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County attorney still has conflicts

POSTED May 17, 2018 12:43 p.m.

Dear editor,
I read the Great Bend Tribune news stories: “Sheriff breaks his silence” (April 17, 2018), and “Sheriff’s attorney: Judge ‘hoodwinked’ by Mellor” (April 27, 2018), as well as an online report “Barton County Sheriff appears in court, County Attorney’s procedure questioned” (Great Bend Post online April 26, 2018). I couldn’t help but see similarities between the Sheriff’s case and another case which I am familiar with.
The Great Bend Tribune ran a news story involving a case in 2017: “Boeckman will not face criminal charges, Outside counsel: Evidence didn’t support sexual battery claim” (June 2017). What I found similar with Sheriff Bellendir’s case was Barton County Attorney, Amy Mellor, cited a potential conflict of interest in her handling the case cited above and turned the case over to an outside counselor, Chase County Attorney, Bill Halvorsen. Ms. Mellor is quoted in the Great Bend Tribune, “He didn’t feel the evidence supported the charge.”
In May 2017, the KBI had submitted its findings to Mellor’s office and she then presented this to Special Prosecutor Bill Halvorsen, who in turn emailed his determination to Mellor, according to the Great Bend Tribune news story cited above.
I spoke to Special Prosecutor Bill Halvorsen on June 12, 2017, after KBI Special Agent James Hawkins encouraged me to question where Halvorsen was in reviewing the case. The reason Halvorsen gave for not prosecuting was he knew I had filed a civil lawsuit and he said people who file civil lawsuits were just looking for money. Halvorsen also said hugging and kissing wasn’t that bad. I asked Mr. Halvorsen one simple question about the investigation that I knew the answer to. He said I would have to speak to the KBI agent for the answer, as he did not know. Had Mr. Halvorsen even remotely reviewed the work product of the KBI, he would have known the answer. He said the case had been sent back to the Barton County Attorney and it was up to her to make the final decision.
I spoke to the Barton County Attorney, Amy Mellor. Ms. Mellor had already sided with Halvorsen and let me know she had closed the case. She cited the same reasons as Halvorsen. I asked her the same simple question as I had asked Halvorsen and she could also not answer the question. I don’t believe that either Mellor or Halvorsen reviewed the KBI investigation report or the civil investigation report from the Salina law firm.
I have noticed several cases over the past year that Mellor has sent to Halvorsen. If she cites potential conflict for herself to handle the cases, it doesn’t reduce the conflict any when she sends cases to a like-minded Prosecuting Attorney who is her friend and then she still has the final decision on the cases.
I believe Sheriff Bellendir has every right to feel an injustice has been brought on him. I personally felt victimized again by the judicial system.
I am thankful for good, honest people like the KBI Special Agent, James Hawkins, who encouraged me to file the civil litigation because, as he stated, “more may be achieved.” I am also thankful that I have an excellent attorney representing me. I have no regrets in filing the civil lawsuit, especially now that I realize justice was not served with the criminal prosecution.
People should be able to trust that the judicial system is working with the utmost integrity. When there is no respect for professional ethical standards in the judicial system then the public loses trust in its decisions.

Robin Rziha
Hoisington

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