By Dale Hogg 530News –
In an open letter to members of the Great Bend City Council, Great Bend attorney Dennis Keenan accused City Administrator Howard Partington of a pattern of retaliation against Police Chief Cliff Couch. He goes on to demand the council appoint a third-party investigator to look into the allegations.
“I am writing you on behalf of my client, Clifton Couch, who is the Chief of Police. The purpose of this letter is to inform you of concerns Chief Couch has regarding several issues with City Government, most of which deal with conduct by the City Administrator, Howard Partington,” he writes in the letter dated May 30. “Chief Couch has been and is currently the subject of harassment and retaliation by Mr. Partington.”
The Tribune reached out to the city as well. No comment or statement was received as of this publication.
Council members reached by the Great Bend Tribune Wednesday said they had not seen the letter, but said it sounded like a personnel matter and felt it better to not comment,
They suggested the matter may come up at their next meeting. The council meets at 7:30 p.m. Monday, June 5, at the City Office, 1209 Williams.
The rest of the letter
Below is the balance of Keenan’s letter:
“Mr. Partington recently orchestrated an Executive Session at which he allegedly told numerous lies regarding Chief Couch’s ethics, his work conduct, his capability, and the state of his department. For the last year and a half, Mr. Partington has ignored Chief Couch’s stated concerns about the need for more manpower at the Police Department and a compensation study performed by an outside entity. As a result, Chief Couch’s warnings came true and the department has now reached a critical, dangerous state involving a drastic manpower shortage. In order to conceal his role in bringing the police department to this state, Mr. Partington has made spurious accusations against both Chief Couch and other members of the department.
He has initiated an investigation into the police department whose clear purpose is to find a hostile work environment within the department, whether one exists or not, in an attempt to conceal the police department’s needs for additional manpower and a compensation study. Furthermore, he recently advised Chief Couch that he was forbidden from attending the FBI National Academy, an elite school that Chief Couch was admitted to over a year ago. Mr. Partington advised that this action was ‘punishment’ for the Chief’s refusal to parrot his views that manpower and compensation had nothing to do with the department’s issues, even though Chief Couch believes that available evidence indicates otherwise. Chief Couch feels that parroting a view he does not believe true would be contrary to his integrity and would violate his law enforcement oath.
“Chief Couch is also being retaliated against because he expressed to Mr. Partington that he was uncomfortable with the lack of honesty and integrity in his office. Chief Couch did not advise the specifics of his concerns at that time (as he does not want Mr. Partington to have the opportunity to ‘cover up’ these issues,) but has numerous concerns with unethical conduct he has seen displayed.
Great Bend City Policy does not provide avenues to address concerns such as those expressed by Chief Couch. The policy advises that Mr. Partington is the final authority for any punishment or grievance. As such, Chief Couch has no internal avenue to address his concerns about the aforementioned conduct. We respectfully request that the City Council appoint an outside investigator that Chief Couch may discuss his concerns with. I am further requesting that the results of his/her investigation be presented directly to the Council so that Mr. Partington may not interfere with or misrepresent the results of the investigation.
“Over the course of Chief Couch’s employment with the City of Great Bend, Mr. Partington has actively prohibited him from letting the Council know about the dire issues at the Great Bend Police Department (most dealing with a lack of adequate manpower or compensation issues.) Chief Couch has even been forbidden from leaving town for a certain amount of time, as Mr. Partington advised he needed to be around during certain events to ensure that Council Members didn’t talk to officers about departmental issues and to reassure Council Members that no such problems exist if they do pose questions. At the current time, I believe that Mr. Partington is actively attempting to prevent Chief Couch from telling the Council what is really going on at the Police Department. It is my understanding that Mr. Partington has even hired an outside attorney (possibly at City expense) to advise him on ways to keep Chief Couch from speaking to the Council in an open session.
“I respectfully request that Chief Couch be allowed to address the City Council regarding the current state of the Police Department, as well as his professional opinion regarding what should be done to address any ongoing issues. It is further my understanding that this request has been made by a sitting council member.
“I respectfully request that Council appoint an independent third party to investigate the alleged harassment against Chief Couch as well as his various complaints of Mr. Partington’s unethical conduct. Chief Couch feels that some of the actions related to his aforementioned ethical concerns could prove to be a liability for the City if they are not addressed, and he has been desperately seeking an appropriate avenue by which to provide this information. The Council is the final authority for the City, NOT Mr. Partington.”