STAFFORD — The former chief of police for the city of Stafford sued the city in federal court Tuesday, claiming whistleblower retaliation.
Stephen Mattice, of Harper County, was police chief of Stafford from July to early December 2018 when he was fired.
“While working for the Stafford Police Department, Chief Mattice became concerned over a large number of reports from citizens and other law enforcement officials in regards to the Stafford Police Department’s history of corruption and unaddressed police misconduct,” the lawsuit states.
“One such report was made by a former Stafford Police Officer Bill Elliot who told Chief Mattice how a former Stafford Police Officer Clayton Osburn had been caught having sexual intercourse with a minor while still employed with the Stafford Police Department,” the suit states.
Mattice began an investigation to determine if a crime had been committed and claimed these events ensued:
• Mattice told his boss, City Administrator Jami Downing, of the allegations of Osburn’s misconduct. Downing said Elliot was not a credible source.
• Mattice took allegations about Osburn to Corey Latham, director of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation’s office in Great Bend.
• The KBI requested to review Osburn’s personnel file. No record of a reprimand related to charges of Osburn sleeping with a minor was in the file.
• KBI investigator Traci Allen questioned Osburn, and Osburn admitted to having intercourse with a 16-year-old Stafford High School girl while he was a police officer. Osburn said then-acting Police Chief Doug Brown found out about it and gave Osburn a three-day suspension.
• Mattice asked City Administrator Downing why no report of the reprimand was in Osburn’s file. Downing said Brown “handled things his own way.”
• City Administrator Downing attempted to pressure Mattice into filing charges against former police officer Elliott for providing “false information” about Osburn’s conduct. When Mattice refused, Downing became antagonistic toward Mattice. Downing was upset that news of Osburn’s actions began to spread across the city of Stafford. Downing micromanaged Mattice’s actions and decisions as police chief.
• Deana Eisenhour, office clerk at Stafford City Hall and sister of former police chief Brown, accused Mattice of neglecting his 9-year-old child. The child ran home after school one day in cool weather instead of riding with his mother in the car. The mother followed in the car behind the child. Eisenhour, joined by Downing, threatened to report Mattice to the Kansas Department for Children and Families.
• Stafford USD Superintendent Holloway Payne wrote Chief Mattice indicating that despite Eisenhour’s insistence that Mattice be reported to DCF, there was no cause for concern about the child’s welfare.
• On Dec. 7, 2018, Mattice met with the city council, mayor, and city attorney to discuss his concerns about issues arising out of the Osburn investigation. On Dec. 10, 2018, the council voted to allow Downing to take administrative action against Mattice. On Dec. 11, 2018, Mattice was asked to resign. He refused and his employment was terminated.
Mattice asserts he was deprived of liberty without due process. He said he was unable to get potential jobs with the St. John and Pratt police departments “because of the damage done to his name.”
He also claims he was a victim of retaliation by the Stafford city administration and others.
Mattice is seeking a trial in U.S. District Court in Wichita and compensatory damages for lost wages, emotional distress and moving expenses.
The News was unable to reach Downing on Tuesday afternoon.