On the agenda for Monday night’s Great Bend City Council meeting is the appointment of City Attorney Bob Suelter as the interim city administrator. This follows the sudden retirement of longtime City Administrator Howard Partington Wednesday afternoon amid the ongoing controversy involving him, the city and suspended Police Chief Cliff Couch.
“I spoke with Bob (Wednesday) and he has agreed to be interim administrator for a short period and this is on the next agenda,” Mayor Mike Allison said in a memo to council members Thursday morning. “However, I am in contact with the Kansas League of Municipalities in hopes of getting another interim city administrator until the beginning of the year.”
The scheduled city budget hearing will be held at 7 p.m. Monday at the City Council chambers, 1209 Williams. But, the venue for the council’s regular meeting was changed to the Great Bend Events Center, 3111, lOth Street. The regular meeting will start at 7:30 p.m.
Partington announced Wednesday afternoon his retirement, effective immediately. “I have dedicated the past nearly 36 years to serving this community and looked forward to retirement early next year,” he said in a statement.
“However, the recent actions of a loud and malicious minority including bullying, relentless harassment, threats and untrue comments made about me have caused great pain to my family.”
The conflict has roiled for months and has included allegations by Couch of unethical behavior at the city level and harassment by city officials. Partington has countered that Couch has been insubordinate.
There have been numerous City Council executive sessions and special council meetings starting in early June. It peaked in a campaign to install blue signs supporting Couch around town and a crowd of 400 residents at the Aug. 7 council meeting.
“This group has chosen to turn a policy dispute into a very personal attack on me and other officials. These malicious attacks have taken a devastating toll on my health, my wife’s health and the health of my daughter. Therefore, I find it necessary to take this action today.”