Affidavits filed for police raid of Marion County Record released

First print edition of Marion County Record since raid.
First print edition of Marion County Record since raid.(KWCH)
Published: Aug. 20, 2023 at 12:58 PM CDT|Updated: Aug. 20, 2023 at 1:17 PM CDT
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) - The three affidavits used as the basis to search the Marion County Record and two private residences are now public. And although the information contained in the records hold few surprises, there are still many questions surrounding events leading up to, and following the police raids.

We’ve reported that Marion Police raided the paper, the home of its publisher, and the home of the Vice Mayor on Friday, August 11. They seized computers, phones and other equipment reportedly in connection with an identity theft investigation.

The affidavits were signed on the day of the raids, but were not filed with the county clerk until the following Monday.

“That’s bizarre to me,” said Bernie Rhodes, the attorney representing the newspaper. “Something is weird.”

Marion County Record Affidavit

And so it begins

The story begins with a tip given to the newspaper, and to Vice Mayor, Ruth Herbal. Someone sent the driving record of a local businesswoman. It showed a DUI arrest. This business owner was applying for a liquor license for her restaurant. It was reportedly from the Kansas Department of Revenue website.

Marion County Record publisher Eric Meyer asked Police Chief Gideon Cody about it, but never published a story. A reporter did try to verify the information from what Rhodes said was public information websites.

In the affidavit seeking search warrants, Cody contends that a reporter with the newspaper misrepresented herself to access and download the information.

While the initial front page of the website is public, as seen above a selection must be made to show a legal reason to obtain the information according to Drivers’ Privacy Protection Act of I 1994. To access the records a confidentiality agreement is displayed prior to a user accessing the search function. A section of the confidentiality agreement states “Under the Drivers’ Privacy Protection Act of 1994, as amended (DPPA) (18 U.S.C. § 2721), personal information obtained by the Kansas Department of Revenue cannot be released unless the request for information falls within one of the exceptions within the Act.”

Under the confidentiality agreement it states “By proceeding past this screen, I declare that I am eligible and have the express authority to receive the requested information pursuant to the Federal Drivers’ Privacy Protection Act of 1994, as amended. I further declare that any personal information I receive will not be used to sell or offer for sale any property or service.”

Rhodes says the paper was given the information, and that the reporter used public websites for verification that, “Anyone can access.” He says what the reporter did was perfectly legal.

The affidavit seeking to search Ruth Herbal’s residence stated that she had also received the information.

It corroborates a witness statement that Ruth Herbel obtained protected Kansas Department of Revenue information via social networking.

The affidavit goes on to say:

City Administrator Brogan Jones stated Ruth wanted to deny the renewal of Kari’s liquor/caterers’ license based on the DOR record and that the license was on the City Council Agenda for a meeting the same afternoon (08/07/2023).

Public outcry

The incident has thrown the small town of Marion, Kansas into the national spotlight. First Amendment organizations across the county have condemned the actions of the Marion Police Department.

Residents are divided. Some support the police department and its actions, while others support the paper.

Flowers have been left at the paper, as a memorial for Joan Meyer. The 98-year-old co-publisher died the day after the raid. Eric Meyer believes the raid was a contributing factor in her death.

And just days after the raid, the Marion County Attorney withdrew the warrants citing “insufficient evidence” and ordered that all the items needed to be returned.

The Marion County Record was published on schedule last Wednesday.

“We are still in the process of analyzing all the seized items to see if any were accessed by police,” said Rhodes. “We may know something this week.”

Meanwhile, the Kansas Bureau of Investigations is looking into whether there was any criminal activity associated with the events.

There is a City Council meeting scheduled for tomorrow night. The agenda shows, very emphatically, there will be no discussion on the recent events or the criminal investigation.

Marion City Council Agenda