Rift grows between mayor, police dept.

Mayor John McGowan
Mayor John McGowan
Lt. Lewis Murry
Lt. Lewis Murry

Written by: Jennifer Oravet - bio | email
Posted by: John Shryock - bio | email

UNION SPRINGS, AL (WSFA) - There are some hard feelings smoldering in the town of Union Springs in Bullock County, a rift between the mayor and the police department.

Police officers say the mayor is using his power to try to intimidate the department, but the mayor says he just wants them to know who's boss and that some big changes are coming.

It's only a short walk from the Union Springs Police Department building to City Hall, but it's a walk many officers felt threatened to take.

"The mayor held our checks..." said Lt. Lewis Murry. " He said he wanted to talk to each police officer individually...we knew it was gonna be an intimidation tactic." Murry and other law enforcement officers say Mayor John McGowan chose to hand out city paychecks to prove his power over the department.

"He wanted to tell us that he was the boss..." said Sgt. Mitty Murry. "We already know he's the boss!"

Lt. Murry claims the mayor said if the officers didn't like it, they could leave and he'd get the National Guard to come in and help run the city. The men and women requested to get their checks together, but the meeting didn't end as planned.

Lt. Murry ended up being fired. "He [Mayor McGowan] said get out of my office..." When Murry walk across the street and refused the mayor's demands that he come back on the grounds that he was off-duty, he was relieved of his command. Mayor McGowan doesn't mince words when talking about the incident. "He [Lt. Murry] was insubordinate."

The mayor had hoped the meeting would allow him to talk to the officers about rumors of intimidation. "I cannot imagine it, in my wildest imagination, threatened by me?"

McGowan says his only contact with the police department is through the police chief. "If there is a missing link, that's the only place it could be," McGowan explained.

Shortly after WSFA 12 News met with the mayor the officers made their way back to City Hall a second time and, as requested, met with the mayor one-on-one. They weren't happy about it though.

"Basically, because WSFA is here. That's probably why he's doing it now," said Sgt. Mitty Murry.

The officers believe the mayor wanted to flex his muscles before the Labor Day checkpoints kick off over the weekend. They say he's asked them not to hold the checkpoints near a nightclub, which, incidentally, happens to be owned by his nephew. The mayor told us it hurt the club's business, and asked the officers to avoid it.

With the dismissal of officer Murry, the police department has just eight officers on the force.

©2009 WSFA. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.