Restaurateur accuses paper, councilwoman
Less than a week after ejecting reporters from a congressman’s reception, Marion restaurateur Kari Newell went before the city council Monday to angrily — and falsely — accuse the Record of illegally obtaining drunken-driving information about her and supplying it to a council member.
The information actually was provided by a source who contacted the Record via social media and independently sent the material to both the newspaper and the council member.
After verifying that the information was accurate and had been obtained, as the source claimed, from a public website, the Record decided not to publish it.
Instead, it consulted an attorney and, without naming Newell, last week notified the sheriff and Marion’s police chief that it had received the material from someone who had bragged about retaining “connections” despite no longer working in law enforcement.
The chief and sheriff also were notified of the source’s allegation that local law enforcement officers had been aware Newell did not have a valid driver’s license and had ignored what the source said were repeated violations of driving laws by Newell.
Marion police apparently made Newell aware of the situation Monday.
In a discussion with the Record that Newell initiated after the council meeting, she acknowledged the accuracy of the information and that coming forward with allegations about it might expose the information rather than preserve its confidentiality.
Contrary to what she told the council, she indicated that she thought the information had been supplied to the source, whose identity she speculated about, by her estranged husband as part of an attempt in divorce proceedings to retain ownership of vehicles on grounds that she did not possess a license.
She contended that the main target of her sometimes angry outburst at Monday’s council meeting was council member Ruth Herbel, whom she claimed spread the information about Newell not having a valid license.
The license was ordered suspended because of a drunken-driving conviction in 2008 and a series of other driving convictions.
Newell accused Herbel of acting “negligently and recklessly” by sharing her personal information.
She told Herbel she wanted to speak to the council so her colleagues would know “how vile your behavior can be.”
Herbel confirmed Tuesday that she had received the information from the same source as the Record but said she had shared it with only one person, city administrator Brogan Jones.
She said she had forwarded the material to Jones with the advice that police might want to investigate because Newell also was on the agenda for Monday night’s council meeting, seeking endorsement of a request for a catering liquor license.
State law prohibits such licenses being issued to applicants with felony drunken driving convictions or multiple alcohol-related convictions within a certain time frame. The same limits apply to any applicant’s spouse.
The information received by Herbel and the Record listed conditions Newell would have to meet to have her license reinstated. One of them was installation of an anti-drinking ignition interlock on any vehicle she drove.
Newell contended in her sometimes heated discussion after the meeting that she was scheduled the next day to take a test that was another of the required steps for reinstatement of her license.
At the meeting, council members voted, with Herbel opposed, to endorse Newell’s request to the state for a license that would allow her to serve liquor at virtually any location, but not in the same location for more than a specified number of days.
According to state records, Newell does not have a liquor license.
Her restaurant, Chef’s Plate at Parlour 1886 in the Historic Elgin Hotel, was licensed under hotel owner Tammy Ensey.
Newell took ownership Feb. 1. However, state law forbids transfer of liquor licenses because each owner must be subjected to separate background checks.
Ensey’s license will expire later this month.
In her discussions with the Record after Monday night’s meeting, Newell contended that she had asked police to evict Record staff members last week from a public reception at her coffee shop for Rep. Jake LaTurner at the request, made in advance, of what she described as more than one prominent citizen.
She said people in Marion were “giving high-fives” to her for “finally standing up to the Record,” which she said frequently “distorts” the news — unlike what she termed a good newspaper, Hillsboro Free Press.
Reporter Deb Gruver contributed to this story.