The Great Bend City Council will hold a special meeting at 5:30 p.m. Friday at the Great Bend events Center, 3111 10th St. The agenda includes vacancies in key administrative and executive positions, the election of a new council president following the resignation of Ward 2 Councilman Wayne Henneke Wednesday, and a discussion of a forensic audit of the city.
Other agenda items include the election of a new council president after Wednesday’s resignation of Ward 2 Councilman Wayne Henneke, and a discussion of a forensic audit of the city.
Talk of naming an interim administrator followed 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.
In a letter to Mayor Mike Allison, Councilman Dana Dawson requested the special meeting. “Due to events of the last 24 hours, I feel it is in the best interest of the City of Great Bend that a special session of the Great Bend City Council be convened no later than Friday,” he wrote. “Because of vacant positions in key administrative and executive positions I feel these issues need to be dealt with immediately as a matter of public safety.”
Council members Cory Zimmerman and Mike Boys also signed the letter.
In addition to Partington’s departure, Couch remains suspended (Partington was serving as acting police chief), and Fire Chief Mike Napolitano announced last week his plans to retire as of Sept. 1.
The human resources director position is also vacant.
A city shake-up
The announcement of the special meeting was among a flurry of City of Great Bend statements issued over the past two days. These included the retirement of Partington and the resignation statement from Henneke, and a memo from Mayor Mike Allison regarding Suelter’s possible appointment on Thursday.
“I spoke with Bob (Wednesday) and he has agreed to be interim administrator for a short period and this is on the next agenda,” Allison said in his 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 Events Center. After the budget hearing at the City Building, the council will travel to the Events Center, where 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 weeks 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 since early June. Since Couch’s suspension on July 24, there has been a citizens’ campaign to install blue signs supporting Couch around town, and a crowd of 400-plus residents attended 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,” Partington said.