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Chief mum as White House, attorney general talk about raid

Staff writer

At a home he rents on a country road four minutes from the Record office he raided Friday, Marion Police Chief Gideon Cody refused to comment Thursday about the Kansas Bureau of Investigation taking over a case that led him and nearly his entire staff to seize computers and cell phones from the newspaper and the homes of its co-owners and a city council member.

“No comment — KBI,” he told a reporter.

His refusal to comment while at home on what was reported as a vacation day came a day after the raid was discussed during a White House press briefing.

Meanwhile, the Kansas Reflector reported Thursday that Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach said state authorities were reviewing alleged crimes associated with the raid and were interested in whether someone had breached the Kansas Criminal Justice Information System.

Kobach told reporters at a news conference in Topeka that county officials asked KBI to “get involved” after news of the raid spread globally.

Freedom of the press, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Wednesday, “is the core value when we think about our democracy.”

“We’ll continue to reaffirm and protect this fundamental right enshrined in the First Amendment,” she said. “And so, you can certainly count on us to continue to do that.”

Kobach stressed Thursday that the KBI had not been involved in the searches and was not notified of them beforehand.

At the KBI’s suggestion, county attorney Joel Ensey admitted Wednesday that a search warrant Cody had obtained was lacking.

In response, Sheriff Jeff Soyez turned the seized items — including personal cell phones — over to the newspaper’s attorney Wednesday.

A forensic expert examined them Thursday to determine whether police had accessed them in any way.

Inadvertently included in the items Soyez turned over were a computer and cell phone owned by Vice Mayor Ruth Herbel, whose home also was raided Friday.

Cody, a former police captain for Kansas City, Missouri, has been Marion’s chief since May 30.

A day after reporting April 26 that the city had offered Cody its top law enforcement job, current and former law enforcement officers who had worked with Cody called the Record with disturbing claims about him.

The Record interviewed seven sources, none of whom agreed to be named publicly. The Record told city officials about the concerns.

Eric Meyer, editor and publisher, made a decision not to move forward with a story using only unnamed sources — in part because of some citizens’ belief that the newspaper is “always negative.”

If the newspaper had published allegations about Cody that later proved to be unfounded, it also could have opened itself to a lawsuit.

Within two days of the Record receiving calls from former subordinates of his, Cody hired an attorney — Dawn Parsons, a shareholder at Shaffer Lombardo Shurin in Kansas City, Missouri.

Cody also told a Record reporter that if the reporter were to write a story about allegations against him, he might not take the job in Marion.

The Record asked Cody to allow it to review what law enforcement terms his “jacket” — his personnel file. He declined. Parsons also declined by email.

The Record informed various city officials of the allegations against Cody. How officials responded or failed to respond continues to be under investigation by the Record and other news organizations.

Brogan Jones, in his first job as a city administrator, was not involved in hiring Cody.

“I have no comment,” Jones said Thursday when asked whether he would have hired Cody. “I wasn’t involved in the hiring process. I wasn’t even here yet.”

Jones confirmed Thursday that Kansas Highway Patrol troopers would be at Monday’s city council meeting, scheduled for 4:30 p.m. in the basement of Marion Community Center at 3rd and Santa Fe Sts. in Marion.

Elected officials and city employees have received hateful, profanity-laced emails and calls about the raid.

They also have received death threats.

Meyer went on a national news broadcast Thursday afternoon strongly urging people to refrain from such uncivil activities.

As of Thursday afternoon, there were no plans for a special city council meeting before Monday’s meeting, and Cody was not expected to be on the agenda for that meeting.

Jones said city employees had been stressed dealing with blowback from the raids. Jones has helped take calls.

“For me personally, I want to keep morale up,” he said. “I told the ladies, ‘If they want to be hateful, they can be hateful to me.’ ”

Calls continued Tuesday and Wednesday but were not as bad or as constant as Monday. By Thursday, calls had declined some, Jones said.

“Monday was rough,” he said. “Monday was a rough one.”

He bought drinks — non-alcoholic — at Casey’s one day for office staff.

“I never would have dreamed of this,” Jones said when asked about juggling what’s become international news. “It’s a pretty unprecedented road for any city administrator.”

The Record, inundated with thousands of phone calls and emails, will continue to update its website as frequently as possible. In addition, look for more news in next week’s print edition.

Last modified Aug. 20, 2023

 

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