Dan Charleston fired a second time from Polk County Sheriff's Office (updated)

UPDATE: Charleston’s dismissal was unrelated to his recent Facebook posts. Scroll down to read a document the Polk County Sheriff’s Office provided on June 26, citing incidents of “insubordination,” “neglect of duty and disharmony,” and a Human Resources department report detailing “gender bias in the workplace.”

The Polk County Sheriff’s Office fired Deputy Sheriff Dan Charleston on June 23, Linh Ta reported for the Des Moines Register. Officials declined to state the reason for his termination, citing the possibility of an appeal or lawsuit.

Charleston had been under investigation over a pair of personal Facebook posts disparaging Islam. I’ve enclosed a screen shot of one post below. Iowa Informer has an image of the second, which Charleston apparently deleted.

In a statement confirming the investigation earlier this month, public information officer Rich Blaylock said the sheriff’s office “has received two complaints regarding the social media postings by one of our employees. We, as a law enforcement agency proudly serving a community of all faiths and backgrounds, work hard to be seen as fair and impartial.”

As a Polk County resident, I would feel safer knowing Charleston no longer carries a badge or a gun. Everyone is entitled to hold extremist views and bigoted opinions, but law enforcement officers need to be able to treat people fairly, regardless of their cultural or religious beliefs. I question whether Charleston can do that, based on his contention that “the threat of Islam” is “real,” “serious,” and “dangerous,” and that policy-makers need “to do what is right for our nation, and not what is politically correct.”

On the other hand, firing someone solely over the content of speech expressed on Facebook raises valid concerns and legal questions. I did not find any social media policy in Polk County’s employee handbook or on its list of internal policies. The sheriff’s office may have separate rules I am not aware of, however.

Last year, the Iowa Department of Public Safety fired a criminalist who had posted racist opinions on Facebook. Her postings violated a department policy against employees expressing themselves on social media in a way that “affects his or her credibility as a witness for the state.” The Department of Public Safety’s conduct code also prohibits acts “that reflect unfavorably on the department.”

Charleston successfully appealed a previous dismissal through the Polk County Civil Service Commission in 2004. He ran for sheriff as a Republican in 2012 and 2016, opposing traffic cameras and promoting concepts of the so-called “constitutional sheriff” movement. Democratic Sheriff Bill McCarthy won both elections. Charleston has since sued McCarthy three times: in April 2014, October 2015, and February of this year. He alleges he has been subject to political retribution after challenging his boss, and believes the sheriff’s office should have investigated how a report on his workplace conduct reached Des Moines Register columnist Rekha Basu.

At this writing, Charleston has not commented on his firing on his public Facebook or Twitter accounts. CORRECTION: Charleston did announce on Facebook that he was fired, but took the post down. Mario Rossi of Channel 5 news preserved the image, in which Charleston seemed to link his dismissal to his two campaigns for sheriff and confirmed that his two federal lawsuits are ongoing.

UPDATE: Since most personnel records are exempt from Iowa’s open records law, it will be difficult for journalists to confirm the grounds on which Charleston was fired. But if he appeals this dismissal, court records will eventually reveal a fuller picture.

A reader noted that even as Charleston loses his badge, he presumably will continue to carry guns. Point taken. I meant that he will no longer be enforcing the law with a county-issued gun.

JUNE 26 UPDATE: The Polk County Sheriff’s Office provided Sheriff Bill McCarthy’s June 23 letter to Charleston, explaining the reasons for the dismissal. The six-page letter does not mention this month’s controversial Facebook posts. Rather, McCarthy noted incidents of “insubordination,” “neglect of duty and disharmony,” and a Human Resources department report detailing “gender bias in the workplace.”

It is clear that you are unwilling or unable [to] correct your inappropriate behavior and actions. Instead, you have demonstrated a willful failure to properly conduct yourself as a member of the Polk County Sheriff’s Office. […]

Michael Campbell’s Human Resources Department Report of Findings dated 6/14/2016 makes clear that your inability to treat your fellow employees with respect is serious and concerning, as well as your demeanor in the workplace and the resulting environment described by Mr. Campbell.

Read the whole termination letter:

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  • An honest opinion

    I think Dan Charelston is only saying what most real Americans feel! The last Federal Election proved that. Again the liberal Democrats are trying to stop Americans from their free speech, I am a Disabled Vet who believes this country IS going to soon resemble Europe allowing any Muslims free access to America,BUT once they prove who they really are then allow them in country. The Dems created this environment of hate and discontent along with the news media and it seems like it’s going to get.alot worse before it gets better. And only those who are in line with Demorats are given interviews. THAT’S NOT AMERICAN

    • first of all

      We don’t know (yet) why he was fired. It may be something indirectly related to the Facebook posts but not directly related to their content.

      Second, it doesn’t matter how popular his views are. As an officer of the law, he needs to be able to treat everyone fairly and equally.

  • WTH???

    So the Sheriff’s Office is now firing people for what other people say???? The entire text was that of a guy called Franklin Graham, yet they fire a some poor sole that didn’t even say it???

    I think the two complainers are either really f****** stupid and/or have no common sense what-so-ever, but I’m opting for BOTH in this cases!!! And then “shakes” McCarthy fires him?? I’m definitely not a doctor, but I firmly believe McCarthy’s medical condition has started to warp his thoughts and cognitive thinking if he really thinks that Charleston always signs his face book posts with **Franklin Graham**!!! In fact, McCarthy has taken a Sheriff’s Office that was 2nd to none and was known nation wide and has basically turned into a mouth piece and **good ol’ boy** back room politics into an “action arm” for all the “behind the scenes” Polk County Democrats that want to crush any opposition to what they say or do!!! And now I believe they’ve gone too far!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I’ve been to Charleston’s face book page a few times and what he does, or seems to do, is this – he will post something and let his friends and others comment on them. In other words, he’s invoking thought and dialogue, and I for one don’t see how THAT is a firing offense in any business in America!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    And if anyone thinks that Franklin Graham’s words are too strong, they need to hear and watch what a muslim women says about her own religion and what it will mean to America if we allow it to get our hand. Go to Netflix and rent “What the West Needs to Know” and start trembling or quaking in your boots, LITTERALLY!!!!! If this movie/documentary doesn’t scare you, nothing will!!!

    • we don't know why he was fired

      You are jumping to conclusions that it was solely because of the content of those Facebook posts. The Polk County Sheriff’s Office may have turned up something else in the course of their investigation that was grounds for firing Charleston.

      We will find out at some point during the appeal process.

    • Not the original post

      Charleston initially posted something similar under his own name, then deleted it and replaced it with the Franklin Graham post. But if you think that was the only thing Charleston likely did to get crosswise with work rules or his bosses, you haven’t been paying attention.

  • What about his minions?

    knowing folks in the PCSO there are many who support and think just like Danny boy here, they are as vile and cold hearted as he appears to be. The rules do not apply to them they are LEO for attention and power over small people, they are the ones who shoot unarmed minorities and cry “fear” and get away with it. Is the SO going to be able to clean house of these people who problems looking for a crime? McCarthy is a good guy but he has a hand full of bat crap crazy officers who would love to go all Ferguson on the city if given the chance.