Mayor says ‘prelimnary report’ was lacking criminal investigation
The investigation into criminal allegations against former Baldwin police officer G.H. Rhea is not complete, despite earlier reports that said the investigation had ended, Mayor Ken Hayes said at a press conference Tuesday afternoon.
Hayes said information released at the first press conference Sept. 19, where City Administrator Larry Paine and City Attorney Bob Bezek shared the preliminary results of the two-month investigation into the Baldwin City Police Department's policies and procedures, was not clear.
"That press conference was misleading to the public and the press because one of the criminal investigations was not complete yet," Hayes said. "The impression was given that the criminal allegations were completed and no criminal wrongdoing was found. The public and the police officers were under the impression that the criminal allegations had been disproven. That's somewhat misleading."
The only investigation that was completed by Sept. 19 was the civil investigation conducted by special counsel Mark Bennett, he said.
The Kansas Highway Patrol, he said, is still conducting the criminal investigation and looking into allegations of Rhea and his personal use of the Interstate Identification Index (III). Rhea denies all allegations.
Hayes said the Baldwin City Council, until recently, was also under the impression the criminal allegations were unfounded.
"The information that was relayed to the city council by the city attorney was that they were unfounded, which in fact they weren't," he said. "I do not recall Bennett saying that, but I do recall the city attorney saying that."
He said he only recently realized the criminal investigation wasn't finished.
"I discovered Monday that the Kansas Highway Patrol had not completed the investigation," he said.
Hayes said he's not sure why Bezek said the criminal allegations were unfounded when the investigation hadn't been completed, but that the council would be looking into it. Bezek was not at Tuesday's press conference, but Paine was.
The criminal investigation should be wrapped up by Oct. 12, Hayes said.
"They feel they will complete the investigation and have the report in our hands by next Friday," he said.
Until then, Hayes said council members will individually read through Bennett's report before meeting as a council to decide if any actions will be taken.
"We need time to digest that as individuals before we come back as a council," he said. "Then we intend to take the information that came from the report and use it as a starting point to revamp policies and procedures."
But the city has been taking some action before the investigation is complete, Hayes said.
On Tuesday, the city sent a memo to all city employees about the city's grievance system.
"I'd like to point out that the system for employees to register complaints is in place and fully functional," Hayes said. "I highly recommend using it.
"I also do not in any way shape or form discourage city employees from talking to elected officials," he said.
The memo stems, Hayes said, from Monday's city council meeting when attorney Dennis Hawver addressed the council on behalf of four Baldwin police officers.
Hawver presented the council with a detailed list of concerns and complaints the officers had about the police department procedures and policies.
Paine said no one would be commenting on Hawver's concerns at the present time.
"I think that in the scheme of everything alleged, obviously there are things that we need to take note of," Paine said, "but to respond to any issue raised would be inappropriate at this time."
Even though the police matter is not completely finished, Hayes said the safety of the community, as well as the officers, will not be compromised.
"We are moving as quickly as we can to safeguard everyone's rights," he said. "We are looking at the health, safety and welfare of the community and making sure the community is protected. As mayor, I will not stand that being degraded in any way."