Dubuque County assistant attorney says administrative leave is retaliation

An assistant Dubuque County attorney says he has been placed on administrative leave as retaliation for challenging the county attorney in an upcoming election.
Published: Mar. 30, 2022 at 5:51 AM CDT
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DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG) - An assistant Dubuque County attorney says he has been placed on paid administrative leave as retaliation for challenging the current county attorney in an upcoming election.

”I am standing here, midday on a Tuesday,” assistant Dubuque County attorney Richard Kirkendall said just outside the Dubuque County courthouse. “I would normally be working right now, I would normally be in the office getting cases ready to go.”

But now Kirkendall is not even allowed in the courthouse. He told TV9 last Friday was his last day of a jury trial and, on his way back to his office, he ran into county attorney C.J. May III.

”He read me a letter, he told me I was placed on administrative leave pending an investigation into some complaint and that I was no longer allowed on the courthouse and he had the Human Resources department walk me out,” Kirkendall remembered.

He said the only document he has received is a letter stating there is a complaint regarding verbal harassment to another employee.

Kirkendall announced he was running to unseat May in mid-February. He cited a lack of leadership in the office as his reasoning for running. He described this suspension as retaliation for that and a waste of taxpayer money.

”We are going through this whole process,” he explained. “I know at the end of the process the complaint is going to be unfounded, but in the meantime we are going to have hired this outside investigator, we will have had me on leave for at least a few weeks.”

In a written statement to TV9, county attorney May said, “Mr. Kirkendall’s administrative suspension does not concern politics, and is not politically motivated. The suspension was issued by the Dubuque County Human Resources Department concerning an internal, confidential personnel matter. It has been referred by the Human Resources Department to an independent, outside firm for investigation. In order to maintain the required confidentiality of the investigation, I am not legally able to discuss or comment on the matter at this time.”

Although he said he is “not excited” to go back to working with May, Kirkendall said the suspension has not deterred him from his goal of becoming the next county attorney.

“We definitely need a change in leadership,” he added. “My one goal through all of this is that, by next January, we will have at least the beginnings of a real, professional, functional prosecutor’s office in Dubuque County.”

Kirkendall is one of three candidates running to unseat May as county attorney. The other two candidates are Republican Scott Nelson and Democrat Sam Wooden. Kirkendall is running without affiliation to a political party.

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