I wanted to take a moment to comment on some of the ongoing events in Great Bend concerning our city government. I recently made allegations to the City Council of unethical conduct by a few leaders within our local government. A short time later, I was suspended from my duties as the Chief of Police, pending termination of my position. As of now, I am still awaiting an appeal hearing which I requested. My attorney has been requesting that the City conduct a hearing open to the public.
One of the foremost things I would like to point out is that the allegations I made were against two individuals. The city government of Great Bend is composed of numerous employees, most of whom are dedicated, hardworking individuals. It is in our best interest, as citizens, to support them as they work to make Great Bend a better place. To that end, I would urge you to support Bob Suelter, who was recently appointed to the position of Acting City Administrator, as he tries to lead the City Government through this challenging time. I’ve worked with Mr. Suelter, and I’m fairly certain that he could simply retire and walk away from this difficulty if he so chose. The fact that he is willing to step into this difficult leadership position and guide the City Government shows tremendous dedication. I would urge my fellow citizens to also show support to other city employees. By and large, the City of Great Bend is an organization staffed by dedicated employees who truly want to make our community a better place. The police officers and firefighters who come running when we call for help, the people who keep our streets and utilities running, the workers who maintain our parks, and all the other various employees work hard to keep our city running. More importantly, most of them have no control over what goes on at the upper levels of government. They are just trying to keep the proverbial ship afloat during difficult times. They deserve our support and respect during these trying times.
Several times, I have made public statements urging people to remain civil as they exercise their First Amendment rights with respect to the current issues with our city government. We are fortunate to live in a country where officials work for the citizens. In our great nation, when citizens speak, the government has an obligation to listen. But that right comes with a responsibility to exercise our free speech civilly. I am so very thankful for all of the support that my fellow citizens have expressed for me throughout this ordeal. The vast majority of free expression I’ve witnessed has been peaceful, positive, and completely appropriate. However, like many of you, I’ve also heard a few disturbing rumors of bullying and harassment. I hope these rumors are false, but if they are not, I would urge all of my fellow citizens to join me in condemning and avoiding these acts. I would also encourage anyone who witnesses any such acts to contact law enforcement. As citizens, we expect our leaders to act professionally and refrain from bullying. In turn, they deserve to be able to live their lives free from bullying. Contacting an elected (or appointed) official to express one’s opinion is entirely appropriate. Such citizen involvement in government forms the bedrock of our democracy. But threats and other inappropriate behavior have no place in that democracy. There is a world of difference between appropriate political expression and bullying, and the latter has no place in government or politics.