Former Van Buren County Attorney Abraham Watkins has been reinstated to his position as county attorney thanks to a ruling Friday from the Iowa Supreme Court.
Watkins will not return to work, immediately, however. Van Buren acting county attorney Virginia Barchman had informed the board months ago that she would fulfill the duties of county attorney until the Iowa Supreme Court ruled on Watkins, at which point she would resign. That left a vacancy for the county attorney position, because assistant county attorney Terri Quartucci had left a few weeks earlier to take a job in Henry County.
The Van Buren County Board of Supervisors called an emergency meeting Tuesday and appointed Jefferson County Attorney Tim Dille to be Van Buren county attorney on a temporary basis until Watkins is reinstated.
Watkins was removed from office in January 2017 at the conclusion of a trial. District Court Judge James Drew issued the ruling, writing that Watkins had repeatedly violated the trust of his employees. Drew cited testimony from two young women who testified that Watkins made inappropriate sexual comments, showed them photographs of his nude wife, and twice provided alcohol to a minor employee.
The Iowa Supreme Court overruled Drew on a 4-3 vote, arguing the state provided insufficient evidence to remove Watkins.
?We conclude that the conduct of the county attorney, while deserving the disapproval it received from the district court, did not rise to the level of misconduct that would warrant the ?drastic? and ?penal? remedy of a court order removing an elected official from office,? wrote Justice Bruce Zager.