Wednesday, July 17, 2024

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Civic Skinny

Challenger Charleston sues Sheriff McCarthy again.


The bad blood between Sheriff Bill McCarthy and Dan Charleston is spilling over into court again.

Charleston is a sergeant in the Polk County Sheriff’s Department. He ran against McCarthy in 2012 and was pretty well trounced, getting just 41.4 percent of the vote. He is running again next year.

Eighteen months ago, he went to federal court and alleged political discrimination and retaliation against the Sheriff and his men leading up to that 2012 election.

The Sheriff denied everything. The court set a trial date for next April.

Earlier this year, Charleston tried to amend the original lawsuit and add new allegations. The court said too much time had passed between incidents and told him his remedy was to file a second lawsuit.

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So last week he did. In it, he says, the Sheriff is at it again. The suit again says the Sheriff has discriminated against him for political reasons — McCarthy is a Democrat and Charleston a Republican — and has retaliated against him. McCarthy, the suit says, “is engaging in willful and malicious conduct toward Dan including but not limited to referring to Dan as dangerous, cancerous, [and as] radical as one can get.”

The lawsuit also says McCarthy compared Charleston to Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber.

So far this year, Charleston has been given a “letter of counseling,” a letter of reprimand, a letter accusing him of campaigning on duty, and a one-day suspension, according to the lawsuit. He also was threatened with demotion for insubordination and neglect of duties, it adds.

Charleston is seeking damages for loss of income, lost benefits, emotional distress, damages to reputation and damages for “future lost income and benefits and emotional distress.” He is also seeking punitive damages. …

For the record: State Treasurer Mike Fitzgerald voted against the latest payment of legal fees to the LaMarca Law Group. Payments to outside law firms must be approved by the Executive Council — that’s the Governor, the Auditor, the Treasurer and the Secretaries of State and Agriculture — and so far the group has approved payments totaling $849,854.15 to LaMarca for defending the Governor and five other state officials against the harassment and defamation and retaliation charges leveled against them by former Workers Compensation Board boss Chris Godfrey.

The Executive Council meetings are usually routine, and everything is usually approved unanimously. A while ago, though, Fitzgerald began voting against the big checks for LaMarca. He has been the only one to do so. He is also the only Democrat. Branstad himself regularly votes to issue the checks even though he is a defendant and probably has a conflict of interests. …

Mary Mundy of Mount Carmel, Illinois, sued Meredith Corp. and its board members last week on behalf of all stockholders, alleging the planned sale of the company to Media General is, among other things, unfair to ordinary stockholders and saying the directors had a conflict because they “stood to profit from windfall financial benefits from change-of-control payments and cashing out their equity interests as well as lucrative post-deal employment positions with the merged entity.”

The suit was filed in federal district court in Des Moines.

The board “failed to maximize stockholder value and to protect the interests of  Meredith’s stockholders,” the suit says. …

Prime Land & Sea, the latest new restaurant of David Baruthio (Baru 66, Baru at the Des Moines Art Center, Blue Tomato) is launching in early November in the former Raul’s on Eighth Street in West Des Moines. …

Dan Charleston’s grandfather went to grade school with Ronald Reagan. CV

Comment: Nick Klinefeldt

Nick Klinefeldt is leaving as United States Attorney for the Southern District of Iowa after six years.

He has left his mark, and it is a good mark.

Proposed by then-Sen. Tom Harkin and nominated by President Barack Obama, Klinefeldt was an unusual choice for the job. For one thing, he was just 35 years old. For another, his father was in federal prison at the time for conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, a felony with a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years. Indeed, early in the job, when he would go to Yankton to visit his dad he’d run into families visiting men he himself had prosecuted.

So he had an unusual perspective for a prosecutor, perhaps an unusual compassion as well. And he had strong feelings about mandatory minimums for drug crimes.

Those strong feelings presaged the Justice Department’s eventual conclusion that prosecutors should tailor charges in some instances to avoid triggering those Congressionally mandated minimums, a conclusion Klinefeldt helped seek — and a conclusion he embraced. As a result, some Iowa men and women who otherwise would have been stashed in federal prisons for way too many years now are leading productive lives. That is a good thing.

“He did six years of hard, exemplary work and really helped change the misguided minimum-sentencing laws,” Harkin said last week.

