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Bowers drops suit against Smithsburg

February 11, 1999|By MARLO BARNHART

SMITHSBURG - Tommy Bowers said Thursday he will not pursue the lawsuit he filed against the town of Smithsburg after he was fired as police chief.

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Bowers, who now is mayor of the town, said he made that decision after learning that the 4th U.S. District Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., had upheld a December 1997 lower court ruling that dismissed his lawsuit against the town.

"I have several options," Bowers said Thursday, but said he would not exercise any of them. "How I feel personally about this outcome, I will keep to myself."

Bowers had appealed a federal judge's Dec. 3, 1997, decision throwing out the lawsuit he brought against the town of Smithsburg when he was fired as police chief.

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Bowers appealed that ruling to the 4th U.S. District Court of Appeals.

But U.S. District Judge Benson E. Legg ruled that Bowers served at the pleasure of the mayor, who at the time was Mildred "Mickey" Myers.

After three years as police chief in Smithsburg, Bowers was fired in August 1997 by unanimous decision of Myers and the Town Council.

A popular police chief, Bowers' dismissal caused an uproar in Smithsburg. Some town residents picketed Town Hall in protest, and circulated a petition calling for a referendum that, if approved, would amend the town charter to allow voters to recall elected officials.

That referendum has since been included in the charter.

Bowers sued the town on Sept. 29, 1997, requesting reinstatement, back pay and benefits. He claimed he wasn't given the opportunity to defend himself before being removed from his job.

He ran for Smithsburg mayor and was successful, unseating Myers last spring by six votes in a bitterly contested race.

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

Myers and the previous Town Council, which approved the firing, said they took the action against Bowers for his alleged failure to investigate citizen complaints, meet with the mayor and file timely reports.

Bowers contended he was fired for refusing to falsify arrest records or sign fraudulent applications for government grants.

Myers denied those allegations.

Bowers' suit further claimed the town acted improperly by firing him in August 1997 without a due process hearing. The suit asked for reinstatement and back pay.

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