Local News

Judge grants continuance for Rowan trial

AVON PARK - The week of April 8 trial period for Michael Rowan versus the City of Avon Park has been called off with Tenth Judicial Circuit Judge David Langford issuing an order for continuance of the trial. Both Rowan's attorney, Robert Grizzard II, and the city's labor attorney, Brian Koji, sought a continuance of the trial. The joint request for a continuance noted that Koji had previously informed the court of a conflict with the trial week due to a federal jury trial and Grizzard now has conflicts with the trial week. The due process hearing to be held for Rowan was on hold until the court could rule on the questions concerning Rowan's employment contract. The continuance request also noted that the hearing officer who had been selected for the due process hearing with the city is no longer in practice and due to his health is unable to preside at the hearing. The city has found a replacement, but all parties cannot schedule that hearing until the week of May 13, which is tentatively scheduled for what will be a lengthy hearing and which is after the present trial date.
The request also stated the court's protective order concerning testimony of State Attorney's investigators is still pending on appeal with the District Court of Appeal. A mediation session in Tampa on Jan. 22 concluded with an impasse. A new trial date has not been set. Former police chief Rowan filed suit against the city on June 16, 2011 after City Manager Julian Deleon suspended him with pay on April 19, 2011 then suspended him without pay in June after it came to light that Rowan had investigated Mayor Sharon Schuler, Deputy Mayor Brenda Gray, City Project Manager Maria Sutherland and her husband, Councilman Parke Sutherland, for alleged illegal activities. On Oct. 19, 2011, Deleon fired Rowan, citing a Sept. 6, 2011 letter in which Deleon noted that State Attorney Jerry Hill reported that Rowan could no longer be used by his office to prosecute criminal cases due to his lack of credibility and Rowan is no longer able to perform the essential functions of his job as a law enforcement officer.

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