The U.S. Attorney’s office is a busy place. During fiscal 2014, the office — whose jurisdiction stretches across 47 counties from Davenport to Council Bluffs — filed 282 criminal complaints against 350 defendants, filed 658 civil cases, and got judgments for more than $10.3 million owed to the government or third parties. Of the cases that reached court during the year, 302 criminal defendants either were convicted or pleaded guilty, one was found not guilty, and 14 had their cases dismissed.

One notable conviction under Klinefeldt: Former Bauder’s pharmacist Mark Graziano, who was charged with selling pills out the back door of the pharmacy, cheating his sister and mother out of profits at the drugstore, and lying on his tax returns. He now is in prison in Leavenworth. Another: Des Moines developer Bob Knapp, who ignored federal laws on asbestos removal as he renovated the Equitable Building in Des Moines; he was sentenced to 41 months in federal prison.

A prosecutor has great leeway in deciding what cases to bring. Klinefeldt, unlike some predecessors, went after white-collar crime. Those are often the most difficult and the least sensational cases, but they’re often also the most important to a community. It’s harder to convict a wealthy man cheating on the asbestos laws than a poor man selling drugs on a street corner.

Klinefeldt also made a gutsy decision to twice bring civil-rights cases alleging police brutality, This year, a federal jury convicted a former Des Moines police officer of kicking a man in the head in 2013 while other officers held him down. The policeman was sentenced to five years in prison. Earlier, another policeman was convicted of severely beating a man during a traffic stop.

If the Democrats still controlled the United States Senate, they probably would be holding hearings this month on the nomination of Klinefeldt to be a federal district judge in Des Moines. Harkin proposed that before he left office a year ago, but Obama sat on the request and when the Republicans took over he agreed to the nomination of Rebecca Goodgame Ebinger at the request of Sen. Charles Grassley — who not incidentally chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee and can torpedo any Obama judicial nomination. The quick acceptance of Grassley’s person has all the earmarks of a deal.

Klinefeldt, too, could be running for Congress from the Third Congressional District. He was the favored candidate of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in Washington, and he flirted with the idea. But he has two little kids, and he ultimately decided he’d rather spend time with them than with lawmakers and lobbyists in Washington. It wasn’t that tough a decision.

So he soon will be joining a Des Moines law firm. He apparently can’t say which one, but his announcement said he would “become a partner in the Des Moines office of an international  law firm.” That’s Faegre Baker Daniels.

  • • •

After Klinefeldt leaves in the middle of next month, the acting U.S. attorney here will be Kevin VanderSchel.  He is Neal Smith’s son-in-law. The only reason to mention this is that you can never write the words “Neal Smith” too often.

The long-time Democratic Congressman shaped the landscape of central Iowa by funneling home money for parks and trails and rivers and prairies. Indeed, the beauty of central Iowa is because of the hard work of God and Neal Smith. Smith, now 95 and living in downtown Des Moines, was defeated for re-election to Congress in 1994 after serving 36 years in the House of Representatives.

Since then, God has been on her own. CV

— Michael Gartner


  1. Matthew says:

    Why not just rename this column “Gartners Weekly Democrat Party Newsletter.”
    Typical biased one sided garbage over and over again.

    I’m sure future generations will appreciate the current $140,000 of debt per American household they will inherit that Gartner constantly cheer leads. What a complete freaking joke.

    1. Michael L Lewis says:

      A debt the Republicans built by the Bush Administration waging 2 Wars, giving unwarranted TAX breaks, and a prescription drug program on the countries credit card blowing away the budget surplus left by Clinton. But most historically ignorant Republicans forget that on purpose, or are really drinking the Fox News Kool-Aid.

      1. Joe says:

        Everybody knows the budget was only balanced by Newt Gingrich and the republican led house. It had nothing to do with Clinton. John Kasich was a member of the house then and helped to achieve it. He is now calling for a balanced budget amendment, which the New York Times and the rest of the Democratic Party intelligentsia have blasted him for and are of course hilariously against. Business as usual for the Democratic Party. The slope of the debt increased drastically during Obamas presidency. Anyone arguing otherwise is a complete party hack. Obama, a Chicago democrat, is doing the EXACT same thing to the country his party did to Cook county. It’s hilarious to contend otherwise, and amazing someone can be as obtuse to deny one party wants to grow govt continuously and one doesn’t. You’re clueless.

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