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Bowen, attorneys await hearing outcome

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Scott Bowen

Attorneys for the City of Lebanon and former Police Chief Scott Bowen are still waiting to hear the outcome of a hearing held Wednesday, Feb. 4.
Bowen's attorney Keith Williams, of Lannom & Williams, said the hearing was held to determine if Mayor Philip Craighead had just cause to terminate the longtime police chief.
According to the Lebanon City Charter, the Mayor has sole authority to fire department heads. The charter explains that the mayor can also fire for a cause. "But that cause isn't defined," said Williams.
The hearing, which lasted from 8 a.m. until nearly 6 p.m., was similar to a trial, he continued. "They put on their six or so witnesses and I put on my five and cross examined their witnesses and their attorney cross examined mine."
Williams had requested that the hearing be open to the public, but was denied by hearing officer Brett Gipson.
The city is being represented by attorney David Viele.
Williams said the outcome was "as good as possible under the circumstances, not having any rules to go by.
He added, "Whether or not we will win is a totally different subject. Williams said at this level, he does not anticipate a victorious outcome.
"Winning it would be getting Chief Bowen's job back," he said. "This has been his lifelong work to serve the community."
Craighead told The Wilson Post on Thursday that there is no set time for an outcome from the hearing.
"I was hoping we might hear something (from Gipson) by the end of this week or early next week, but we want to give him time to do the job we've asked him to do," he said. "He has to take in everything that was said. It takes a while to recap everything."
Bowen, who has served on the police force since 1990 and as Chief since 2003, was terminated in December.
Initially the mayor said he was going a new direction. City Attorney Andy Wright spoke to media outlets and explained the firing stemmed from Bowen withholding information regarding Lebanon Public Safety's use of the Tennessee and Federal Bureau of Investigation's database.
Williams' stance has been that Bowen was "following the law and got fired for it."
Williams said their position was that Bowen was terminated for sticking to a National Crime Information Center user agreement he personally signed.

"The agreement they are referring to is one where police officers can punch into a database and look up criminal history, run tags, things like that," he explained. "But someone has to be in charge. There is an agreement that Scott Bowen had to sign making himself personally liable to make sure everyone under him follows the rules. In order to do that, he can only allow people to use it he can hire and fire."
Williams added that a city charter change in May 2014 made Lebanon Public Safety its own department - a department that Bowen was not overseeing.

Staff Writer Sabrina Garrett may be contacted at sgarrett@wilsonpost.com.

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