Police arrested the husband of a Conover city councilwoman Friday on charges he assaulted a disabled man at a city meeting Feb. 6.
Kenneth Rowe Herman, 71, husband of councilwoman Jan Herman, is charged with assault on a handicapped person. He was released from the Catawba County Detention Center on a $1,000 unsecured bond and was given a March 14 court date.
The charge stems from an incident that occurred Monday night at Conover’s monthly city council meeting.
Coy Hester, 58, of 1034 Morningside Drive in Conover, said he was struck in the back of the head with an open hand just before the start of the council meeting. He says that hand was Herman’s.
“He just unloaded on me,” Hester said. “I felt the tips of his fingers on one ear and the bottom of his palm on the other.”
According to a map Hester produced for evidence, he was sitting on the far left side of the council chambers, facing the council panel, when the incident occurred. Kenneth Herman was sitting on the opposite end of the row directly behind Hester when he allegedly struck Hester in the back of the head, according to Hester's account of the incident.
Conover Police Chief Steve Brewer said Thursday he was standing in the back of the council chambers during the alleged incident, but he told the O-N-E that he did not witness the alleged assault.
At least three people witnessed the assault and gave Conover Police their depositions of what happened. There are more potential witnesses, Brewer said.
After being struck, Hester said he was shocked. He said it took him a few moments to assess the situation and recalls saying, “I’m disabled.”
Hester suffers from Factor V Lieden, a blood-clotting disorder that requires him to take heavy dosages of Coumadin and other blood thinners.
He also suffers from fibromyalgia.
“Just a slap to his head is like someone hitting him with a two-by-four,” said Harold Hester, Coy’s brother.
After assessing the situation, Hester said he walked over to Brewer, who was standing in the back of the council chambers behind the spot where the incident occurred. He told Brewer he wanted to file charges against Herman, and the two walked outside.
Hester said Conover Police Capt. Eric Loftin also followed the two outside, along with Herman. He said Herman then continued to verbally harass him in the hallway.
Brewer would not confirm that Herman verbally harassed Hester outside.
After standing in the hallway for several minutes, Brewer, Loftin, Herman and Hester all re-entered the council chambers, Hester said.
Within 10-15 minutes, Hester became light-headed and exited the chambers again, followed by Brewer and Loftin, he said.
He told Brewer and Loftin he “did not feel good,” and paramedics were eventually called to the scene. He was transported to Frye Regional Medical Center, where he received multiple tests, including MRI scans and extensive blood work. He was released from the hospital at about 4 a.m. Tuesday.
Hester filed charges with a Catawba County magistrate Friday. Neither Ken nor Jan Herman would comment on the incident, the charges or Hester’s comments. The Hermans arrived at the Catawba County Detention Center about 6 p.m. Friday to deal with Ken’s charges. After about 45 minutes inside the building, they exited alongside their attorney, Blair Cody.
“We’re looking forward to all the facts coming out in court,” Cody said.
The Hermans declined to comment.
The basis of the assault may stem from Conover’s January council meeting.
At that meeting, Hester addressed the council and voiced his concern with the city’s decision to raise its monthly landfill fee to a flat $11 per household.
Hester told the council he only generates one bag of trash per month, which amounts to $11 per bag of trash and an additional $100 plus annually that he has to pay.
“I am just asking that you treat ‘all’ residents and businesses of Conover fairly, honestly and most of all ‘equally,’” he said in his speech.
After his address and the meeting’s adjournment, Hester said he was speaking to another member of the audience when Jan Herman “butted in.”
Hester said Jan told him, “You don’t have any reason or right to tell us how to run our business."
Jan Herman declined to comment about the situation.
Hester said he did not speak “out of line” during his prepared speech or conversation with Jan, adding that he left the council chambers that night alongside Conover City Manager Donald Duncan.
The alleged assault took place nearly one month later.
Hester said he wants "justice" for Kenneth Herman's alleged actions.
"Your actions speak for your intelligence," Hester said.
Following the assault, will Hester attend future Conover City Council meetings?
"Absolutely," he said.