Oak Hill Florida Mayor unaware of pot plants on her property

Neither members of the Oak Hill Police Department nor the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office believe Oak Hill Mayor Mary Lee Cook had any knowledge of the 10 marijuana plants found on her West Ariel Road property, agency representatives said Thursday. “It is extremely obvious to me that the mayor was not cultivating marijuana,” said Oak Hill Police Chief Diane Young. “She is 84 years old and walks with a cane.” Cook has said she believes someone may have put the plants on her land in hopes she would resign her seat.

A sheriff’s report released Thursday said the chief ordered one of her officers to investigate claims from a citizen that they had seen the plants on the mayor’s 5-acre parcel and, if confirmed, report those findings to investigators with the sheriff’s narcotics unit. According to a memorandum from sheriff’s narcotics commander Lt. Robert Goggin to the department’s chief deputy, a person trimming trees near Cook’s fence noticed marijuana plants and brought it to the attention of police on June 3. Deputies are not releasing the identification of the person who found the plants because the witness fears retaliation from Cook’s son, the memo said.

Sheriff’s investigators met with Cook’s son David Brown at his mother’s residence on June 6 and advised him of the complaint. “Brown gave investigators voluntary consent to look around the property,” a sheriff’s report released Thursday morning said. As Brown escorted the deputies around the land, several small marijuana plants, not visible from the residence, were discovered. Sheriff’s spokesman Gary Davidson said upon questioning the mayor, investigators determined she had no knowledge of the plants or that they were “there in the first place.”

Brown told deputies he believes the plants may belong to his nephew, Brendan Cook, the report said. Both he and the mayor, Brendan Cook’s grandmother, suspect him of breaking into the mayor’s home in the past and stealing from her, the report said. Brendan Cook’s whereabouts are not known to deputies. The matter came to light prior to the Oak Hill City Commission meeting Monday when Cook spoke up about the discovery in hopes of “nipping in the bud” what she believed was an effort to embarrass her into resigning her political seat. She said a person she won’t identify had told her someone was going to step forward during the meeting and speak up about the contraband being found on her land in hopes of ruining her reputation.

The mayor on Thursday said in an interview at her home that since being elected to the commission, she has raised objections to “everything” involving city operations in general. While that included conflicts with the Police Department, such as opposing Chief Young’s hiring in March 2010, Cook did not believe the efforts to embarrass her were related to the police force “specifically.” “This is no popularity contest,” the mayor said Thursday. “I was voted on by the people and not the City Commission and I am answerable to the people. There have been a lot of silly little things going on and I am not going to be part of them,” she said. Young said Thursday that while there has been controversy between her agency and the mayor, she turned over the investigation to the Sheriff’s Office to protect the source of her information and to avoid any “political ramifications for the mayor and myself.”

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