News - Mike Bowers

For trying to jail Georgia's top environmental enforcer

For most of its history, the state Environmental Protection Division has handed out landfill permits like candy on Halloween.

But on April 14, Carol Couch, who's been EPD director for less than a year, rejected Complex Environmental Inc.'s request to build an 800-acre dump in sleepy Taliaferro County, about an hour-and-a-half east of Atlanta.

The company's attorney, former state Attorney General Mike Bowers, obviously didn't take rejection so well — and asked a judge to jail Couch until she changed her mind. This, despite that Complex Environmental's landfill plan did not adhere to state regulations, and that Bowers, as attorney general, used to be the guy who made sure state regulations were upheld. The problem with Bowers as a regular attorney is that he seems eager to send anyone to jail who gets in his way.

According to court documents, Couch rejected Complex Environmental's application for two reasons. One, the proposed landfill didn't match up with key elements of a state plan to reduce garbage and encourage recycling. And two, in order to approve the application, the EPD has to have a letter from the Taliaferro County Commission stating that the landfill fits into its local solid waste plan.

The county commission did provide such a letter — but only because Bowers' legal maneuvering forced them to either approve the landfill or face jail time for contempt of court. Some of the commissioners even went to jail for half a day in protest.

The "EPD was advised by the county that the verification [for the landfill] was court compelled and not the true belief of the county commissioners," states an affidavit of EPD Land Protection Chief Mark Smith.

Bowers wasn't available when CL requested an interview, but his partner for the Couch case, Josh Archer, says Bowers had to request that Couch be jailed because they had no other legal recourse. How convenient.

Bowers tried the same thing Aug. 6, when he asked a judge to declare the city in contempt of court for not turning over the tax records of a private citizen, which would have been illegal for the city to do.

Apparently, Bowers practices the type of law that allows attorneys to use bullying and intimidation when the facts don't support his side.

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