In a brief email sent by Lebanon Mayor Philip Craighead, it was announced that Lebanon Chief of Police Scott Bowen has been removed from his position.
The email from Craighead reads:
"After much thought and consideration, I have decided to make a change with the Chief of Police. This was not an easy decision but one that was made in the best interest of the City of Lebanon's citizens and employees. I am not going to comment on any personnel details and Scotty Bowen has served this City of many years. I will state that it is simply time to change direction. This is an opportunity for the City of Lebanon Police Department to rebuild. Our interim Chief of Police will be Michael Van Hook who has been the Patrol Captain for the past 2 years and an employee of the Lebanon Police Department for the past 18 years. Mike will act in that role until a new Chief of Police will be selected."
Bowen declined to comment Wednesday night, saying that a statement will be made Thursday by his attorney. He is currently on medical leave with the department.
More details will be added as they become available.
By SABRINA GARRETT
Former Lebanon Police Chief Scott Bowen was dismissed from the position last week in what his attorney Keith Williams is now calling a "political firing."
"Scott Bowen was following the law and got fired for it," Williams said.
City Attorney Andy Wright said earlier this week in a previously published newspaper report that Bowen was fired for withholding information from the mayor regarding Lebanon Public Safety's use of the Tennessee and Federal Bureau of Investigation's databases.
According to Wright, Bowen had an employee contact the TBI with his concerns about five Lebanon Public Safety officers using the police department's NCIC contract.
Williams said their position is that Bowen was terminated for sticking to a National Crime Information Center (NCIC) 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 that he can hire and fire. That is the opinion of the TBI (Tennessee Bureau of Investigation) and FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation."
Through a city charter change in May, Lebanon Public Safety became its own department - a department that Bowen was not overseeing.
"He wasn't over Lebanon Public Safety so he had a question about it. One of his staff formerly worked with TBI and he asked her opinion on it and was told they needed their own user agreement. He said an auditor was called and asked their opinion, too. The auditor agreed that only he and those he oversaw could use it," Williams stated.
"The mayor wasn't on this contract. (Scott) is bound by federal law to oversee who is using it.
Scott Bowen followed the law and got fired for that."
Williams and Wright met on Friday to work on an agreement on Bowen's termination; however, a mutual resolution was not found.
Williams said an offer was sent to the city on Tuesday and that they are still hoping for an amicable resolution. If the offer is rejected, he added that they are prepared to "litigate it to the end."
In the meantime, Williams has moved forward with filing a notice to evoke rights of disciplinary appeal on Bowen's behalf. A hearing will take place within the next 30 days, Wright said.
Wright and Mayor Philip Craighead could not be reached for comment on Tuesday to expand on the reason for Bowen's firing.
Bowen received news of his firing in an email from Craighead on Dec. 10. In a separate email to the media, Craighead said that his decision was made "in the best interest of the City of Lebanon's citizens and employees."
Craighead told The Wilson Post last week that he would form a search committee to sift through resumes and set up interviews to hire a new chief. Capt. Michael VanHook has been named interim Chief of Police.
Staff Writer Sabrina Garrett may be contacted at email@example.com.