Mayor Tom Brown Monday urged the McPherson Police Chief and McPherson County Attorney to get along.
County Attorney David Page recently won a hard-fought battle for reelection - an election in which the McPherson Police Chief Robert McClarty and McPherson County Sheriff Larry Powell both endorsed his opposition.
Page told The Sentinel Wednesday night after the election relations between the police department and the county attorney's office had been poor since March. He said a new policy had been instituted that required Page and his deputies to contact officers through the change of command at the police department.
Page said at the city commission meeting Monday this was causing problems. Without the ability to directly contact officers, officers were not being timely contacted about postponements of hearings or trials. Page said he also needed to be able to contact officers in order to resolve time-sensitive cases, such as child-in-need of care cases, which must be addressed within 72 hours of a child being removed from a home.
McClarty said he had instituted the policy change because Page's office's contacts of off-duty officers had become excessive. Officers were being routinely called on days off and during vacation time. McClarty said the officers were requesting compensation for this extra time worked. This was increasing over-time costs for the department, causing budget issues.
Page called the meeting a blame session and defended his right to make comments in public regarding the functions of his office.
Page said he couldn't always align himself with law enforcement.
“My role is not to seek convictions for crimes, but to seek the truth,” he said.
He said he must do his duty to the best of his ability.
“District court does not take a day off. The Constitutional rights of defendants are not suspended,” he said. “The rights of the accused are at the forefront of my concern.”
Page said he wished to continue to work with the police department and would try to avoid when possible contacting officers during their time off. However, he said he will not be able to avoid completely.
“There are certain functions as the county attorney I must perform,” he said.
Brown asked McClarty and Page to sit next to each other during the meeting.
“Law enforcement must be a team,” he said. “It must include all law enforcement - our own police department and the county attorney's office working as a team. We need to work toward a conflict resolution process.”
Brown then read several verses from the book of Matthew from the Bible.
Brown noted Page had requested law enforcement to provide affidavits to the county attorney's office - something attorneys at the county attorney's office had formerly done. This caused some disruption as Page made the request after the county and city budgets had been published for the year. However, the city has complied with Page's request despite additional costs. Brown called this water under the bridge.
Page 2 of 2 - At the conclusion of the meeting, Brown said he thought misunderstanding had lead to a lack of trust between the two offices.
He urged the two men to meet in private and attempt to work out their differences.
He presented both men with copies of the book “Trust Edge” - a book on conflict resolution with a Bible version inscribed on the inside.
“You are both Christian gentlemen,” Brown said. “I believe you can work this out.”