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Posted at 6:48 p.m. Saturday

Cody found reporter’s file on his misdeeds during newsroom raid

Staff writer

Newly reviewed body camera video of the Aug. 11 raid on the Marion County Record office reveals that police went out of their way to inspect confidential material a Record reporter had obtained about Chief Gideon Cody’s misdeeds with the Kansas City Police Department.

The recordings also contain an admission by police that a totally unrelated document they supposedly were looking for had initially been obtained not by the Record but instead had been provided to the Record by a source, whom they already had identified.

Confidential file

Marion officer Zach Hudlin uncovered the file about Cody’s alleged misdeeds in Kansas City while rifling through a desk drawer of reporter Deb Gruver.

Gruver had not been involved in obtaining or verifying the document they supposedly were looking for.

“You want to look through this desk?” Hudlin asked Cody while standing next to Gruver’s desk.

“You have the right to look for yourself,” Cody replied.

“I know,” Hudlin said. “I’m asking do YOU want to look through this desk?”

“Man, you got a right, too,” Cody said as he pulled open the desk drawer.

“I understand,” Hudlin said. “You will understand shortly.”

After half a minute of reading files in the drawer, Cody responded: “Hmm. Keeping a personal file on me. I don’t care.”


Labeled as being about "Capt." rather than "Chief," the file Cody viewed clearly was about his time in Kansas City.

It is not known to what extent Cody viewed the file. Video from Cody's camera does not include his search of the drawer. The search of the drawer is included only in video from Hudlin's camera, but the view from that camera is blocked while Cody searches. The first page in the folder he looked at was a LinkedIn profile, including photograph and contact information, for Gruver’s main confidential source.

He and half a dozen of Cody’s other former coworkers had provided Gruver information about Cody facing demotion in Kansas City for, among other things, sexual harassment of a subordinate.

The Record did not initially publish that information because sources would not go on the record and Kansas City police refused to provide documentary evidence.

Cody retired from the Kansas City Police Department the same day as he accepted the position in Marion.

His retirement came a year before he would have been eligible for a pension. He also gave up a job paying more than $110,000 a year to accept a $60,000-a-year position as chief in Marion.

Sources later explained that if he had remained in Kansas City, his pension would have been reduced to the salary of the position to which he was being demoted. Instead, he presumably could “buy” an additional year of service and retire at a higher rate.

Before his official swearing in as Marion chief, Cody denied that he was facing demotion, questioned who Gruver’s sources had been, and threatened a lawsuit if she reported anything about his alleged misdeeds in Kansas City.

Although the Record did not publish a story about Cody’s misdeeds at the time, it did provide a summary of the information to city council member Zach Collett, who seemed to have taken the lead in council vetting of Cody.

After Collett falsely claimed that he already had inspected Cody’s records, he angrily criticized the Record, demanding to know: “Why are you still digging into this?”

Numerous news outlets, including the Record, reported after the raid about the multiple allegations that had been made against Cody in Kansas City.

Cody eventually admitted that he had been facing demotion before resigning to come to Marion.

Marion Mayor David Mayfield, who earlier had vowed to take no action, unexpectedly suspended Cody on Thursday, six weeks after the raid.

The move appears to have forestalled an effort to have the full city council discuss Cody’s status at a meeting scheduled for Monday.

Stress too much

Gruver, meanwhile, has resigned as a Record reporter.

“I’ve been having — whether anyone understands it or not — a lot of anxiety about being in Marion,” she wrote in her resignation letter. “I think watching body cam footage was a mistake for me. I feel bad about this, but I need to do what’s best for my mental health, which isn’t the greatest at the moment.”

Her husband drove to Marion on Saturday to pick up her personal belongings and to return the file about Cody that had been in her desk but that she had taken home with her after the raid.

She earlier had given warning that she might be leaving. She said she no longer felt comfortable in Marion because some residents didn’t seem to appreciate the journalism she and the Record were attempting to provide.

She had planned to remain on the job until Tuesday but departed a week early because of her anxiety.

Record reporter Phyllis Zorn also has had permanent health consequences — the worsening of a seizure disorder — because of the stress of the raid.

Document’s source

The newly reviewed body cam video also confirms that police knew that Kari Newell’s former friend, Pam Maag, had supplied the Record and Vice Mayor Ruth Herbel the document they supposedly were seeking in the coordinated raid on the Record office, co-owners Joan and Eric Meyer’s home, and Herbel’s home.

The document indicated that Newell had been driving illegally for more than a decade after failing to follow through on a diversion agreement after a drunken driving conviction.

“We’re pretty confident we know that Pam Maag delivered it,” Cody told Zorn in the recording after reading Zorn her rights.

The Record’s only copy of what Maag had sent to Zorn after Newell had asked Cody to eject Zorn and Eric Meyer from a public meeting with U.S. Rep. Jake LaTurner was sitting on editor Meyer’s desk, less than three feet from a computer police seized.

Police did not take the document in the raid. Instead, they appeared focused on seizing computers and phones.

“Which machine was it downloaded on?” Cody asked Zorn. “It will keep us from taking everything.”

Zorn informed him which computer she had been using when she received the document from Maag and, with help of the state Department of Revenue, verified that it was an open, public record that anyone could download.

Cody nonetheless persisted in ordering the seizure of Zorn’s work computer and three additional computers at the Record as well as computers at the Meyers’ home and Herbel’s home.

Cody asked Zorn whether her cell phone had been involved. She replied that it hadn’t been — “not at all,” she said — but it, too, was seized along with Gruver’s, Eric Meyer’s, and Herbel’s.

Meyer’s was unlocked at the time of seizure, so officers could have inspected it without seizing it.

During the raid, officers appeared perturbed that Meyer, who had been at his mother’s house at the time, was attempting to call the Record.

Cody asked why Meyer’s phone hadn’t been seized and was told that Meyer was using a land line, and that land lines had not been specified in the search warrant.

Record staff members were prevented from answering Meyer’s calls on the Record’s land line phones, so he went to the Record, temporarily leaving his 98-year-old mother alone with two officers, who eventually were joined by five others in raiding her home.

In body cam video, she is heard as telling the seven officers crowding her living room: “You know, if I have a heart attack and die, it’s all your fault. . . . If I die, you’re going to be sued for murder.”

She died the next day of sudden cardiac arrest. A coroner’s report listed stress of the raid as a contributing cause.

Contact with Newell

Body cam video also disclosed that Cody had contact with Newell during the raids and informed her there was information he could share with her but he did not want to put in writing in a text to her.

He also is recorded as telling a deputy sheriff he was having trouble turning off his body camera and that after he was able to, he would tell him a story.

Cody’s body cam video includes video of him stopping at Casey’s General Store and using a restroom there to relieve himself.

Last modified Oct. 2, 2023

 

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