit further claimed the town acted improperly by firing him in August without a due process hearing. The suit asked for reinstatement and back pay.

The dismissal of the popular chief prompted residents to stage protests at the Smithsburg Town Hall and circulate petitions to have Bowers reinstated.

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.

Myers said she doesn't know how long it will take to hire a new chief. Smithsburg has one full-time officer and has been paying the Washington County Sheriff's Department to do extra patrols in Bowers' absence.

Before the lawsuit, town officials had narrowed their search to three finalists.

"They've been in limbo for several weeks now," she said.

As for the possibility of another lawsuit from Bowers, she said, "We're going to move forth and we'll cross all the bridges when we get there."

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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