Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Intersection of Employment Law and Criminal Law

I must concede that my blog postings have been rather sparse of late, but I am reprinting a September 1, 2009 article by Michael Cooley of KSIB Radio in Creston, Iowa that should explain what I have been up to. For more articles by Mr. Cooley or more information on the story below, visit

Chairman King Not Guilty

Union County Board of Supervisors Chair Mike King has been found not guilty in a disorderly conduct trial that finished today. King was charged by the Creston Police Department with disorderly conduct after officials allege a confrontation between King and Union County's Chief Jail Administrator Dave Danielson escalated to a point that charges were necessary. After about an hour of deliberation this afternoon, the jury returned with the “not guilty” verdict at about 2:55pm. King says he was glad to hear outcome.

“I'm very pleased. This is the thing that I've tried to tell the public,” King tells Creston Radio News. “I knew that when my day in court came through that, most people know me, I try to be respectful to the public. They're my customers. I try to be professional, and I work for the public.”

According to King, he won't let the trial get in the way of his job as an elected official.

“My focus right now is to do my job that I was elected, as usual, for the public, to work as hard as I can to try to help bring grant money in these times,” says King, “in the economic stress, to try to improve these roads and try to help all of Union County, period.”

Although the city of Creston is who brought the case against King, he says that he hopes those differences can now be put aside.

“It's time for this county and the city and all the towns in Union County to work together to make this a better community in these times of economic stress,” according to King. “We can make our county shine and work together as a team, and not pull apart and be divisive.”

On the other side of the table, city attorney Skip Kenyon told Creston Radio News that he felt the trial was a fair one. He said all the evidence was presented fairly and the jury did what they needed to.

Court reconvened after lunch this afternoon at 1:15pm where Kenyon was given the chance for rebuttal testimony on behalf of the prosecution. He had none, which sent the trial to final motions and jury instructions. That meant the jury was released for court business, which saw defense attorney Douglas Fulton again move for dismissal of the case with an immediate acquittal of King. Kenyon again voiced his resistance to the move. And again, Judge Monty Franklin denied the motion.

In jury instructions, defense attorney Matt Brick tried adding an instruction, but that also was denied by Franklin, who cited the fact that the instructions involved “items outside of the trial.” With no further objections or additions, the jury was brought back in to hear Franklin read them the instructions before closing statements. The instructions directed the jury that all elements of the city's code needed to be present to find King guilty in the case, including the acts of being loud and raucous, as well as causing unreasonable stress to the occupants of the building.

The media, was not allowed to record the session, but we do have the summary of today. In closing statements, Kenyon started on behalf of the defense. He told the jury that he had presented them several people who witnessed the incident in question and were distressed by King's actions that day, citing that two employees even made notes about it.

Brick's closing statements, meanwhile, tried to poke holes in the testimony of the prosecution's witnesses. Brick told the jury that the testimony of Pam Conley on Monday afternoon didn't seem to match up with that of any other witness in the trial. He also said the defense presented stronger testimony, citing King and courthouse patron Susan Willett.

Kenyon was then given one last chance to respond to the defense's statements, to which he told the jury to remember that the testimony of the witnesses on behalf of the prosecution was difficult because of their requirement to work with King on a daily basis. He also told the jury he believed the only testimony that didn't match with the rest, wasn't that of Conley's but that of King himself.

Before the defense rested its case at 11:45am this morning, and the court recessed for lunch, King took the stand as the defense's last witness. For the first time in the trial, the jury heard firsthand testimony of the discussion between the two individuals. Kenyon chose not to call Danielson during his chance to bring in witnesses.

King told the jury that he's been on the Board of Supervisors for the last 19 years, twelve of which he's been in the position of chair. In testimony tangled in objections and offers of proof from the defense, King was able to tell the jury what happened from his perspective on April 13th. Testimony from both sides has established that Danielson felt he should be allowed to attend a meeting of county officials regarding the county's insurance program. King said the reasoning came from a letter the board received from current Sheriff's Office representative Dorie Schiltz, sealed with the Sheriff's Seal, that she was resigning from the committee and appointing Danielson as her replacement.

