Local News

Another request for jury trial in Rowan case submitted

AVON PARK-Three years and one previous request later, former Avon Park Police Chief Michael Rowan's lawsuit against the City of Avon Park is still moving along, with Rowan's attorney requesting a date for a circuit court trial.

Rowan filed suit against the City of Avon Park June 16, 2011, after he was suspended with pay by Avon Park City Manager Julian Deleon April 19, 2011. His pay was stopped in June 2011 after it was found Rowan had investigated the mayor, deputy mayor, city project manager and a councilman for alleged illegal activities.

On Dec. 20, a notice and request for a jury trial was made by Rowan's Lakeland-based attorney Robert Grizzard II, asking a trial date be set with the Tenth Circuit Court, which includes Highlands, Hardee and Polk counties. Highlands County Clerk of Court Bob Germaine said Monday Peter Estrada is a judge of the Tenth Judicial Circuit Court in Florida and would probably be retained for the trial.

In his notice for jury trial to the circuit court, Grizzard stated: "this cause is at issue and ready to be set for jury trial."

A due process hearing was set in federal court March 4, 2013, but was sent back to the state, which set April 8, 2013, to begin deliberations on the due process and the lawsuit.

At this point, Grizzard said he doesn't see any reason why the case shouldn't be able to get underway once a date is set.

"I think we're ready to go forward and get it over with; I think we'll end up with a fair-sized judgement against the city," he said.

When the lawsuit was originally initiated, Grizzard stated there was no basis to suspend Rowan with or without pay. However, Avon Park City Manager Julian Deleon terminated Rowan Oct. 19, 2013, and the city switched to using a public safety director to oversee the police and fire departments.

Germaine said the request is sent to the judge and he would have to check his docket to find an estimated three-week period that would be required for the trial to conclude.

"It will be difficult to find three weeks for it due to scheduling," he said.

Jan. 3, 2013, Grizzard filed a third amended complaint stating Rowan's suspension and firing were brought on by his referral of allegations against city council members to the office of the state's attorney for the Tenth Judicial Court.

A call and email to Estrada's office asking if dates have been verified weren't returned Monday.


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