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Mayor knew raid was coming

Staff writer

Before City Administrator Brogan Jones emailed Mayor David Mayfield on Aug. 4 to tell him police wouldn’t follow up, Chief Gideon Cody met with Mayfield to say he would investigate the source of allegations that a Marion restaurateur who sells liquor did not have a driver’s license because of a past drunken driving conviction.

“He wanted to inform me that he was doing a criminal investigation, and it was going to involve a council person,” Mayfield told a Record reporter in Jones’s office.

The investigation was about restaurateur Kari Newell’s claims, made three days later at a city council meeting, that Vice Mayor Ruth Herbel had shared personal information about Newell having a DUI in 2008.

Newell admonished Herbel and accused the Record of supplying Herbel with information, even though Newell admitted after the meeting that she thought the information had been supplied by her estranged husband through a third party whom she correctly identified.

Newell told Herbel she wanted her colleagues to know “how vile your behavior can be.”

“I didn’t want to know nothing about it,” Mayfield said Tuesday.

During his Aug. 4 meeting with Cody, Cody “indicated Phyllis, Eric, Ruth and Pam Maag,” alluding to reporter Phyllis Zorn and editor and publisher Eric Meyer, Mayfield said.

Mayfield was at the meeting and gestured for Newell to speak during public comment. Tuesday, however, he seemed to distance himself from the situation.

“It’s not my job to think so,” Mayfield said when asked Tuesday whether he thought the searches had been valid. “I think it’s the county attorney’s job.”

County attorney Joel Ensey admitted last Wednesday that he had reviewed warrant applications two days earlier — three days after the searches.

“…I have come to the conclusion that insufficient evidence exists to establish a legally sufficient nexus between this alleged crime and the places searched and the items seized,” Ensey wrote in a news release.

The Kansas Bureau of Investigation has taken over Cody’s investigation of the alleged crimes against Newell.

Mayfield said he had concerns about how Ensey handled the case.

“I think everyone else should, too,” he said.

A reporter also asked Mayfield whether he thought Cody was doing a good job as chief.  

“No,” he said initially.

But the reporter wasn’t convinced Mayfield had heard the question correctly, and Mayfield said he wasn’t wearing his hearing aids.

She asked her question again.

“I don’t know,” Mayfield said. “I haven’t had enough time to evaluate him.”

The city offered Cody its top cop job a day after interviewing him, interim chief Duane McCarty, and part-time officer Chris Mercer.

Asked whether he thought the city had done its due diligence vetting Cody, Mayfield answered: “I think Zach is the one that vetted him.”

Council member Zach Collett checked references, Mayfield said.

“The entire council was in agreement to offer him the position,” Mayfield said.

Mayfield wouldn’t say what Collett learned about Cody because “any discussion about Chief Cody was done in executive session. I don’t talk about executive sessions. You might ask Ruth.”

The mayor alluded to Herbel because earlier this year, she shared with the Record information about discussions during an executive session, which isn’t illegal.

Mayfield said he didn’t “have any authority to micromanage anybody,” when asked whether he thought Marion police had made the right call to search and seize equipment from the newspaper, the home of its then co-owners, and Herbel.

“That’s his job,” the mayor said, pointing to Jones.

Jones has said that any action taken regarding Cody would be made by the council because the chief job is an appointed position.

City code, however, grants the mayor authority to suspend the chief or any other appointed officer.

A reporter asked Mayfield “Where does the city go from here?” as it’s thrust into an international spotlight.

“I think we need to let the attorneys handle it,” Mayfield said.

Although the council has a public comment period during its meetings, the city made it clear on its agenda Monday that it would not take questions about the investigation.

The agenda for the meeting included a directive in red capital letters in a larger typeface — followed by 47 exclamation points — “COUNCIL WILL NOT COMMENT ON THE ONGOING CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION AT THIS MEETING.”

Herbel ran the meeting because Mayfield was out of town on a vacation that he said his family had planned for more than six months.

“I apologize for not being able to attend this city council meeting 8/21/2023,” he wrote in a document titled “Letter from the Mayor” that was included in agenda packets.

“I have not missed any meetings in the three-and-a-half years of services being the Mayor,” he said. “I didn’t want there to be any confusion as to why I am not present at this meeting.

“It has absolutely nothing to do with the current happenings in Marion County.”

Mayfield has missed meetings because of health issues, but his absences have been few and far between.

Council meetings start at 4:30 p.m., and Mayfield said he and his wife returned to Marion about 6:45 p.m. Monday.

“Then we unloaded. It was 7 p.m. when we got to the house,” he said.

At the meeting, Darvin Markley, an outspoken resident who is chairman of the planning and zoning board, was critical of Mayfield, council member Collett and Cody,.

“It’s the city’s responsibility to look out for the health and welfare of the citizens,” Markley said. “I don’t believe this has been followed. The city has been put into a huge financial liability.”

“The world is watching Marion. There has to be accountability for those involved, which includes the mayor, number one, for abandoning this city right in the middle of all this and never calling a special meeting to discuss any of these issues. Zach Collett, he was the one in charge of the background checks for Chief Cody and he had all the control of the information. And Chief Cody himself. These three need to resign immediately.

“We do not need to put any more lives in jeopardy with the possibilities of threats that have come into this city.

“If Mayfield and Zach, if they don’t want to do it, I advise them to look at 60-1205 and review it.”

That state law read: “Every person holding any office of trust or profit, under and by virtue of any of the laws of the state of Kansas, either state, district, county, township or city office, except those subject to removal from office only by impeachment, who shall (1) willfully engage in misconduct while in office, (2) willfully neglect to perform any duty enjoined upon such person by law, (3) demonstrate mental impairment such that the person lacks the capacity to manage the office held, or (4) who shall commit any act constituting a violation of any penal statute involving moral turpitude, shall forfeit such person’s office and shall be ousted from such office in the manner hereinafter provided.”

The Record has hired an attorney, Bernie Rhodes, to represent it in a federal lawsuit.

KBI still is investigating, Mayfield said.

“We’re not going to talk about an ongoing investigation,” he said. “That’s under advice of counsel.

Markley didn’t mince words in his final comments about Cody.

“As far as Chief Cody goes, he can take his high horse he brought into this community and giddy-up on out of town,” Markley said. “The man needs to go. He should have been fired.”

 

Last modified Aug. 24, 2023

 

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