King says the letter was received by the board during their weekly meeting that morning. King told the jury that he passed the letter around and found the consensus of the board to be that Danielson would not be allowed in the board room after a past board meeting during which Danielson allegedly caused a scene and King said Sheriff Rick Piel told the board that Danielson would not be allowed back in that room.

King then testified that after the board decided to deny Danielson permission to attend the meeting, King received a phone call from county auditor Sandy Hysell that Danielson was at the office wanting to find out why the decision had been made. King said he told Hysell he'd be there to talk to Danielson. According to further questions, King stated that Danielson was no longer at the office when he arrived and asked Hysell to call to find him. King testified that he tried to be cordial but that Danielson kept asking about the same question. It was then that King says he went into the hallway to go to the board room, where the insurance meeting was being held and that Danielson stepped in front of King and told King, “Fat man, you're not going to keep me out of that meeting.” King stated that he replied, “Dave, don't go there.” King called his tone “stern” but not angry or loud. After more discussion, King alleges that he told Danielson he'd have him arrested if he tried to attend the meeting, to which King said Danielson answered, “Nobody in this courthouse will arrest me.”

King also told the jury through questioning from the defense that a pacemaker and defibrillator, as well as other health issues, meant that there was no way he could have waved his hands and yelled for twenty minutes, as the testimony of Conley suggested. Although in her testimony, Conley also denied multiple times that she touched King, King alleged that Conley used both hands to stop him and tell her how she felt about him talking to the father to her child.

Perhaps a key part of the testimony that brought the “not guilty” verdict, was the defense questioning whether King intended to be loud and raucous, to which King answered, “No.” The jury instructions would later say that the individuals must believe that King “intended” to do the actions for him to be found guilty.

King also told the courtroom that he found out about the charges against him a month later, to which he voluntarily turned himself into the Creston Police Department. In testimony only heard outside the jury, King would tell the rest of the courtroom that Ver Meer said if it were up to him, he would be filing the charges, but that “Danielson hounded Ver Meer” to go through with it. King also talked outside the jury that Danielson filed more than ten grievances against the county and said in a letter that he wanted to see King defeated in the next election. The testimony given outside the jury was the defense's attempt to let the judge decide if the information was pertinent to allow the jury to hear it. Franklin did not allow that information to be heard.

Others called by the defense included Hysell, who confirmed King's testimony that Danielson had wanted to attend the insurance committee meeting. Hysell says when she went back to her personal office to try to contact Danielson via telephone, she was put on hold, and that was apparently when the discussion between the two individuals happened. Hysell testified that she did not hear any loud noises from where she sat and that she did not see anything when she came out of the office about five to seven minutes later.

Cross-examination of Hysell by Kenyon established the close working relationship between Hysell and King. Hysell said that she is the secretary for the Board of Supervisors and that it was that body of individuals who first appointed her to the open position before elections.

Ron Riley, vice-chair of the Board of Supervisors told the jury in his testimony on behalf of the defense that he was in the back Treasurer's office talking with Kelly Busch about landfill financing when the incident must have happened. He also testified that he heard no loud noises. Cross examination by Kenyon saw Riley say that the back office is “fairly isolated.”

The brief testimony of Jack Lipovac was the next one heard by the courtroom. Lipovac is the owner of HR OneSource, who he said has spent the last 15-20 years working with Union County on union negotiations and other employment issues. Objections from Kenyon on multiple elements of the testimony kept Lipovac's statements brief and basic.

Meanwhile, courthouse patron Susan Willett, was heralded by Brick as the only witness who was not in some way affiliated with the county. Prosecution's witness Conley, who was also in the courthouse at the time of the incident, has a 30-year-old daughter with Danielson. Willett told the courtroom that she was getting her driver's license renewed next door at the treasurer's office when the incident occurred. She told Brick that she never saw Danielson, but did notice King say a brief statement. It was mostly Conley filing a complaint after the fact that caught her attention.

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