A man identified as the chief of volunteer services at the Marion Veterans Affairs facility is being terminated from that position in the wake of sexual assault and abuse charges involving a teenage volunteer at the facility, VA officials said.
Douglas E. Bowers, 55, was arrested Aug. 22. He has been charged with criminal sexual assault and aggravated criminal sexual abuse, over incidents that prosecutors believe happened in July 2016.
When the Marion Republican reach Bowers Thursday evening, he politely declined to talk about his arrest.
Marcus McGauley, executive assistant to the director at the Marion VA, confirmed in an email to the Marion Republican on Thursday that Bowers was chief of volunteer services and began working at the Marion VA on Jan. 13, 2013.
In the email, the Marion VA released a statement that upon being notified of the charges, "the Marion VA leadership took action resulting in the process of termination of this employee."
The statement goes on, "The Marion VA is dedicated to the safety of our veterans and staff. We take allegations of misconduct very seriously."
Criminal sexual assault of someone aged 13 to 18 is a Class I felony with a potential penalty of four to 15 years in prison.
Aggravated criminal sexual abuse of someone between 13 and 18 is a Class 2 felony that carries a possible three- to seven-year sentence.
Bowers is scheduled to appear in Williamson County court at 9 a.m. on Sept. 25.
Authorities said the girl who brought the complaint was a student volunteer in the VA's summer program in 2016. According to court records, her initial complaint was made to David A. Kinley, a police officer for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in an affidavit of probable cause dated July 21, 2016.
A spokesperson for the Williamson County state's attorney said the charges and subsequent arrest stemmed from lab results received as part of the investigation.
Bowers was taken into custody Aug. 22 by the Williamson County Sheriff's Department and briefly held at the Williamson County Jail on $100,000 bond. He was released later that same day after posting $10,000, or 10 percent.
McGauley said Bowers supervised all the volunteers at the Marion facility. The number of volunteers fluctuates, he said, but "is probably less than 50 at any time."
Volunteers help all over the facility.
"Most of the time they help at the front desk, directing visitors to the clinics," McGauley said, adding a few specialize in assisting veterans to check in. Others help with special events at the VA, he said.
The Marion Republican is not detailing what the alleged victim's job was, to prevent identifying her.
In light of the charges against Bowers, McGauley said he is sure the VA will do a full evaluation of the volunteer program, "a thorough assessment" regarding how volunteers, especially those under the age of 18, are supervised.
"Hopefully we can get the right person in here," he said.
McGauley said he could not comment on where Bowers worked before coming to the Marion VA. Bowers' Facebook page lists one previous job as a certified store manager at the Southland Corporation, owners of 7-Eleven stores.
Congressman Mike Bost, a Republican from Murphysboro and a member of the House Committee on Veterans' Affairs, said Thursday the allegations against Bowers are "appalling."