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‘Reckless’: Marion, Kansas vice-mayor speaks out about controversial raid

<i>KCTV</i><br/>Tempers flared August 21 in the small town of Marion
Tempers flared August 21 in the small town of Marion

By Betsy Webster

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    MARION, Kansas (KCTV) — Tempers flared Monday in the small town of Marion, Kansas, over the controversial raid of a city councilwoman, a local newspaper office, and its owner’s home.

The agenda for the first city council meeting, since the search warrants were served, made it clear in all capital letters and a string of exclamation points that the council would not discuss that issue, but Vice-Mayor Joan Herbel, whose home was also searched, spoke up outside after the meeting concluded.

Herbel said Police Chief Gideon Cody acted “recklessly.”

“They raided my house, they traumatized my husband, and I am very upset about that,” Herbel said on Monday. “And you don’t want to know what I think about the people that are involved in this.”

Also on Monday, the attorney for the newspaper’s owner remarked that he’s considering a wrongful death lawsuit.

98-year-old Joan Meyer, who co-owned the Marion County Register with her son, died from a sudden cardiac arrest the day after the Aug. 11 search of the home she shares with her son. Eric Meyer, her son, who is the newspaper’s publisher, contends the stress from the raid caused her death.

On Monday, he released a video from inside the home on that day. Joan Meyer died at 2:53 p.m. the next day.

Bernie Rhodes, the lawyer for her estate, shared the coroner’s report listing her cause of death as sudden cardiac arrest. He told KCTV5 it “doesn’t take a rocket scientist” to make the connection.

During the public forum portion of Monday’s meeting, a former planning commission member and friend of Eric Meyer did not mince words.

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

The police department also searched the newspaper office, taking computers and hard drives. The police chief alleged that a reporter stole someone’s identity by searching a public Department of Revenue website for a driver’s license record. Rhodes said a tipster provided a photo of the driver’s license record of a local business owner applying for a liquor license, and the reporter merely went to the public database and plugged in the name, date of birth and license number the tipster provided to confirm the validity of the information. The newspaper did not print a story on the matter.

The affidavit for the search warrant on Herbel’s home indicated she shared a screenshot of the But there was a third place searched: the home of the vice-mayor, who sent the city administrator a screenshot of the driver’s license info that had been sent to her by the same tipster. She said she wanted him to be aware of the allegations due to the liquor license request.

On Monday, a Department of Revenue spokesperson said the initial online search performed by the reporter was performed legally.

Mike Powers is running for mayor in the little town 60 miles from Wichita. He said it has divided the town.

“If we are going to survive as a community and hopefully thrive as a community, we’re going to have to get on the same page,” said Powers. “That means we can disagree, but we don’t have to hate each other and we don’t have to throw stones at each other.”

Several days after the raids, the Marion County attorney, who is the county’s prosecutor, withdrew the search warrants on the newspaper office and the Meyer home. The items seized have been returned. Some of them are still being examined to determine if police gained access to them. The Kansas Bureau of Investigations is involved.

Herbel said she has yet to get her phone and computer back.

“When they took my phone, I said, ‘Well, can I get the numbers out of my phone?’” recounted Herbel. “They said no. I said, ‘I need a phone in case my husband has to have an ambulance,’ and they said, ‘Well, go buy one.’”

She has retained a lawyer and is considering a lawsuit.

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