A large crowd is expected to attend the Monday’s Great Bend City Council meeting at the Great Bend Events Center, but suspended Great Bend Police Chief Cliff Couch is urging for calm.
“Free speech and the public’s ability to be a part of the governmental process is one of the most important rights we have,” said Couch. “People just need to exercise that right responsibly. There is no place for violence."
City officials decided Thursday to move the meeting to the center, 3111 10th St., to accommodate the large audience anticipated due to the controversy involving Couch and the council. The meeting will start at 7:30 p.m.
The council will set aside a block of time for public comments, City Attorney Bob Suelter said, but the meeting will not include the hearing on Couch’s possible termination.
Monday’s agenda includes an unsafe building hearing for property at 1217 Madison, an engineering agreement for potential improvements to Eighth Street from Grant to McKinley, and the city’s quarter-cent sales tax renewal. Council will also discuss a planned study on wages and morale at the GBPD.
The council voted to suspend Couch on July 24 with the possibility of termination. Couch filed his appeal on July 28 and the city originally had two weeks to schedule an appeal hearing, but he has the option to waive that two-week requirement.
However, the city has been informed that Couch is now represented by a different attorney, who has requested additional time to prepare for the hearing. His schedule does not permit this hearing to occur until later in August.
The city’s special counsel Ed Keeley will work with Couch’s new attorney and the city to set a date and time for the hearing. Once set, officials said it will be announced.
Although Couch can request the hearing be public, the council is under no obligation to follow that request. It will likely be done in an executive session.
Council meetings are normally held at the city offices, 1209 Williams. But, in a letter to city administrators and council members, Barton County Sheriff Brian Bellendir expressed concerns about an expected large crowd and the potential for safety issues.
The sheriff said he met with Mayor Mike Allison and City Attorney Bob Suelter on Wednesday afternoon and that is when the decision was made to move the meeting. The move was announced Thursday afternoon.
The council approved suspending Couch with pay with the potential for termination during a special meeting July 24 after a 45-minute executive session. The action cited subordination and was based on comments he made during an executive session at June 29 special meeting.
On June 29, Couch accused City Administrator Howard Partington and Mayor Mike Allison of unethical behavior and said he was being punished for contradicting