March 19, 2010 10:54:00 AM
ABERDEEN -- Ricky Bowen says he could have gone after the City of Aberdeen for arresting and trying him on misdemeanor charges of receiving stolen property and obstruction of justice, but that would only cause more damage to his home town. Instead, he says it''s time to let the healing begin.
Bowen, pastor of Aberdeen First Pentecostal Church, where his father was pastor for 42 years, had charges against him dismissed by the city Wednesday under the condition he and his attorney, Jim Waide of Tupelo, agree not to sue the city. Bowen says he could have easily beat the charges on appeal in Circuit Court and his subsequent lawsuit would have accused the city of false arrest and defamation of character.
"I had to make a decision to either let it drop and start the city in a positive direction or continue this fight and continue slinging mud," said Bowen. "Jim Waide told me, ''Pastor, it''s up to you. We can win this thing with no sweat.''
"The city already has two or three major lawsuits against them and others waiting in the wings. That won''t help the city. When you sue the city, you hurt yourself as a landowner."
Ward 2 Alderman and Vice Mayor Cloyd Garth says he knows of two suits pending against the city: one regarding the utility department''s cutoff policy and another alleging race discrimination.
Aberdeen City Attorney Robert Faulks, who prosecuted Bowen, declined comment on Bowen''s case.
Bowen said he began a personal investigation into alleged corruption at the city''s utility department after his nephew, Brandon Scott, was arrested along with a number of citizens, including Electric Department Manager Adrian Garth, in a scandal involving electricity theft.
"My nephew got set up. I thought ''There can''t be that much corruption.'' So I started digging and, sure enough, there was," said Bowen. "We found people that weren''t paying their electric bill. That''s been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt. People were getting special favors from officials. We''ve proven that. And we''re not talking about small amounts. We''re talking $300,000 plus."
He was charged by the Aberdeen Police Department with receipt of stolen property based on his knowledge of the location of a water meter, which Bowen says Mayor Jim Ballard also knew about. The obstruction charge stemmed from files Bowen obtained which he says proved the illegal activities taking place at the utility department.
"The obstruction charge was bogus because (the police) claim they asked for documentation that I had, but no one ever asked me. I gave them to the attorney general, but I had one additional copy of it given to me by the mayor," said Bowen. "I was led by the mayor the whole time that I couldn''t trust the police department. He (Ballard) is the one who set me up. No doubt about it."
Ballard did not return calls seeking comment Thursday.
Bowen says he could push for a criminal investigation into Ballard''s involvement in the electric department scandal, but would rather see him voted out of office.
To make that a reality, Bowen is joining a group of concerned citizens known as Aberdeen Deserves Better, which is focusing its efforts on voting new officials into office. The group held a silent protest on the steps of city hall during Tuesday''s meeting of the Board of Aldermen.
"That''s the only way we''re going to get out of this," said Bowen. "We know the only way to change it is at the polls."
Despite the Aberdeen Police Department''s continuing investigation into the electric scandal, Bowen says he doesn''t expect any more arrests to follow.
mississippian commented at 3/22/2010 10:20:00 AM:
A plea bargain is to be used when someone is guilty of a crime and pleads guilty to a lesser charge to either reduce the fine or time in prison. The judge and Mr. Faulks should step down and be charged with bribery themselves. The judge actually bribed Pastor Bowen to drop charges against the city in return to drop charges against him. This is not the first time the law or courts in Aberdeen and Monroe County have used trumped up charges to prosecute an innocent person.
1. Ex-office manager arrested for embezzlement COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY