Fairfield Ledger

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Neighbors Growing Together | Oct 22, 2017

Trial to remove Van Buren County Attorney rescheduled to Oct. 20

By RUSTY EBERT Ledger correspondent | Oct 13, 2016

KEOSAUQUA – The trial to decide whether to remove Abraham Watkins from the office of county attorney has been rescheduled to begin at 9 a.m. Oct. 20.

Watkins has hired well-known Alfredo Parrish Law Firm of Des Moines to represent him.

Watkins’ counsel say they anticipate the trial will last four days.

Van Buren County supervisors authorized their attorney, Montgomery Brown, to file a petition to remove Watkins, using an Iowa law that allows public office holders to be removed through a court hearing.

Supervisors cited three reasons for petitioning to remove Watkins: alleged violation of sexual harassment policy, allegedly being intoxicated on the job and allegedly having a conflict of interest between his private practice and his position as county attorney.

Brown said he anticipated calling four to six witnesses.

After the filing, attorneys for Watkins filed a motion for expedited discovery, asking the court to order the state to make a party representative and two witnesses, selected by Watkins, available for depositions before Oct. 12.

However, in the ruling setting the trial date, the counsel stated they had resolved the discovery disputes.

According to the order from Chief District Judge Mary Ann Brown, the trial will begin Oct. 20 and continue on Oct. 21, 25 and 26.


First time in 109 years

According to Van Buren County Auditor Jon Finney, this is the first time the supervisors have been involved in deciding whether to remove a county official since Sept. 12, 1907, when supervisor T.L. Workman was charged by residents with “willful misconduct and maladministration.”

Workman was charged with using the county farm for his benefit, charging excessive mileage to the county, getting personal expenses for attending conventions and allowing and approving claims of other county office holders for similar actions.

According to court documents filed, the residents were Isaac McCracken, L.A. McCracken, J.W. Boyer, C. Witt and S.W. Brown, who filed the petition against Workman.

It alleged that Workman and others bought and sold items to the county farm, including corn, oats, mules, livestock, a gas engine, horses and a sewing machine.

In one instance, in December 1905, Workman was planning to ship lambs to Chicago, but did not have enough to fill his rail car. He knew the county had some lambs on the farm ready for market, so he purchased them from the steward and used them to fill his carload.

One claim that was approved was for “livery hire” at the county farm. The residents stated that the county paid  H.L. McGrew and others “to go to the poor farm to sing and make music” for the “pleasure and benefit of the inmates at the poor farm.”

Workman also filed a claim for 4,990 miles. The county paid him 5 cents per mile. Workman said that the mileage was due to traveling throughout the county to inspect bridges affected by the floods of 1903 and 1905.

After the trial was held, the judge in the case decided to remove Workman from office and traveled to the supervisor meeting where he asked Workman to leave.

According to the minutes, the supervisors adjourned for lunch and returned in the afternoon to attend to the next important item in the agenda: placement of spittoons in the courthouse.

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