Monday night’s blowup between Mayor David Mayfield and resident Ryan Newell wasn’t the only time harsh words were exchanged at the meeting:
- Vice Mayor Ruth Herbel accused City Administrator Brogan Jones of lying about sharing messages she had sent to him.
- Pam Maag, who supplied Herbel and the newspaper with a document that led to police raids Aug. 11, criticized interim Police Chief Zach Hudlin as unworthy of being permanent chief.
- Mayor-elect Mike Powers apologized for appearing to question whether Maag, as a non-resident, should be allowed to speak at council meetings.
“Mr. Jones,” Herbel asked, “I would like to know why you shared a confidential email with four council members that I sent to you and you alone.”
Herbel said that the email, in which she mentioned the document Maag had shared regarding restaurant owner Kari Newell’s unresolved drunken driving conviction, “contained personal information that was not meant to be shared.”
She noted that the email became a central point in the police raids at the Marion County Record office, the home of its co-owners, and Herbel’s home, resulting in “the loss of a very prominent citizen,” Record co-owner Joan Meyer. According to a coroner’s report, stress from the raids contributed to her death a day later.
Herbel said council member Zach Collett had responded to Jones’s sharing of the email by contacting Newell, even before police had, and stating that he thought Herbel was attempting to deny a liquor license as part of an attempt by her and the Record’s editor “to get back at you” for ejecting two Record staff members from a public meeting with U.S. Rep. Jake LaTurner.
It remains unclear how Collett was aware at that time that the Record had obtained from Maag the same document Maag had supplied to Herbel.
At a city council meeting later that day, Herbel said, Newell falsely accused Herbel of sharing the information publicly.
“After the meeting was over, I approached and stated to you, Brogan, that you were the only one I had shared this with so the leak must have come from your office,” Herbel said. “You stated you had not shared with anyone.”
Nearly two months later, she said, it was brought out at a council meeting that Jones had shared the information with council members “but you had neglected to tell me you had done so.”
“I have lost all trust in you as a city administrator and will not share something that is not meant for the public in the future,” Herbel said. “I also hold you responsible for the three raids and inadvertently for the death of Joan Meyer. It all started with your decision to release the confidential email I sent to you.”
Herbel asked Jones why he had forwarded the email, but Mayfield interrupted before he could answer.
“I’ll answer that,” he said. “I told him to.”
Herbel then asked Jones why he had said he had not shared the email.
He denied saying that, insisting that he had said, “I told nobody but council.”
“That is my direct quote,” he said.
“You are a liar,” Herbel responded.
Jones said he had the quote on his phone because he records all interactions.
“OK, I’d like to hear it,” Herbel said.
“It’s not here,” Jones replied. “It’s a transcription.”
As tempers began to flare, Collett interjected: “We can carry on a conversation. We don’t need to be screaming at each other.”
Herbel, her voice lowered, continued.
“This is just one of the three lies you’ve told me in the last three months,” Herbel said to Jones. “All of them may seem minor, but even a small lie may change things. I believe once a liar, always a liar, and the lies just keep getting bigger.
“This is not a good way to start your career as an administrator, and future employers need to know that you’re not truthful.”
Herbel, who typically avoids using anything remotely resembling swear words, concluded by calling Jones “a damned liar.”
Continuing to read from a prepared statement after being limited to just three minutes two weeks earlier, Maag accused interim Police Chief Zach Hudlin of being “nothing but a liar.”
“No wonder you’re such a good soldier,” she told Hudlin. “You sure the hell aren’t chief material. You cannot work a simple accident let alone a major accident that acquitted a UTV.”
Hudlin was the only officer on the scene of a serious all-terrain-vehicle accident July 4, 2021, but did not write an accident report, did not conduct any interviews or gather evidence, and even initially thought a different person had been driving.
A different officer prepared a report after the fact. Marion police sought a felony charge of reckless aggravated battery, but the county attorney declined to prosecute because of an inadequate report and “delayed investigation.”
In her criticism Monday night, Maag noted a large amount of turnover in local law enforcement positions.
“These local certified officers are bouncing from agency to agency,” she said.
She criticized as “a whole ’nother hot mess” the city’s decision two weeks earlier to reinstate what she termed a costly canine program.
She also criticized as being “in his own world of hurt” part-time officer and state fire investigator Chris Mercer, who participated in the Aug. 11 raids and was an unsuccessful candidate for chief when Gideon Cody was hired.
“A handful of fools have placed Marion on the map for all the wrong reasons,” she said. “Yes, come January we will have a new mayor and council members. And will any of this change? Probably not.”
A three-minute timer then expired and she returned to her seat.
The mayor-elect couched his apology to Maag around implications that he was surprised his comments had been reported.
“I don’t recall saying that Mrs. Maag shouldn’t be allowed to speak,” Powers said. “I will admit that in a group of people that was just talking … we were talking about the agenda for the first of the year and how we could set it up so that things that were going to be voted on were at a place in the agenda so that the public comment section could occur before the vote.
“I have a tendency to throw things out to see what people say about them, and I asked the rhetorical question, should people who don’t live within the city limits be allowed to speak during the public comments section?”
The Record reported in its Nov. 1 issue: “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….”
He did not phrase it as a rhetorical question but rather prefaced it with a question about whether city code contained provisions allowing or limiting comments from non-residents.