Local News

Rowan case moving forward after appeals court ruling

AVON PARK - An appeals court reversed a lower court's ruling that would have limited the testimony of a state attorney's office investigator who looked into the claims made by and against former Avon Park Police Chief Mike Rowan. In a mandate filed Aug. 12, The Second District Court of Appeal noted that the City of Avon Park terminated Rowan on Oct. 19, 2011 and he had contested his termination in a pending administrative hearing with the city. An investigator with the State's Attorney's Office had conducted an investigation into the allegations raised by Rowan against some members of the city council and allegations against Rowan that he improperly deleted information from his work computer, the mandate states. The investigator, Michael Ivancevich, issued a written report after concluding the investigation and the report was eventually released as a public record, the mandate shows.
The city sought to have Invancevich testify about his investigation at Rowan's administrative hearing and directed the administrative hearing officer to issue a subpoena to Ivancevich. The State petitioned to quash the subpoena. The circuit court ruled to limit the scope of Ivancevich's testimony and held that any portion of the written investigative report containing Invancevich's mental impressions was not admissible in the administrative hearing, the mandate notes. The city appealed the ruling, arguing that the report is a public record and is admissible in evidence and that Ivancevich's testimony should not have been limited, the mandate shows. Rowan filed a cross-appeal, arguing that Invancevich should be precluded from testifying at the administrative hearing, according to the mandate. The appeals court ruling and mandate on the issue states, "At this stage of the proceeding, the circuit court erred in excluding from evidence that part of the written investigative report containing the mental impressions of Ivancevich." But this court ruling will not result in a rescheduling of Rowan's appeals/due process hearing with the city. City labor attorney Brian Koji said Thursday, "Mr. Rowan agreed to withdraw the request for appeal on condition that the city agree not to use his withdrawal against him in his lawsuit, which the city agreed with." Rowan's attorney, Robert Grizzard, II, said Friday, "from our viewpoint, the issues that would have been raised in that due process hearing are the same issues that would be raised in the trial of the main case." It wasn't worth the expense to them [Rowan/Grizzard] and likely not worth the cost to the city to hold the due process hearing, Grizzard said. "I am hoping the city will come to its senses and make us a reasonable offer, but I don't really expect that to happen," he said. "But, the case, as I understand it, will be going to trial. I don't known when, but it will be going to trial." mvalero@highlandstoday.com 863-386-5826