Dubuque County Attorney denounces claims he fired his challenger for political reasons

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: May. 11, 2022 at 4:05 PM CDT|Updated: May. 11, 2022 at 4:19 PM CDT
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DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG) - Dubuque’s County Attorney strongly denied claims from an assistant in his office who claims he is being fired for political reasons.

Assistant Dubuque County attorney Richard Kirkendall has been on leave since March pending an internal investigation. That happened shortly after Kirkendall announced he was running for Dubuque County Attorney in November, challenging his boss, C.J. May for the seat.

In a Facebook video posted Wednesday, Kirkendall says he was informed the investigation determined the harassment complaint against him was unsubstantiated but that he will be fired for insubordination for other incidents outside of the investigation, but did not elaborate on those incidents. Kirkendall claims he was given an opportunity to resign instead of being fired and sign an agreement and apology letter. Kirkendall says he will not do that, claiming the entire incident is political retaliation.

“The complaint that I made, that this is political retaliation by C.J., is not being considered part of this investigation so the County is not going to take any action on that at this point,” Kirkendall said. “Which is, again, concerning news for me because I think this is obviously political retaliation and I think a lot of other people see that, too, so I don’t understand why the County would refuse to even use the investigation to look into that.”

County Attorney May told TV9 Kirkendall’s claims are “100% false”, saying Kirkendall chose to resign and “is the only one politicizing the County’s disciplinary actions against him.”

“He was given the opportunity to return to work on reasonable employment conditions that would ensure a welcoming, inclusive, and safe working environment for everyone,” May said in a written statement. “But instead of accepting responsibility for his actions and return to work, he chose to quit.  That was his decision, not the County’s.   His proliferating attacks have grown to include other county employees.    In my opinion, Mr. Kirkendall has maliciously placed Dubuque County in harm’s way with no regard for who gets hurt or how much it will cost taxpayers.”

He directed questions specific to the investigation to the County’s Human Resources Department, which had not responded to questions sent late on Wednesday.

Kirkendall says he has not received a final written report from the investigation yet but hopes that it will be released. Iowa law requires government entities release detailed reasons and rationale explaining why a public employee was fired or resigned in lieu of termination.

Kirkendall went on to reiterate claims of poor leadership and mismanagement that he levied against May in announcing his candidacy for Dubuque County Attorney.

“All of this has been a taxing experience for me, it’s been an unusual experience for me but it’s also been a little bit of a wake up call to what can go on in local government,” Kirkendall said.

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