Documents reveal new allegations in Dubuque County Attorney feud

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. 13, 2022 at 11:54 AM CDT
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DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG) - New documents are shedding more light on an increasingly public feud within the Dubuque County Attorney’s Office that will spill into November’s election.

Assistant Dubuque County Attorney Richard Kirkendall, who is running against current Dubuque County Attorney C.J. May this fall, released a redacted version of an agreement and apology letter he was told he needed to sign in order to keep his job. Kirkendall claims he has been the target of politically motivated personnel matters since announcing he would run against May for Dubuque County Attorney this Fall. May told TV9 Kirkendall is the only person politicizing his workplace issues and said Kirkendall’s accusations are “100% false”.

The unsigned agreement accuses Kirkendall of ignoring a direct order from May, his superior, and sending an email on March 18th to other Assistant Dubuque County Attorneys that disparaged an unidentified staffer and May. Among other things, Kirkendall’s email said the staffer has “no natural aptitude” and accused May and the staffer of having an inappropriate relationship.

The agreement goes on to set conditions for Kirkendall to return to work, including sending a pre-written apology note to both May and the unidentified staffer that Kirkendall describes as “groveling” and likened to Soviet letters forced on political prisoners. In a blog post, Kirkendall says he refused to sign the agreement but insists he wants to come back to work. May told TV9 that Kirkendall had decided to quit his position, but Kirkendall claims that is not true.

“I declared that I would NOT resign and I am ready to come back to work, but that I would not agree to endorse the falsehoods contained within the agreement or the letters,” Kirkendall wrote in the blog post.

Kirkendall also posted a response he says he sent to Dubuque County Human Resources. In it, he rejects the “last-chance” agreement, reiterates his claim that May is engaging in political retaliation against him and invokes grievance procedures against the County. Kirkendall says the agreement and situation is a reflection of what he says is poor management from May as County Attorney.

“Nothing about Mr. May’s management is “reasonable,” nor are the conditions of employment “reasonable” when they include forced confessions and agreeing that I belong in the gulag,” Kirkendall wrote.

KCRG-TV9 reached out to Dubuque County Human Resources Wednesday to confirm Kirkendall’s employment status but has not received a response.

May previously told TV9 there was nothing political about the disciplinary action Kirkendall was facing, adding Kirkendall was “given the opportunity to return to work on reasonable employment conditions that would ensure a welcoming, inclusive, and safe working environment for everyone.”

“His proliferating attacks have grown to include other county employees,” May said in a statement. “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.”

The agreements verify some of the claims Kirkendall made in a Facebook video he posted Wednesday, when he declared an initial HR investigation into a harassment claim against him was unsubstantiated. In that video, he said his attorneys advised against releasing the draft agreement and apology letters that he subsequently published on his campaign website the next day.

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