(April 26, 2019) Former County Commissioner Bobby Cowger is now former Pocomoke City manager as well, having been fired last week in an upheaval that also saw Councilwoman Esther Troast step down as council vice president.

Cowger, on Friday, said he planned to file suit against the town.

“It’s personal attacks … but I can’t say too much, because I’m filing a wrongful [termination] lawsuit against the city,” he said. “It’s all personal attacks.”

The city issued a statement on the matter last Tuesday.

“The Pocomoke City Mayor and Council announced today that, after careful deliberation, it has voted to remove Robert L. Cowger from the position of city manager,” the statement said. “The City of Pocomoke City wishes Mr. Cowger the best in all his future endeavors.”

The vote to remove Cowger was apparently 3-2, with Troast and Councilman Dale Trotter voting to keep him.

Bobby Cowger

Bobby Cowger

Troast confirmed the news and that she had stepped down as first vice president, essentially the role of acting mayor, as current Mayor Bruce Morrison has still not recovered his speech following a hematoma that caused a brain bleed in November 2017. She will retain her seat on the council.

“Eighteen months of being the mayor’s voice was trying,” Troast said. “I enjoyed the journey, learned a lot, and worked very hard.  I am being encouraged to run for mayor next year. We shall see.”

Troast said she could not comment on the situation regarding Cowger.

On Morrison, Troast offered, “He still hasn’t gained back his speech. Physically, he gets around good, better than me sometime[s].”

Todd Nock, elected in 2018, was named council vice president to replace Troast. Nock, Councilwoman Diane Downing and recently elected Councilman R. Scott Holland voted to remove Cowger.

Nock declined to comment further on the matter and said there were no immediate plans to fill the city manager position.

Cowger, a native of Pocomoke, was named city manager in August 2017. He previously served multiple terms as a Worcester County Commissioner and had run the now defunct county department of liquor control.

He called the situation “crazy.” Cowger said some on the council objected to his downtown revitalization plans, which included demolishing several buildings said to be beyond repair.

“Tearing the buildings down — they didn’t think I went about it the right way,” he said. “There was quite a few trumped-up charges on me, but I didn’t do anything illegal and there’s nothing being investigated … everything that I did, I did within my job description.

“The city’s in a complete uproar over this,” Cowger continued. “They’re furious. I’m just overwhelmed by all the support and the backing. My phone hasn’t stopped ringing in four days.”

Cowger reiterated there are no criminal charges against him, despite the disapproval from the City Council.

“I’ve done more for this town in the last 18 months than has been done in the last 20 years. I was cleaning it up and the council turned their back on me. There isn’t much I can do there,” he said. “But everything I’ve done was within my job [description] and I don’t regret anything I’ve done. I know this town is better today than it was when I came here.”

Josh Davis is an MDDC award-winning editor and reporter at the Bayside Gazette and Ocean City Today newspapers, covering Berlin and Ocean Pines, Maryland. He is the author of three novels, including 'Vanishing is the Last Art' (2012). He lives in Berlin.

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