Charges loom after meeting altercation

Police say they expect a Conover man to file charges against a city council member's husband who allegedly hit him in the head during a council meeting this week.

Coy Lee Hester, of Morningside Drive in Conover, told police Kenneth Rowe Herman hit him in the head early during the Monday city council meeting. Herman is city council member Jan Herman's husband.

"What it boils down to is one of our council member's husband hit another man in the back of the head," said police Chief Steve Brewer. "I think it was over some comments (Hester) made during the (January) council meeting. (Hester) made a presentation about the landfill fees being increased. It was a very professional presentation. I think afterward there might have been some words exchanged."

The O-N-E called the Hermans on Thursday.

"We've been advised to not say anything right now," Jan Herman said. "It seems that sometimes what you say is not what's printed."

Hester did not immediately return a phone message Thursday.

Brewer was at Monday's council meeting but said he did not see the alleged incident. He said several people reported seeing the incident.

He said Hester has an attorney, but he would not say who that attorney is.

As of 5 p.m. Thursday, Hester had not filed charges against Herman, according to Conover police and the Catawba County Magistrate's Office.

A magistrate said Hester and his legal counsel visited the courthouse Thursday afternoon to press charges, but the party did not have all the required paperwork for filing. The magistrate, who would not give her name or Hester's attorney's information, said she expected Hester and his counsel to return Friday morning.

Conover officials say Pannell and Pannell, a firm that provides legal counsel to the city, has requested officials refrain from talking about the specifics of the incident. Monroe Pannell, an attorney present at Monday's council meeting, said he did not see the incident.

"The meeting proceeded in an orderly fashion from beginning to end," Pannell said. "There were no disruptions."

Pannell would not comment further.

"Pending civil or criminal matters in which the parties are involved, the city has no comment," he said. "The city and its council is obligated to protect free speech and the right of peaceable assembly. It's the city council's intent to provide a safe location to exercise those rights. The city council will continue to provide that safe environment as it's always provided."

Conover City Manager Donald Duncan and council member Don Beal offered similar statements.

"I want people to know that this council is still focused on doing what's best for our citizens' needs and we need to reassure people of that," Beal said. "We have a good council, we have a good mayor, and I support each and every one of them. I continue to support them. We're just going to move forward; we've got too many opportunities."