Following the Great Bend City Council’s split decision Monday night to suspend Police Chief Cliff Couch with pay, with the potential for termination, there have been several questions circulating in the community about what happens next.
• First, what takes place should Couch be fired? According to City Ordinance 2.12.0, “when there is a vacancy in the office of any department head, the city administrator shall serve as such head until the vacancy is filled.”
In this case, that would be City Administrator Howard Partington.
• Second, didn’t the council approve a compensation and management study involving the Police Department? It did following a lengthy special meeting on June 29.
According to the meeting minutes, after four closed-door sessions to discuss non-elected personnel totalling two hours and 45 minutes, the council voted to have City Attorney Bob Suelter and the city’s special counsel Wichita Attorney Ed Keeley “locate a firm to conduct a compensation study and management study on the Great Bend Police Department.”
As of Tuesday, city officials have not started this process. They are still looking for a firm to handle the project.
• Third, didn’t the city’s auditors recommend an internal hot line to report complaints?
Yes. The council approved its audit on June 19, and the city received an “unmodified” opinion, which is the highest possible rating.
But, Vickie Dreiling of Adams, Brown, Beran, and Ball had attended a seminar and learned that cities were number two on the list as potential fraud targets. So, she did recommend that, in addition to the fraud and ethics policy the city currently has available to employees, an anonymous hot line reporting service be offered.
This would allow employees, vendors, and customers to anonymously report possible fraud, abuse, ethics, compliance and human resources violations. As of now, this has not been implemented.
• And fourth, who is up for reelection? An explanation of how the governing body is structured is in order.
The city’s website notes it consists of the mayor, who is elected by the city at large, and eight council members, two elected from each ward of the city. All governing body members serve two-year terms. Only one council member from each ward being elected at a time.
Currently, Vicki Berryman and Mike Boys represent the First Ward, Joel Jackson and Wayne Henneke the Second Ward, Allene Owen and Cory Zimmerman the Third Ward, and Dana Dawson and Brock McPherson the Fourth Ward.
As of the June 1 filing deadline, the positions on the Nov. 7 ballot include the mayor and four council positions. Those who filed were:
• Mayor: (Mike Allison is not seeking reelection) – Brock R. McPherson, Allene Owen and Joe Andrasek.
• Council Ward 1: (Seat currently held by Boys) Dan Heath and Boys.
• Council Ward 2: (Seat currently held by Henneke who is not running) Rachel E. Mawhirter, Matt Suchy and Jolene Biggs.
• Council Ward 3: (Seat currently held by Owen who is running for mayor) Stacy Dougherty, Thomas Boor and Cory Urban.
• Council Ward 4: (Seat currently held by Dawson who is not running) Andrew Scott Erb.