It was during a special Great Bend City Council meeting June 29 that Police Chief Cliff Couch leveled accusations of unethical behavior within city government. Following four executive sessions totalling two hours and 45 minutes, the council approved contracting with an outside party to do a compensation and management study of the Great Bend Police Department.
At a follow-up special meeting July 24, a divided council approved suspending Couch with pay with the possibility of termination after a 45-minute closed session. And, as of now, the study has not been done.
However, in the council agenda packet for the next regular council meeting at 7:30 this coming Monday night at the Great Bend Events Center was a copy of the “request for proposal” for the compensation and management survey approved earlier. The deadline to submit a proposal is 4 p.m. Aug. 21.
According to the RFP, “the study shall analyze the efficiency and effectiveness of the police, procedures, management, and operations of the Great Bend Police Department” and “shall include comparisons with similar-situated cities in Kansas and surrounding states. The study is meant to focus on compensation of officers within the department and on the management structure, staffing levels, efficiency and effectiveness of day-to-day operations.
The consultant is also asked to provide a review and analysis of organizational structure, staffing levels, and staffing requirements, and make recommendations for improvements. It also involves:
• Looking at the department’s various organizations and their interrelationships.
• Determining if these are assembled logically and if the responsibility is properly allocated.
• Assessing how the efforts are planned, directed, coordinated and supervised.
“The city is particularly interested in police strategies to stem drug related crime, as well as strategies for dealing with concentrated crime areas,” it reads.
The consultant will determine the allocation of resources of the GBPD’s various divisions. And, the study will include examining the current workload data and service calls.
The department’s wage structure and recruitment and retention efforts and methods will also be compared with Kansas law enforcement agencies. And, the departmental morale and internal culture will be studied.
The RRP describes the GBPD as follows: “The Great Bend Police Department provides law enforcement services for the City with 30 certified officer positions, of which approximately 26 are currently filled. They are supported by a civilian work force of approximately four non-sworn people. The department is divided into three sections, each headed by a lieutenant. The three sections are the administrative division, the patrol division and the detective division.
On July 24, the Great Bend City Council held the special meeting with the sole agenda item being an executive session “to discuss employment issues common to two individual employees pursuant to non-elected personal matter exception.”
Following the 45-minute closed-door session, the council emerged and approved suspending Couch with pay with the potential for termination. This was based on comments he made during the June 29 special meeting in executive session.
At the June 29 meeting, Couch alleged he was being ordered to lie, establish a quota system for traffic tickets, hide his opinions on problems within the Police Department from the City Council, forbidden to publicly divulge information on a slush fund within a city department and being punished for contradicting Partington. Partington has maintained that Cliff has been insubordinate, accusations that were at the heart of his eventual suspension order.
The Great Bend Tribune anonymously received a copy of Couch’s statement he read during the June 29 executive sessions outlining his concerns.
These meetings followed executive sessions at the May 1 and June 5 regular meetings. All of these dealt with the same topic.
There had also been a letter-writing campaign by Couch’s attorney Dennis Keenan and an attorney for the Great Bend Fraternal Order of Police chapter, Matthew Huntsman of Overland Park.
It was also during the June 5 meeting that Couch presented his concerns about the Police Department in the open to capacity, vocal crowd at City Hall.