Fairfield Ledger

Mt. Pleasant News   Wash Journal
Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 19, 2018

Watkins to finish term as county attorney

Has not decided on re-election bid
By Rusty Ebert, Ledger correspondent | Jul 11, 2018
Abraham Watkins

KEOSAUQUA — Reinstated Van Buren County Attorney Abraham Watkins held a press conference July 10 at his Keosauqua law office and announced that he will finish out his term, which ends at the end of this year.

He said he will decide in a matter of weeks whether or not to seek re-election.

Watkins also apologized to the county residents and specifically to one of his accusers by name during the 15 minute press conference.

“In a perfect world, the Van Buren County Board of Supervisors would have received accurate information and even handed professional advice before they voted to seek my removal from office. However, I am not perfect either and wish to publicly apologize. But for my careless behavior, none of this would have happened in the first place. I definitely should have acted better. I make no excuse for my carelessness. This is a straight-up apology and I firmly resolve not to commit these errors again.”

He issued the apology to his wife, family, clients, Van Buren County citizens and a woman whose accusations on sexual harassment sparked the removal process.

“Sudden forced changes are uncomfortable, especially when it is a public affair. However, my experience proves it need not be a bad thing. As difficult as this process has been for my family and I, it has forced us to take drastic self appraisal, adapt and has led to positive new paths. This process has taught me things I never would have imagined. I am humbled by all that I have learned and all the support I have received. I have long awaited this opportunity to take responsibility for my role in this matter …”

He thanked his family, legal team and support he has received from the community during this time.

“I am eternally grateful for the ultimatum [wife Renee] gave me on Aug. 5, 2016. I have not consumed an alcoholic beverage since that date. Had I listened to her sooner, I might not be in this position. I would also like to thank Hugh Grady of the Iowa Lawyer’s Assistance Program for his prompt and consistent support, then and now. I would encourage other lawyers to not hesitate in utilizing this invaluable service.”

He also said he doesn’t anticipate problems working with the supervisors and the sheriff’s office, stating that he has “always maintained a good working relationship with them” even through the removal process which began nearly two years ago.

Watkins said he has been in contact with an attorney about being his assistant county attorney, but that person will have to talk with his partner and stated he would get back to Watkins. He declined to name that person, but did say that the person is a former county attorney.

When asked about where the county attorney’s office would be, Watkins said that was unclear, where it would be, whether in the current office at the courthouse or his law office.

He said his family has moved to Des Moines, but he maintains the house in Keosauqua as his residence and law office.

When asked why he would finish the term, even though he was undecided about seeking re-election, Watkins said he wanted to “finish what he started.”

He also said the county is without a county attorney presently, with the resignations of the acting county attorney and assistant.

“Tim Dille (Jefferson County Attorney) is now covering Van Buren County and that’s not fair to him,” Watkins said. Plus, “I worked hard and took pride in what we did with this office. We changed the office and the systems and we worked effectively in the community, particularly with victims.”

Watkins opened the press conference with a three minute statement. The Van Buren County Register has posted a video of the statement on the paper’s Facebook page.

Watkins said at least twice during the press conference that the supervisors weren’t provided “all the information” before deciding to remove him from office.

Watkins was asked to elaborate on what information he referred to.

Watkins said he had to be careful on what he said, because much pertained to a closed session that the supervisors had. However, a portion was released in the court filings and he would only discuss that.

“The supervisors were informed I had refused treatment from Iowa Bar, which was completely false. As I stated, I have not had an alcoholic beverage since August 5, 2016, when my wife told me no more.”

He was asked to comment on a statement from one of the justices that Watkins probably would have been fired in a private setting.

“I am not in position to second guess the supreme court. I do believe, in the private context, that there would be a warning that this was being talked about. I received nothing of the sort in this matter.

“I was completely caught off guard. I was unaware the effect my actions and words were having on people. I make no excuse for that. I should have known better,” Watkins said.

“I feel grateful for this opportunity to continue on this path. I wasn’t sure that was going to happen. We’re keeping our head up and going forward and doing the best we can, stay on the high road and do the right thing.” right thing.”

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