GREAT BEND, Kan. (RELEASE) Update September 14:
An outpouring of community support helped lead to the reinstatement of Great Bend Police Chief Cliff Couch earlier this month. But just nine days later, he's turned in his resignation, saying he's taking another job out of state.
Many in Great Bend spent time and money fighting for Couch after his suspension this summer. But now that he's back in office, Couch says he feels he won't be effective with the target on his back.
The Great Bend City Council voted 4-3 last week to reinstate Couch, but he the chief says, he still felt his job was in jeopardy.
"There were still three people that did not want me to come back, and (there is) an open council seat that may be filled by, or not filled by someone who feels the same way."
Couch says his decision comes down to job security for him and his family.
Supporters of Couch who spoke with Eyewitness News say they understand.
"I understand where these other doors have been opened and a clean slate is probably what's best for him and his family," Great Bend resident Rachel Mawhirter says. "So, while we all are disappointed, we can empathize."
Couch's resignation is effective Oct. 15, but he says he can't say where he's going yet, only that his next job will be out of state.
Thursday morning, the Great Bend Police Department released this statement from the Couch regarding his resignation:
Earlier this year, I found it necessary to approach the City Council and express various concerns regarding things I had witnessed and been asked to do in my position as the Chief of Police. Some of these were personal type issues, while others dealt with ethical issues. Among the more serious of my concerns dealt with the Mayor purposely hampering a race relations board the Police Department is required to have by law, and the fact that the City Administrator was attempting to force me to make officers issue more citations to generate more revenue (which I knew to be an unethical, illegal practice). I felt that I had a moral obligation to make the Council aware of these issues. After hiring an attorney I was finally allowed to meet with the City Council and express my concerns. I requested that an independent investigator be appointed to address these concerns. I also advised the Council that I was willing to repeat my claims under oath and attest to these claims on a “lie detector” test, provided that the Mayor and City Administrator would do the same.
An investigator was never appointed. Instead, about a month later, Mayor Allison called for a special, closed door meeting in which it was decided to suspend me pending termination of my employment. All of the reasons listed for my termination were completely and utterly false. One of the reasons listed was that I had made allegations against the City Administrator. There was no evidence offered to support any of the charges against me. In fact, there was never any investigation into the allegations the Mayor made against me. This was very obviously a blatant act of retaliation for my attempt to address the aforementioned concerns, as well as a way to ensure that my allegations were not investigated.
During my suspension, the community was nothing short of fantastic towards me and my family. I will be forever grateful for the kind words, cards, and numerous other acts of kindness shown towards us. I am also grateful for the handful of Council members who spoke out against my suspension and worked so hard to undo it. I was also fortunate enough to have the support of several council members (Dana Dawson, Corey Zimmerman, and Brock McPherson) who voted against my suspension and worked tirelessly to undo the injustice they witnessed. Eventually, a majority vote of the City Council ended my suspension and expunged all of the spurious accusations against me. I am so very blessed to have seen so many in Great Bend work so hard to undo an injustice. I’ve also been encouraged at the prospect of so many taking such a deep interest in their community and finding ways to be involved in the governance of their city.
However, it has become apparent to me that there will be insurmountable difficulties in continuing my duties as the Chief of Police. The same small group of people that orchestrated my termination in order to silence me is still in positions of power. None of the concerns I addressed to the Council regarding Mayor Allison or Administrator Partington were ever investigated. It has also become obvious that I am being targeted politically, without any regards to truth or moral scruples, and I know that one cannot be an effective Police Chief with a target on his back. As such, I am tendering my resignation, effective October 15, 2017.
Update Tuesday evening (Sept. 5):
The Great Bend City Council has voted to reinstate suspended police chief Cliff Couch.
The vote came at the council's Tuesday night meeting. Before the doors even opened for the meeting at the Great Bend Event Center, a large crowd gathered outside, all in support of reinstating Couch.
It's something people have been pushing for, for more than a month. Tuesday night, the people finally got what they wanted.
Badge and gun returned, Couch says he's eager to get caught up. He also says he hopes recent events leading to shake-ups in the city's leadership can be put behind them.
"It's not necessarily over," Couch says. "You know, unfortunately, politics being what they are, and the community being somewhat polarized right now, I just hope that as a community as a whole, we can really move forward and hopefully see some good come out of this finally."
Some of that good Couch has already seen includes an outpouring of support from a community he's eager to serve again.
"It's not lost on me too that this isn't just about me, this is about people wanting to get involved in their government and a lot of things like that, and I think a lot of good can come of that."
The Great Bend City Council Tuesday set in motion the process of finding a new city manager and replacing a vacant council seat. The council also approved an audit that will look into several areas of city administration over the last several years.
Update Tuesday morning (Sept. 5):
The Great Bend City Council is meeting Tuesday evening to discuss the suspension of the city's police chief and the retirement of several city officials.
Agenda items include electing a new council president -and discussing Police Chief Cliff Couch's possible reinstatement to the position.
Story from the Great Bend City Council's Aug. 7 meeting
It was a packed house Monday night in Great Bend as the city looks to fill several vacant leadership positions.
The Great Bend City Council named City Attorney Robert Suelter its interim city administrator, but Great Bend remains without a fire chief or an active police chief.
Many in the crowd were on hand to show their support for suspended police chief Cliff Couch, who says his job is still up in the air.
Monday night, retired Great Bend Police Officer Terry Millard drew cheers from the crowd when he voiced his support for Couch.
"I do support Chief Couch as do the majority of officers for the Great Bend Police Department," Miller said.
The Great Bend City Council is meeting Monday night, expected to address vacancies in its leadership and to appoint at least a temporary replacement for its city administrator.
A day after last Wednesday's sudden retirement of Great Bend City Administrator Howard Partington, Councilman Wayne Henneke announced his resignation.
The city is currently without a police chief, a fire chief and a city administrator. When Henneke announced his resignation last Thursday, he cited turmoil in the city as his reason.
This "turmoil" started with last month's suspension of Great Bend Police Chief Cliff Couch. The council intended to address issues in the city at a special meeting Friday, but there were not enough council members for a quorum and the meeting was canceled.
At Monday night's meeting, the council is expected to appoint an interim city administrator. You can watch that meeting live in the window below: