More fallout from Marion undersheriff's scandal: ex-mistress fired by school


Former Marion County Undersheriff Dan Kuhn, left, has resigned and left the Marion sheriff's race after Melissa Cook, shown with her husband, Wayne, detailed an 18-month extramarital affair with him.

File
Published: Wednesday, October 10, 2012 at 10:51 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, October 10, 2012 at 10:51 a.m.

The woman who ended the political and professional career of Republican Marion County sheriff candidate Dan Kuhn by exposing an 18-month affair with him has been terminated from her own job as head of a local Christian school.

William Alan King, an attorney and chairman of Hale Academy's board, said the board decided to sever its relationship with Melissa Cook effective Tuesday.

"We're anxious to move forward and address the needs of the school," King said, adding the board will search for a replacement as soon as possible.

In the meantime, King said, Kim Heitmuller, assistant head of school and director of guidance, will run Hale's daily operations.

On Wednesday night, the Marion County Republican Executive Committee will hear from 11 Republicans who want to be Kuhn's replacement in the Nov. 6 election.

Whoever is chosen will take on Constitution Party candidate Bernie DeCastro.

Cook's termination Tuesday came as Sheriff Ed Dean suspended a third member of his department over concerns that the deputy may have been complicit in helping Undersheriff Kuhn and Cook carry on the affair.

Deputy Robert Youmans was suspended with pay while the Internal Affairs division and Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigate whether Kuhn and others violated department policies during the extramarital affair.

On Monday, Maj. David Sperring, head of the Sheriff's Office's special investigations unit, and Capt. Chip Wildy, county director of emergency management, were suspended with pay pending the outcome of the investigations.

Sheriff Ed Dean said last week he would discipline any staffer who had knowledge of, or facilitated, Kuhn's relationship with Cook.

Attorney Charles Holloman, speaking on behalf of his client Tuesday, said Cook acknowledged receiving the termination letter from Hale Academy but did not want to comment further.

Cook's firing comes just a week after she and Holloman presented Sheriff Dean with an inch-thick book detailing her affair with Kuhn, the second in command at the Sheriff's Office.

They also presented the book, which includes sworn statements and phone records, to the Star-Banner and media throughout the state.

Cook and Holloman contend that the long-running affair ran afoul of department policies and perhaps violated some laws because it occurred at times on Sheriff's Office property and while Kuhn was on duty.

Dean launched an internal affairs investigation and also asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to conduct its own inquiry.

Cook said last week that she went public with the affair because Kuhn couldn't be trusted to be sheriff and "people deserve to know the truth."

While Hale Academy leaders didn't give a reason for the firing, it is likely that Cook's professional relationship with Kuhn's wife, Tajai, played a role. Tajai Kuhn worked as a teacher under Cook until the affair became public last week, then she resigned.

The affair threatens to derail not only the careers of Kuhn and Cook, but also several others at the Sheriff's Office.

The documents Holloman and Cook provided to Dean, the FDLE and the Star-Banner state that Capt. Wildy and Maj. Sperring knew about Kuhn's relationship with Cook and that Deputy Youmans contacted a private investigator hired by Wayne Cook and asked him to not release videos or other evidence against Kuhn.

The documents outline several instances where Wildy and Sperring facilitated meetings between Kuhn and Cook.

In one instance, Cook reports going to the Sheriff's Office to end her relationship with Kuhn and describes Wildy escorting her to the Emergency Management Center, to a computer room, where she met with Kuhn.

Kuhn spent roughly 20 minutes hugging and kissing Cook and they both realized they could not end the relationship, the document states.

The documents also allege that Kuhn and Cook created bogus reasons for her to come to the Sheriff's Office and that, on some of those occasions, Kuhn would arrange for Wildy to greet her in the lobby and escort her to the Emergency Management Center so she and Kuhn could be together.

The documents also allege that Sperring and Kuhn were together several times when Kuhn and Cook met. Some of the meetings took place in parking lots, others at restaurants. In one of the meetings, Sperring and Kuhn reportedly met Cook in the parking lot of Bonefish Grill and Kuhn and Cook kissed in front of Sperring. Another statement indicates that Cook, Kuhn, Sperring and a friend met at Pi on Broadway and stayed there about three hours. It is not clear in the documents whether those meetings occurred when the sheriff's officials were on duty.

Youmans, according to the documents, tried to keep private investigator Brian Mims from revealing details of the affair that he had documented on video and with photos.

Mims had been hired by Wayne Cook to watch his wife and was reportedly paid $1,500. Once Melissa's affair with Kuhn ended, Wayne Cook asked that evidence such as photographs and videos be turned over to him, but Mims refused to do so.

The document alleges that Youmans told Mims not to release videos or any other evidence against Kuhn. Kuhn reportedly told Melissa Cook that Youmans had handled it for him and "everything would be okay."

Youmans, in a statement sent Tuesday to the Star-Banner, wrote, "I look forward to a full exoneration after a complete investigation. I am sorry, but I cannot comment further."

Mims, reached by telephone, denied any involvement with Youmans.

"That's 100 percent false," he said.

Asked if he has evidence belonging to Wayne Cook, Mims said, "At this point, I won't comment."

Contact Austin L. Miller at 867-4118 or austin.miller@starbanner.com.

Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

▲ Return to Top