Calhoun Co. Sheriff Suspended By Court Order

A District Court judge granted a petition filed by the Calhoun County attorney Tuesday afternoon to suspend Sheriff Scott Anderson from office, effective immediately.

The order, granted in response to a petition for removal by County Attorney Tina Meth-Farrington, came after a closed session meeting with Calhoun County Supervisors Tuesday morning. It found that “sufficient cause appears from the verified allegations” to suspend Anderson for “willful misconduct or maladministration in office and for intoxication” pursuant to Iowa code.

The order named Deputy Jeff Feldhans as acting sheriff until a temporary sheriff can be appointed. Anderson’s salary as sheriff has also been suspended.

Anderson was arrested Saturday night after allegedly pinning a woman to a bed in his home and holding her by the neck, choking her as she gasped for air, according to a criminal complaint. Reports say it took six officers about nine minutes to handcuff him and drag him to the patrol car after he refused to cooperate with the arrest. The sheriff head-butted another officer in the process of the arrest, complaints said.

The sheriff, 51, pleaded not guilty to assault on persons of a certain occupation, a serious misdemeanor, over the phone Monday. The other charge, domestic abuse assault, a simple misdemeanor, was continued 180 days.

Meth-Farrington said the charges would be referred to either another county’s county attorney or the Attorney General’s office for prosecution, to avoid a conflict of interest.

“This action is not taken lightly or with malice,” Meth-Farrington said in a statement Tuesday after filing the petition. “Sheriff Anderson, through his recent actions, has lost the trust and respect of fellow law enforcement and the community at large and cannot effectively carry out his duties as sheriff of Calhoun County.”

A current order of protection filed from the domestic abuse assault charge legally prohibits the defendant from possessing firearms, as well — a significant component for law enforcement officers — since the relationship between Anderson and the victim qualified for the legal definition of “intimate partners.”

The county attorney said the petition for removal was the only means for removal the county had for this elected official. There is no provision in Iowa code to place an elected official on administrative leave like a merit-hired police officer or deputy.

“We could’ve done nothing, which wouldn’t have been a very good option,” said Calhoun County Supervisor Carl Legore of the only alternative. “(Iowa code) ties the hands of elected officials and what they can actually do, and how to remove them from office.”

He said that the decision to file the petition for removal was solely the county attorney’s, despite the closed session meeting on the matter before the decision was announced.

The county’s current troubles with the sheriff are comprised of two separate issues: the criminal charges that surfaced over the weekend and the sexual harassment allegations, filed by former dispatcher and civil clerk Tamara Swank, that supervisors have known about since mid-2019.

“What’s going forward now is because of what happened this (past) weekend,” he said.

Supervisors authorized the hire of outside legal counsel to investigate the sexual harassment allegations in August, after Swank’s second human resources complaint.

The firm handling that investigation, Ahlers and Cooney, P.C., of Des Moines, advised that “even if the allegations were 100% accurate, it did not rise to the level of misconduct necessary for removal from office under Iowa Code Section 66.1A.”

Though the process in motion may soon remove Anderson permanently, there is nothing legally barring Anderson from seeking office. He currently faces one opponent, Pat Riley. Anderson could not be reached for comment regarding the status of his campaign for re-election.

He was first appointed to fill 30-year veteran Bill Davis’ shoes in 2017 and elected in 2018.

The next step in the process to remove him from his post permanently will be a Calhoun County court hearing scheduled for April 27. The hearing has been scheduled by conference call due to standing orders from the Iowa Supreme Court regarding safety measures during the COVID-19 pandemic.


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