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Chief abruptly resigns

Staff writer

Three days after his suspension was announced, embattled Marion Police Chief Gideon Cody abruptly resigned Monday.

Cody was suspended Thursday after Mayor David changed his mind after weeks of insisting he would not suspend Cody until the Kansas Bureau of Investigation released its findings on Aug. 11 raids on the Marion County Record and the homes of its owners and city council member Ruth Herbel.

Cody’s resignation, effective immediately, was announced by Mayfield near the end of a biweekly meeting of Marion City Council.

Cody’s suspension and resignation came on the heels of reports by the Record and KSHB-TV in Kansas City that a key figure in Cody’s Aug. 11 raid on the Record newsroom had alleged that Cody told her to destroy evidence of their conversations.

At Mayfield’s suggestion, patrol officer Zach Hudlin was appointed to replace Cody as interim chief.

Hudlin is the sole remaining member of the Marion police force fully certified as a law enforcement officer.

As previously reported by the Record, Hudlin had been the officer who called Cody’s attention during the raid on the Record newsroom to a confidential file. The file, beyond the scope of Cody’s later disavowed search warrant, contained investigative notes detailing Cody’s alleged misdeeds before leaving the Kansas City Police Department under threat of demotion.

After the surprise announcement of Cody’s resignation Monday, Hudlin told the Record he would resume providing the newspaper weekly reports about police activities.

Cody had stopped a 50-year tradition of providing such reports after taking office four months ago.

Mayfield’s dispassionate announcement of Cody’s resignation came at the conclusion of the council’s scheduled items of business.

During public comments afterward, Ryan Newell, estranged husband of Kari Newell, whose case Cody purported to be investigating in the raid, pressed Mayfield and council member Zach Collett about events leading up to the raid.

Collett offered a lengthy denial of any wrongdoing on his part. Mayfield, however, refused to say anything.

“I’m not answering any of your questions,” he said. “I don’t owe you an explanation about anything.”

“You are such a chickensh*t,” Ryan Newell shot back.

Pam Maag, the former friend who had provided Herbel and the Record information about Kari Newell illegally driving for more than a decade, then questioned Collett, drawing an angry response.

“There’s this little dirty web of [city administrator Brogan] Jones and Mr. Mayfield and now you have gotten into it,” Maag told Collett.

“You’re saying that I’m corrupt,” Collett shot back, waving off Mayfield’s attempt to cut Maag off. “I’m not OK with being called corrupt and being involved in a web of lies, and I’m tired of it.”

“I’m tired of it, too,” Maag replied.

After additional testy exchanges, Mayfield cut off discussion even as other spectators were waiting to speak.

At issue throughout most of the exchanges was what happened after Jones had sent Mayfield and council members other than Herbel a message Aug. 4.

The message, which was included in applications for search warrants, indicated that Jones had rejected Herbel’s suggestion to have police investigate whether Kari Newell’s driving record might impact her qualification to receive a catering license allowing her to sell liquor at events anywhere in the area.

Jones’s note was not the last word on the matter, as Cody went ahead and launched an investigation — though not of Kari Newell. His investigation instead targeted Herbel and the newspaper.

Mayfield has waffled on exactly when he became aware of the situation, indicating at different times that he first was consulted Aug. 4, Aug. 7, and Aug. 9.

What seems undisputed is that the first person who reached out to Kari Newell after the note was sent was Collett.

“Mr. Collett, you need to explain to the citizens why you contacted Kari Newell before Chief Cody did,” Ryan Newell demanded.

Collett’s reply was that he had received nothing other than Jones’s original note.

“I don’t feel it’s proper for someone to walk into a hornet’s nest,” he explained, “so I called to give her a heads-up that there’s been some questions raised about you having a DUI in your past. And I know, from my experience, that a DUI — unless it’s a felony DUI or your third DUI — does not keep you from getting your liquor license.”

Ryan Newell asked whether Collett had informed Kari Newell about the document Maag had sent to Herbel.

“You are now presumably accused of informing Kari Newell that this document existed,” Ryan Newell said. “From investigations, are we going to find out that that’s true?”

Collett did not answer directly, saying only that he did not have the document although he was aware that Herbel had told Jones about it.

Ryan Newell then turned to Mayfield and to complaints about Mayfield deleting a Facebook page Mayfield maintained as mayor and about delays in receiving documents requested from the city under the Kansas Open Records Act.

After Mayfield refused to answer questions, Ryan Newell responded: “Awesome. That’s the transparency we’ve been talking about. It’s about as clear as a pile of cow sh*t.”

He accused Mayfield of violating federal law by deleting what he termed an official Facebook page.

“That is censoring the public, and it’s a federal law,” Ryan Newell said. “I will be making sure someone’s coming after you on that.”

“You be sure and do that,” Mayfield shot back. “Your time is up.”

Maag then explained that her reason for sending Herbel and Record reporter Phyllis Zorn information about Kari Newell’s driving record was not just because of Kari Newell’s pending liquor license but also because of allegations that local law enforcement officers were aware Kari Newell was driving illegally and did nothing about it.

“I sent it to Phyllis because I wanted to have law enforcement to be questioned about why they weren’t doing their job because we are paying as taxpayers their salaries,” Maag said.

Maag’s allegation also was a main reason why the Record informed Cody and Sheriff Jeff Soyez of the information Maag provided.

Since then, at least three current or former law enforcement officers have contended off the record that the allegation was true.

“Everybody’s talking like acting like Ruth did something dirty, asking for information from me,” Maag said.

When she accused Collett of being involved in what she termed “this little dirty web,” he responded: “It bothers me. I have nothing to hide, and I’ve done nothing wrong.”

“You called her to give her a heads-up,” Maag shot back.

Maag questioned why the city had not acted promptly on requests for documents under the Open Records Act.

“We’ve had over 40 requests,” said Jones, who is the city’s official public information officer. “We had a request that was more than 2,000 emails. I don’t have anything to do with it. It’s been taken to outside counsel.”

The attorney, Jennifer Hill, represents an insurance company defending the city against possible lawsuits over Cody’s raids.

At least two other spectators were waiting for a chance to speak, but Mayfield did not recognize them and asked for a motion to adjourn the meeting.

Last modified Oct. 5, 2023

 

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