Barton County Attorney Amy Mellor announced Tuesday she will resign at the end of December.
Mellor issued a letter addressed to the citizens of Barton County. She also attached a copy of a letter sent to her from Sheriff Brian Bellendir on the letterhead of the Barton County Sheriff’s Office, dated Nov. 19.
Mellor requested that her letter and the sheriff’s letter be printed in their entirety. They are printed below as received.
To the Citizens of Barton County:
During my 23-year career as a law enforcement officer and my 10 years as a prosecutor, I’ve long appreciated and worked to maintain the spirit of mutual cooperation among our law enforcement agencies and prosecutors, including county attorneys’ offices. While it is impossible to avoid all conflicts and differences of opinion, we rely on communication, collaboration, and pillars like our judicial system to ensure that we’re working for the best interest of all citizens.
I felt it would be appropriate to share the attached letter I received this week from the Barton County Sheriff and explain to our community why I am planning to resign from my position as the Barton County Attorney in December, 2018.
The sheriff’s letter, actions, and public commentary make it clear that he is not interested in cooperation and instead would prefer to bully me and my office. This began more than a year ago when I was advised by administration at the Great Bend Police Department that a report had been filed with that agency regarding the sheriff’s actions during an arrest. I wrote a letter to an assistant director with the Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI), requesting an investigation. Contrary to statements made by the sheriff and his attorney, the assignment of agents to investigate was made by the KBI administration in Topeka, Kansas, rather than by my husband. I recused myself and my office from this matter from the beginning because of the perceived conflict. Unfortunately, Sheriff Bellendir continues to blame me and my husband for what has transpired as the result of his actions. I had hoped that once the criminal matter was concluded, healing could begin and all parties could act like adults and perform our duties. Based on Sheriff Bellendir’s continued actions and his letter, this is clearly not possible.
It saddens me to see this behavior, and I don’t believe it would be benefit our county to continue working in such a hostile environment. Additionally, I do not agree with the Barton County Commissioners’ endorsement of Sheriff Bellendir’s actions. I believe their message condones law enforcement’s mistreatment of suspects and inmates. All citizens should be protected by our laws, and I have always believed that members of law enforcement should be held to a higher standard; law enforcement officers are not exempt from the law. It never was personal for me, it was and is about what is right and what is wrong.
Beyond that, the sheriff’s proposed hiring of independent counsel would, in my opinion, be an improper use of taxpayer funds. It would also further distract the county offices from our joint responsibility in protecting our communities and citizens.
If elected officials in Barton County continue to use these bullying tactics to work against one another and address perceived conflicts, I’m concerned for the future of Barton County.
To the citizens of Barton County, thank you for your support throughout my time in serving you. I will continue to pray for grace, mindfulness, and a spirit of cooperation for all who work to protect and improve our communities.
Amy Schartz Mellor
Sheriff Brian Bellendir’s letter to Amy Mellor:
After consultation with city, county and state leaders as well as numerous local citizens, it has become clear, a majority of the citizens of Barton County are demanding change in your office. To that end, on Monday November 26, 2018 I will be addressing the Board of County Commissioners in open session. I will be requesting the commissioners retain independent counsel to research and investigate removing you from office either by ouster or recall.
There is substantial public support for this action and I anticipate numerous citizens will attend.
Sheriff Brian J. Bellendir
Brian Bellendir’s response Tuesday afternoon:
“She said this is bullying; this is not bullying,” Bellendir said. “This is how government works. It sometimes calls for confrontation.”
Bellendir said he has heard many county residents calling for a change in that office. “I felt it was my responsibility to call for that change.”
Referring to Mellor’s concern about the county’s future, “Barton County will be just fine,” Bellendir said.
He has asked that his opportunity to address the County Commission Monday morning be removed from the agenda. “That would be pointless now,” he said.