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Wichita City Manager further addresses letter from former police chief, internal review

Wichita City Manager Robert Layton responded to former Wichita Police Dept. Chief Gordon Ramsay's letter warning of unethical behavior happening at City Hall.
Published: May. 25, 2022 at 7:10 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Wichita City Manager Robert Layton on Wednesday spoke in-person for the first time since former Wichita Police Department Chief Gordon Ramsay sent a letter warning of unethical behavior happening at City Hall.

This stems from the investigation into racist text messages sent by some Wichita police officers and Sedgwick County Sheriff’s deputies.

On Wednesday, Eyewitness News reporter Hailey Tucker was given seven minutes to speak with Layton. Eyewitness News wanted to talk to him after Ramsay made accusations in his letter to the Wichita City Council and Mayor Brandon Whipple. We also wanted to again ask is what the city manager’s office knew and when they knew it.

You can see the full interview with Layton in the window below.

Wichita City Manager Robert Layton addresses a letter from former WPD chief, allegations of unethical behavior at City Hall.

Eyewitness News pointed out that Layton specifically said he couldn’t find anyone at City Hall that knew about the investigation into the inappropriate text messages involving officers, but pointed out the reception of emails requested from Wichita Deputy City Attorney Van Halley from October 2021 with the subject line, “SWAT text message.”

“You’ll have to talk to [Halley] about that because I was not aware about that,” Layton said.

The investigation into some Wichita police officers sending racist text messages started early last year. On multiple occasions, Layton said he and his staff were never told.

“I can’t find anyone in this building who were the people directly involved. None of us knew about it,” Layton said.

Tucker pointed out we’ve heard from multiple people saying Layton was told about the investigation, including an email thread with Layton and the president of the Fraternal Order of Police

“So, this is you discussing the issues with the police department and the FOP is bringing up concerns about that,” Tucker said.

“I don’t recall that we talked at all about the text messaging,” Layton responded. “They may have talked about processing and bigger concerns they had with the Chief and with the Deputy Chiefs and communications. I’ve thought a lot about that since you’ve asked for this information. If they talked about it, in terms of process, I don’t remember that. It’s possible. I wouldn’t say that isn’t possible, but I don’t remember it. And we definitely didn’t have any discussions about the nature of text messaging.”

So, why is this important on who knew what and when?

If the city manager knew when the texts were first discovered, his obligation would be to tell the mayor and city council.

In his letter, Ramsay said City of Wichita Human Resources Director Chris Bezruki is inappropriately and unethically overturning police discipline. Two former HR employees reached out to Eyewitness News, saying on multiple occasions they saw the HR director overturning police discipline after meeting with the police union.

Layton said, “I don’t think so,” in response to the question of whether there is an unethical relationship between the police union and HR for the city.

“I think HR works closely with all of our collective bargaining groups, our unions. And so I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with HR or department director or staff meeting with unions to hear our their points,” he said.

Ramsay said another issue is Layton putting Bezruki on the internal review committee looking into the response to the inappropriate texts.

“Well, first of all, I didn’t create the internal review committee, that was done by Donte Martin in my office,” Layton said. “I stayed out of that so that I wouldn’t have any influence or any input into that process, so I wasn’t involved in that selection.”

“Do you think that that’s an issue that [Bezruki] was on the internal review committee if he’s got allegations going around?” Tucker asked.

“Well, he’s a resource just like law department being on there and we had two outside attorneys,” Layton said. “They’re all resources. So, that in itself, I don’t think it’s a conflict.”

An independent firm will look into the handling of the investigation, city manager’s office and HR department for the City of Wichita. Their findings will then to the mayor and city council for further decisions.

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