The police chief of Marion, Kan., who gained notoriety for raiding a newspaper office and the home of its publisher, has been suspended from his job. During the August raid, police officials seized a computer that held details about the “Marion County Record’” investigation into Police Chief Gideon Cody, editor Eric Meyer said.
The raid set off a storm of questions from news organizations and their advocates, who viewed it as a major threat to press freedom. Tensions only grew as the newspaper and other news organizations continued to report on the conflict, which had been brewing for months.
Marion Mayor David Mayfield late last week suspended Cody even though the Kansas Bureau of Investigation’s inquiry into the raid is ongoing, a spokesperson for the agency said. Ruth Herbel, a member of the Marion City Council whose home also was raided, told said Cody’s suspension was “the best thing that can happen to Marion right now.”
“We can’t duck our heads until it goes away,” she said, “because it’s not going to go away until we do something about it.’
The raid followed allegations that a local restaurant owner, Kari Newell, made about the newspaper. Newell, who was seeking a liquor license, alleged during an August town meeting that the newspaper illegally obtained information about a previous drunken driving conviction, which would jeopardize her application under Kansas law. In an early August article about Newell’s claims, the newspaper said someone had sent the information through social media, and the newsroom ultimately decided not to publish it.
A judge issued warrants to search the paper’s office and the homes of Meyer, Herbel — whom the paper said had independently received the information about Newell — and another person who allegedly had shared the information. Cody led the raid, which involved the town’s five-person police force.
During the search of Meyer’s home, his mother, Joan, yelled at officers to leave as they inspected the house, video showed. Joan Meyer died of a heart attack one day later. The raid had created stress and shock, according to the paper. Her death intensified an already fraught clash between the paper and law enforcement.
–Alan Goforth | Metro Voice