Marion refuses to provide texts about raid
Jennifer Hill, the lawyer hired by the Marion’s insurance company who has taken over all Kansas Open Records Act requests sent to the city, sent Marion County Record a refusal Tuesday to comply with a request.
Aware that former Police Chief Gideon Cody used his personal cell phone for communications related to his job — and at one point asked restaurateur Kari Newell to delete texts sent between them — the Record requested all text messages, whether from city-owned phones or privately owned phones, sent to and from city council members, Mayor David Mayfield, City Administrator Brogan Jones, and Cody between Aug. 1 and Aug. 18 that mention or are related to Marion County Record, editor Eric Meyer, reporters Phyllis Zorn or Deb Gruver, Vice Mayor Ruth Herbel, source Pam Maag, or Newell, or that mentioned or related to search warrants and investigation.
“We are in receipt of your emailed request dated Oct. 19, 2023,” Hill emailed the Record. “The city has no custody over personal cell phones and KORA provides no enforcement mechanism to obtain text messages from personal cell phones.
“As such, obtaining text messages from the personal property of the listed individuals would place an unreasonable burden on the city and, to the extent any such records even exist, the city is under no obligation to produce such records.”
Hill contended that text messages sent between elected officials were excluded in the definition of public records and not subject to KORA disclosure.
“No responsive records to your request exist that the city is obligated to produce,” Hill wrote.
Hill copied her message to City Attorney Brian Bina, Jones, and three lawyers in her firm, Ed Keeley, Jolene Marczynski, and Kim Seiler.
The newspaper’s lawyer was not happy with Hill’s response.
“Can you spell hypocrisy?” Bernie Rhodes asked. “The City of Marion says it’s too much of a burden for Gideon Cody to get up off the couch and hand his cell phone to Jennifer Hill, yet Gideon Cody seized scores of computers and cell phones as part of his illegal and illicit schemes.”
Newell is the restaurateur whose identity Cody falsely claimed had been stolen when the newspaper looked up a record on a public website to confirm the authenticity of a document it had been sent by Maag.
Newell has stated that Cody informed her after the raid that she should destroy copies of text messages he sent to her. Cody was suspended soon after Newell’s statements were reported. He resigned four days later.
Newell also claimed Cody bragged about using private rather than city communications equipment so it would be difficult to trace his messages.
Record reporters were aware Cody had used his personal phone rather than city equipment during the investigation.