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Mayor, chief, 2 cops quit: Peabody resignations linked to comments on drug enforcement

Staff writer

Peabody’s mayor resigned, two police officers gave notice, and chief Bruce Burke told the city that he was retiring effective Sept. 23.

The rash of resignations and retirements came after discussion about drug problems in the city.

Mayor Tom Spencer reportedly announced at a meeting two weeks ago that he “wanted druggies out of the city — legally or illegally.”

Spencer would not talk Tuesday about why he resigned or about staffing changes at the police department.

Council members Rick Reynolds and Alan Gillen reportedly voted to fire Burke two weeks ago. Lindsay Hutchison and Cathy Weems reportedly voted to keep him. Spencer cast the deciding vote to keep Burke.

Burke gave city council members a letter Tuesday to “formally notify you of my intent to retire.”

Burke has worked as a Peabody police officer for more than 23 years and as chief for more than 15.

“I have always conducted myself and the police department with three things in mind — being fair, being honest, and being consistent,” Burke said in his letter. “Recently I was told that legal and illegal do not matter, and ethical decision making is not important. I will not be able to work under those guidelines.

“My integrity, moral values, and certification as a law enforcement officer in the state of Kansas, along with respect for the citizens of Peabody, mean so much more to me.”

Burke asked to meet with Spencer and the council to discuss being compensated for 1,174 hours of accumulated compensatory time off, 1,432 of makeup shift days, and a bonus.

He told the Record that he had inquired about unpaid time in the past and had at various times updated city council members about his hours.

Officer Josh Wilson, who has been with the department for 11 years, also resigned, effective Sept. 25. A part-time officer, Robert Bartlett, also will leave the department, according to Burke.

That will leave one full-time officer at the department after Sept. 25 as well as two part-time officers contracted by the school district to provide security for varsity football and basketball games, Burke said.

Another officer, Chad Voth, recently was fired and charged with being drunk on duty.

Marion County Undersheriff Larry Starkey said Peabody officials had not officially contacted the sheriff’s office about the rash of resignations.

“We’ll respond down there for whatever they need,” he said.

Last modified Sept. 14, 2022

 

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