(RepublicanDaily.org) – The Marion County Record, a small, local weekly newspaper in Central Kansas, scored a small victory after the police chief who led a raid of the publication’s offices in August resigned recently.
The resignation of Chief Gideon Cody came on the heels of his suspension by Mayor Dave Mayfield just days earlier. Both the mayor and City Council member Ruth Herbel confirmed the resignation to the Associated Press.
Cody, along with several officers, including patrol officer Zach Hudlin, who has been appointed as interim chief of police, raided the offices of the Marion County Record, after securing a warrant to search the publication’s newsroom along with its computers and files. The warrant also covered the homes of Herbel and The Record’s editor and publisher, Eric Meyer.
The former police chief obtained permission from a judge to conduct the raids after claiming that he had evidence of possible identity theft, as well as evidence of other possible criminal acts that related to the driving record of a local restaurant owner. However, Meyer and The Record’s attorney, Bernie Rhodes, believe that Cody was using the warrant to cover up an attempt to peek into the publication’s records about him. They also allege Cody was trying to uncover the newspaper’s sources, particularly about Cody’s own history when he served as a police captain in Kansas City, Missouri.
“This was all about finding out who our sources were,” Rhodes said.
Advocates for the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment, which protects the right to free speech, were incensed at the raid when it was first reported. Many expressed concerns that it could set a precedent for local governments that had antagonistic relationships with local newspapers.
New temporary police chief Hudlin has reportedly reached out to The Record to resume sending police crime blotter information. This information is a public record but was denied to the newspaper when and while Cody was chief of police.
Meyer says that the publication will continue to fight to seek accountability for the raid, as he believes that Cody might have not been working alone. He also called out Marion County Attorney Joel Ensey and Magistrate Judge Laura Viar, whom he said enabled the former police chief’s actions by approving the warrant the latter sought for the raid. The fight is also personal for Meyer, as the events caused undue stress to his 98-year-old mother, who passed away just a day after the raid was conducted.
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