Job status of Dubuque County Assistant Attorney remains murky

Richard Kirkendall is running to unseat Dubuque County attorney C.J. May III in an upcoming...
Richard Kirkendall is running to unseat Dubuque County attorney C.J. May III in an upcoming November election.
Published: May. 24, 2022 at 10:47 AM CDT
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DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG) - The job status of a Dubuque County Assistant Attorney placed on administrative leave remains murky after he says he tried to return to work this week but was told to go home.

Richard Kirkendall has insisted he has not resigned. However, County Attorney C.J. May told KCRG-TV9 Kirkendall chose to resign as opposed to agreeing to terms to return to work following allegations of workplace harassment. Complicating matters is the fact Kirkendall is running for County Attorney in November and is expected to challenge C.J. May, who is facing a primary challenge first in his bid for reelection.

The Dubuque County Human Services has not responded to two requests KCRG-TV9 made on May 11th and again on May 13th for the current employment status of Kirkendall. KCRG-TV9 reiterated that request again on Tuesday and was told to expect a response “in the coming days”. Iowa law specifically requires governments to release the “reasons and rationale” an employee is terminated or resigns in lieu of termination.

On Facebook, Kirkendall posted a video saying he expected to be able to return to work Monday after his suspension ended, adding he has received no notice that he was no longer employed and had not resigned. However, Kirkendall says the Human Resources director told him he had resigned and told him to leave.

Posted by Kirkendall for County Attorney on Monday, May 23, 2022

Kirkendall was placed on administrative leave in March as the county investigated a harassment complaint against him. Earlier in May, Kirkendall says he was informed that investigation found those claims unsubstantiated. However, he says Dubuque County Human Resources determined there was cause to terminate Kirkendall for harassment and insubordination. Kirkendall released documents he says the County said he needed to sign in order to come back to work: an agreement that admitted harassing behavior, including sending an email to staff disparaging an unnamed employee and accusing her of having an inappropriate relationship with May, as well as pre-written apology notes to both C.J. May and an unnamed employee. In a written response Kirkendall posted on his blog, Kirkendall refuses to sign those documents and specifically says he is not resigning and is instead invoking a grievance claiming C.J. May is targetting him for political reasons because Kirkendall is running for County Attorney.

However, May told KCRG-TV9 that Kirkendall had effectively resigned by refusing to sign what he called “reasonable employment conditions that would ensure a welcoming, inclusive, and safe working environment for everyone”. He dismissed Kirkendall’s claim that any of the disciplinary actions were politically motivated as “100% false”, adding that Kirkendall “is the only one politicizing the County’s disciplinary actions against him.”

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