Longtime Great Bend City Administrator Howard Partington announced Wednesday afternoon his retirement, effective immediately. His action follows months of controversy engulfing him, the city and suspended Police Chief Cliff Couch.
“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 released Wednesday. “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 root of the conflict stems from allegations by Couch of unethical behavior at the city level and harassment by city officials. Partington has countered that Couch has been subordinate.
There has been a war of words, numerous City Council executive sessions and special council meetings stretching back to early June. The matter culminated 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.”
“I am 67 years old, a United States Army veteran and a cancer survivor. Even though these harassing attacks have been the most difficult challenge I have faced in my life, I am still proud to have the support of the majority of the people in this community, and proud of the many projects I have been a part of with this city over the past years – projects like the flood control project, helping retain major businesses such as CPI and Fuller Brush, major improvements to our water, sewer, and street infrastructure, and more recently the development of the Wetlands Water Park and the Great Bend Sports Complex,” Partington said.
“We are also in the process of developing numerous current and future projects,” he said. “I am proud of the City’s solid financial position a s I leave and of the carefully managed city portion of property taxes which favor the taxpayers of this community.
“But the greatest joy I have truly experienced here has been the people I have been privileged to work with, the outstanding employees, the dedicated department heads, the supportive governing body members and the great people of Great Bend – you have made my years here fulfilling. Thank You Great Bend for letting me serve you as your city administrator for so many years. We have found and will always appreciate the many friends we have in this community which has been our home for so long. My family and I will always care for this wonderful community and wish the very best for it.”
The statement gave no indication of what comes