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Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller will have final say on whether or not Clayton County Auditor Dennis Freitag remains in office.

The Clayton County Board of Supervisors met October 28 to discuss possible action against Freitag, and ultimately decided to refer the matter to Miller’s office to determine whether a Chapter 66 petition is appropriate. Chapter 66 of the Iowa Code covers removing an elected official from his or her office.  Only the Attorney General can file a removal petition.

According to Clayton County Attorney Alan Heavens the next step involves an official investigation by an area prosecutor from Miller’s office, likely Scott Brown. Brown will review the transcript from a meeting held October 26 during which Freitag was asked several questions under oath. His investigation may also include interviews with Freitag’s staff members and a review of various documents.

Brown will forward his findings to Attorney General Miller, who will then decide whether or not to file the Chapter 66 petition.

“If a removal petition is filed, a hearing on the petition is to be held no sooner than 10 days from the date the petition is served on the accused and no later than 20 days from the date of service,” explained Heavens. He added that he’s not sure how long Brown’s investigation would take. “That is always a difficult prediction to make because often times in investigations things are discovered that require further investigation that wasn’t initially anticipated. I suspect that the investigation will go relatively quickly but ultimately that will be up to the Attorney General’s Office.” 

The supervisors were unanimous in their decision to purse the matter with the Attorney General. The county will not be charged for Brown’s work.

The supervisors’ decision came just two days after they questioned Freitag on several matters including limited contact with his staff, budget concerns for the current and previous fiscal years, checks not being deposited, unpaid claims, more than 1,600 unanswered emails and keeping county records at his home. Also discussed during the meeting, which, at times, became contentious, was the amount of time Freitag devotes to auditor duties.

According to Board Chair Gary Bowden, Freitag has worked no more than 20 hours a month since May with the exception of the month of June when he worked 32.5 hours. Bowden said Freitag worked zero hours in October. Freitag, who is not on any sort of leave, is receiving his full salary; in addition, a special chief deputy auditor is receiving $14,000 over a 90-day period to help get the office back up to speed.

Freitag has been dealing with a family medical emergency for an extended time. His wife, Pam, has a terminal condition and, as Freitag has pointed out repeatedly, he is her 24/7 care giver.

Chapter 66 is one of three options the supervisors considered. The other two were doing nothing or hiring a budget director at a cost of $60,000-$70,000. Temporary budget assistance may still be needed. 

“We have new budget discussions coming up, so we might also have to consider hiring a budget director or get some other outside help,” said Supervisor Ron McCartney.

Freitag told other media Wednesday that he would fight any attempts to remove him from office. Chapter 66 does include an appeal process. He also said that referring this matter to the Attorney General’s office shows that the supervisors are “not in any cooperative mode.”

At the October 26 deposition, Freitag accused the board of setting him up for failure. “(I guess) now is the time to kick me and make sure I don’t get up,” he said.

Editor’s note: Register Editor Pam Reinig and Freelance Writer Pat McTaggart contributed to this article.

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