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Bowers faces DUI charges

Sheriff's deputies say former Washington County Commissioner Ronald L. Bowers crashed a state-owned vehicle and failed a field s

Sheriff's deputies say former Washington County Commissioner Ronald L. Bowers crashed a state-owned vehicle and failed a field s

January 08, 2003|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Former Washington County Commissioner Ronald L. Bowers was charged with driving under the influence of alcohol Monday night after the sport utility vehicle he was driving crashed into a mailbox on Maugansville Road and plunged down a 10- to 15-foot embankment into a stream off Village Mill Drive, Washington County Sheriff's deputies said Tuesday.

Bowers, who has been administrator of the Maryland Property Tax Assessment Appeals Board since April 2001, was driving a state vehicle at the time of the 10:30 p.m. accident, Washington County Sheriff Charles Mades said Tuesday.

Bowers, 59, who lives nearby at 13933 Distant View Ave., wasn't hurt in the accident.

"I admit I have a problem with alcohol," Bowers said Tuesday evening by telephone from his home. "I exercised poor judgment and am just thankful no one was hurt."

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Bowers, a commissioner for 20 years, was employed by Mack Trucks for 39 years. He retired when he got the state job, which pays between $53,000 and $78,000.

"I called the Washington County Health Department Tuesday and made an appointment to help me identify and deal with my problem with alcohol," Bowers said. "It's something I have to deal with."

Hagerstown attorney Bruce Poole said Bowers consulted with him Tuesday about the matter.

"It's all about attitude," Poole said. "So many who come into my office won't accept fault but Ron (Bowers) is great - he wants to deal with it."

Sheriff's department Sgt. Travers Ruppert said a resident of an apartment complex at 14011 Village Mill Drive called Monday night to report that there was a vehicle in the stream.

Ruppert said three deputies were dispatched to the scene. He said no fire or ambulance equipment was summoned by the sheriff's department.

"The deputies found a red 1999 Chevrolet Blazer with Maryland tags ABS 63Z with its front end submerged in the stream," Ruppert said. A check of the tags showed the car was registered to the Maryland Comptroller's Office.

No one was in the vehicle.

A short time later, Deputy Arnold Cerezo spotted a man walking along Village Mill Drive, Ruppert said.

"I approached him and asked him what he was doing," Cerezo said. "He told me he was just walking."

Cerezo said he smelled alcohol on the man's breath as he was getting out his identification. Cerezo said he didn't know who Bowers was until Deputy 1st Class Tracy Peyton joined him at his cruiser and recognized him.

Bowers told Cerezo he was heading home but kept pointing in the opposite direction of his home, Cerezo said.

"I asked him where his vehicle was and he said it was in a ditch," Cerezo said.

Bowers, who was wet when the deputy encountered him walking along the road, told Cerezo that he had been at the Airport Inn, police said.

Peyton also smelled alcohol on Bowers' breath and noticed his eyes were bloodshot, Ruppert said. "Bowers was offered a field sobriety test but because of icy road conditions at the scene, he was driven to the Washington County Sheriff's Department instead," he said.

Mades said he was then called at home and told of the matter.

"I understand he cooperated and behaved like a gentleman," Mades said Tuesday.

At 11:15 p.m., Bowers was given, and failed, a field sobriety test at the department headquarters, Ruppert said.

Ruppert then gave Bowers an intoximeter breath test and found his blood alcohol level to be in excess of .08, which is the standard in Maryland for driving under the influence of alcohol - the more serious of the two alcohol-related driving offenses.

The maximum penalty for a conviction on that charge is one year in jail and/or a $1,000 fine for a first-offense DUI.

Ruppert said there was no evidence Monday night to indicate Bowers had any prior alcohol-related driving record.

Bowers also was charged with leaving the scene of a property-damage accident, Poole said.

It was determined that Bowers' SUV had been westbound on Showalter Road, made a right turn onto Maugansville Road heading northbound and hit the mailbox, Ruppert said.

"He continued driving onto Village Mill Drive and into the parking lot of the apartment complex at 14011 Village Mill Drive," Ruppert said.

The SUV then left the macadam, continued 30 yards in the grass before plunging down the embankment and into the water, which was estimated to be 1 to 1 1/2 feet deep, Ruppert said.

After the test, Bowers was charged and released, Ruppert said. When no one could be located to drive him home, Bowers was driven home by Peyton.

Ruppert stressed that the practice of deputies driving residents home is done routinely if the people are local and have no other criminal charges.

Conducting field sobriety tests at the sheriff's department is also done on occasion if they weather is bad, Ruppert said.

The vehicle was removed from the scene Monday night by Pro Tow Towing and stored on their Northern Avenue lot.

Gov. Parris Glendening had no comment about the incident, said the governor's spokesman, Chuck Porcari.

Glendening appointed Bowers to the job.

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