Town of Lancaster Police Chief Thomas E. Fowler called a public forum hoping to disprove he was "tyrannical and vindictive," as critics had alleged.
But ordering the removal of two senior citizens and their video camera from the session in the Town Court building was not the most judicious way to demonstrate what a reasonable guy he is.
The town's police chief for 20 years, Fowler arranged the meeting to answer allegations by the police union and others, including the two ejected seniors, about his management style. The union, the Lancaster Police Benevolent Association, claims Fowler is dictatorial and intimidating.
Henry Gull, 67, and his buddy, Jim Guenther, 68, also discovered that Fowler is camera shy -- at least when their camera is recording.
They showed up with Gull's "truth machine." But before the meeting started Fowler ordered them to turn it off. When they refused, the chief told police officers to seize it. When they balked again, officers forcibly removed them and the camera from the chambers.
Gull, who has been taping Town Board meetings for years, expressed surprise at being ejected from the meeting. "We weren't being disruptive. We weren't a threat," he said.
He said later he may have suffered an arm injury and is consulting an attorney. Guenther was carried out with his knees dragging on the floor but reported no injuries.
Fowler, who invited the news media to cover and record the meeting, said he ordered Gull's camera turned off because he thought people would be uncomfortable speaking with a non-media camera running.
Robert Freeman of the State Committee on Open Government said banning the camera did not violate the state's Open Meetings Law. That legislation applies to elected officials -- not appointed ones like the police chief -- and to meetings called to conduct government business, he explained.
So it was Fowler's meeting and his call. But Gerald J. Gill, president of the Lancaster police union, suggested that the chief's decision to remove the two gents and their camera did not score him any points.
"I couldn't have a better opportunity (to present the union's case against Fowler) than two senior citizens being dragged out because they disagreed with Tom Fowler," said Gill.
Fowler seems to have missed the point.
"I have the right to set the rules. I don't understand why any citizen wouldn't comply," he said.
What does that kind of thinking imply?