Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

OP Fires Longtime Town Manager; Bowles Called "Lax in Responsiveness" to the Council and Residents

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

OP Fires Longtime Town Manager; Bowles Called "Lax in Responsiveness" to the Council and Residents

Article excerpt

Byline: DEBRA W. BUEHN

ORANGE PARK - The Town Council unexpectedly terminated longtime Town Manager John Bowles Wednesday night, charging him with a lack of action over allegations of improper behavior from the town's public works director.

Some council members also said Bowles had been "lax in his responsiveness" to requests for information or action from both council members and town residents.

The vote was 4-1 to terminate Bowles, with Jim Renninger casting the lone nay vote. Renninger said after the meeting he questioned whether due process had been observed.

Town Clerk Sarah Campbell was unanimously approved to act as interim town manager.

Public Works Director Bill White said after the meeting that he had been placed on paid administrative leave in a closed-door session.

White was alleged to have used "profanity and abusive" language with at least two town employees and to have improperly touched a female employee. White denied the improper touching but did say he had used some harsh language.

As the council took a short recess after the termination vote, a stunned Bowles said he was "shocked and disappointed."

"I've dealt with personnel issues all my adult life and I find this unbelievable," he said.

Later, as a member of the audience, Bowles took to the podium and told the council he had "no hard feelings" and would help in the transition in any way he could. He has been city manager since 1989.

The saga unfolded unexpectedly in what was supposed to have been a special meeting to review a requested report from Bowles about his vision for the city in the months preceding his retirement of which he had not yet set a date.

But before Bowles could give his report, Councilman Steve Howard spoke on another item on the agenda, labeled as a "town personnel issue."

In a statement, Howard said he had received an anonymous statement in April alleging that the public works director had used profanity and abusive language with both the fire marshal and the finance director. …

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