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Mayor succeeds in blocking council discussion of chief

Staff writer

Despite city council members agreeing two weeks ago to discuss police chief Gideon Cody, Mayor David Mayfield took steps Friday to remove the topic from their agenda and was supported Monday by two other council members.

Vice Mayor Ruth Herbel attempted Monday to amend the council agenda to restore the planned executive session regarding Cody. Her motion failed, 3-2, however, with council members Zach Collett and Kevin Burkholder joining Mayfield. Council member Jerry Kline supported Herbel's motion.

Additional coverage of Monday's meeting, including a series of questions posed by Ryan Newell, estranged husband of the restaurant owner involved in the case, will be published Wednesday.

Last week, city administrator Brogan Jones notified Herbel, who had suggested the executive session two weeks ago, that no discussion would be held.

“I was instructed to remove the executive session from the agenda by the mayor at the advice of city legal counsel,” Jones told the Record.

Asked why it was being removed, he said: “I have no answer for that and cannot and will not speculate to someone else’s reasoning. I just know that it was a decision based on the advice of legal counsel.”

Mayfield, reached after several unsuccessful initial attempts to contact him, said Friday: “I’m following the advice of the attorney our insurance company hired for us. They have told (city attorney) Brian (Bina) not to hold the session.”

Bina’s account differed.

He said that he was the one who had advised that the session be canceled. He said he had asked for an opinion from Jennifer Hill, the lawyer hired by the city’s insurance company, but had received no response from her.

“My understanding there was an executive session to discuss a non-elected personnel, that being Chief Cody,” Bina said. “My advice is that we do not do that until such time as the results of the KBI investigation become clear.”

Bina admitted he did not know the scope of KBI’s investigation. KBI is not answering questions about that.

However, KBI earlier said that its investigation was limited to whether a system used only by law enforcement officials had been accessed. It was not, and KBI investigators were told that two weeks ago. They do not appear to have interviewed any other people regarding that matter since then.

“I think there are a lot of pieces to this, and I am waiting to have certain information revealed so I can address the situation to the best of my ability,” Bina said.

Bina said the council could, if they chose, suspend Cody anyway. Mayfield also has that within his power but has opted not to do so.

“They don’t need me for that,” Bina said. “My understanding is that it was to discuss the ongoing investigation.”

Bina said his presence at any discussion was not necessary.

“If they want me to be there, that’s at their request, and if they don’t want me to be there, that’s up to the council,” he said.

Herbel mentioned all of these points Monday but they did not persuade Collett, Burkholder, or Mayfield.

“I’m not doing anything until the KBI finishes their investigation,” Mayfield had said Friday. “That’s what I’ve said all along.”

Cody brought worldwide criticism and scrutiny on the city and its police force when he got a search warrant Aug. 11 for the Record office and the homes of its owners and Herbel.

Co-owner Joan Meyer died the following day after officers searched her house and it is believed her death was related to the shock and stress of officers raiding her home.

Last modified Sept. 18, 2023

 

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