Officials accused of ‘conspiracy’
In a sometimes angry confrontation at Monday night’s city council meeting, Marion officials, including Mayor David Mayfield, were accused of being part of a “conspiracy” targeting Vice Mayor Ruth Herbel and the Marion County Record.
“With these emails that came out, Mr. Mayfield, would you explain to the citizens why you said that you needed to get a charge against Ruth in order to kick her off the council?” Ryan Newell asked.
Newell, a frequent critic of Mayfield, is the estranged husband of restaurant owner Kari Newell, whose driving record was at the center of an investigation that led to simultaneous raids Aug. 11 on Herbel’s home, the newspaper office, and the home of the newspaper’s co-owners.
Mayfield expressed confusion over Newell’s question.
“Why,” Newell repeated, “because there’s proof in evidence now, was it that you said the only way to get Ruth off of the council is to have her charged with a crime? Would you address the citizens and tell us why that is and what your thinking of this whole thing was about?”
Mayfield, who was part of an unsuccessful recall drive targeting Herbel after she led to the repeal of a charter ordinance that would have allowed city borrowing without a vote of the people, deflected the question.
“Again,” he said, “I’ll tell you, I don’t answer to you.”
Newell shot back, his voice rising.
“You’re an elected public official. Yes, you do,” he said. “I’m a taxpaying citizen, and you’re the mayor of this town. You work for us.
“And I hope, when they get those text messages — because they’re going to be able to get (city administrator) Brogan (Jones)’s and they’re going to be able to get (former police chief Gideon) Cody’s and they are doing it — yours are going to be in there, too, so there’s going to be even more that comes out.
“You want to sit here and tell us that you don’t have to answer to us. But there’s proof showing that there was a conspiracy to get Ruth fired and kicked off the council and charged on trumped-up bulls**t from your chief of police. I cannot wait until you’re a** is in a sling.”
Before Newell spoke, his estranged wife’s former friend, Pam Maag, attempted to read a prepared statement but ran out of her allotted three minutes and said she would return to complete her statement.
Maag is the source who on Aug. 2 provided Herbel and the Record a document indicating that Kari Newell had driven for more than a decade while her license was suspended because, among other infractions, she had not followed through with a diversion agreement regarding a drunken driving conviction.
Maag also spoke of “conspiracy” on the part of various city officials.
She showed council members a stack of documents she had obtained under the Kansas Open Records Act and noted that she still was waiting to receive copies of messages city officials might have sent or received via private accounts.
She said notes she had received from Kansas Bureau of Investigation and from Jennifer Hill, an attorney representing the city’s insurance carrier, “do not match up.”
“I’m not sure why she’s lacking in knowledge,” Maag said.
She went on to accuse Mayfield, Jones, interim police chief Zach Hudlin, and city council member Zach Collett of being involved in “a conspiracy.”
“I believe it is still going on and you are only missing your arrogant, strong-arm chief,” she said. “The emails I have have shown your intention was to get a charge on Ruth [Herbel] to get her removed and to go after the Marion Record.
“I am sure I am missing a few but (have) enough (that) show your intentions, and they were not good. Shame on you.”
She accused Jones of not knowing how to do his job.
“You need to learn to stand on your own two feet,” she said. “It’s unbecoming of you to be such a follower.”
Turning her attention to Collett, she alluded to his email Aug. 7 to Kari Newell, giving her a “heads up” to avoid being “blindsided” by the document Maag had provided to Herbel.
“Marion PD. Where do I even start?” Maag said. “I would say their job is to serve and protect the citizens of Marion, but the only people they are protecting are you and only a select few, at that.
“I have emails and reports from the PD. Cody went off half-cocked, and Zach (Hudlin) was a good little soldier and fell right into place.”
She accused Hudlin of having long been aware that Kari Newell was driving illegally but not attempting to charge her.
In off-the-record interviews with the Record, other city and county officers have admitted they were aware she was driving illegally but did not want to challenge her because, in the words of one of them, she’s “such a b*tch.”
“You are not the only one who knew,” Maag told Hudlin. “I will give you that. You, Zach, have looked me directly in the face when I have asked you questions after the fact and flat lied to me.”
At that point, an alarm set by a city official rang, indicating Maag’s three minutes of comment time had expired.
“I will finish this next week,” Maag said, actually meaning in two weeks.
After the meeting, mayoral candidate Mike Powers questioned whether city rules should have allowed her to speak because she resides at Marion County Lake, not within the city limits of Marion, as Ryan Newell does.