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Lincoln County presiding judge held in contempt of court in feud with elected clerk

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Circuit Clerk Karla Allsberry

Lincoln County Circuit Clerk Karla Allsberry leaves federal court in St. Louis following a hearing in her lawsuit against a presiding judge and other courthouse employees on Oct. 3, 2019. Allsberry, elected to the post in 2018, was ordered out of her office by Presiding Circuit Judge Patrick Flynn.

LINCOLN COUNTY — A judge has found Lincoln County’s presiding judge in contempt for interfering with the duties of the county’s elected court clerk in violation of an October court order.

Circuit Judge Patrick Flynn violated an Oct. 6 injunction by creating the impression without evidence that Circuit Clerk Karla Allsberry posed a physical threat when the judge in March declared her office a “hostile work environment” that may require additional building security, a Cole County judge’s order said Tuesday.

Flynn also interfered with Allsberry’s duties by blocking her hires of three people approved by an employment committee that Flynn created, according to Judge Jon Beetem’s order filed in Lincoln County Circuit Court.

Flynn created and controlled the hiring committee but did not feel bound by its decisions, Beetem’s order said. Flynn also blamed Allsberry for a staff shortage in her office, “fomenting dissent in the office which contributed to the subsequent departure of other staff,” Beetem wrote. “This willful conduct of Judge Flynn interfered with the duties of the circuit clerk to adequately staff the office, and violates the injunction.”

Flynn could not be reached. His lawyer declined comment.

Beetem’s order says Flynn may purge the contempt order by rescinding courthouse security measures within 10 days. His failure to comply could result in a $100 per day fine.

Allsberry did not immediately have a comment on the ruling.

The contempt order is the latest development in a more than three-year power struggle between Flynn and Allsberry since he suspended her in 2019, nearly six months after she took office.

A confrontation in Lincoln County Circuit Clerk Karla Allsberry's office between Allsberry and Presiding Judge Patrick Flynn.

Allsberry won a judge’s ruling last year that said Flynn should not have suspended her and removed her from office. But the judge also said he did not have the power to restore her to her position.

She returned to work in September following a unanimous Missouri Supreme Court ruling that Flynn improperly removed her from office.

Allsberry is running a half-full office, according to court filings. She says Flynn is attempting to sabotage her office and remove her from power by blaming her for the staff shortage and “destroying” her relationships with lawyers in Lincoln County.

Flynn supported Allsberry’s opponent in the 2018 election and had been defeated in a previous judicial election by Allsberry’s husband. Flynn has denied any political motive. In a court filing last week, Flynn called Allsberry’s contempt motions “baseless,” “frivolous” and an attempt to harass him.

In May, a Missouri appeals court reversed a lower court’s ruling in a separate case claiming that Allsberry was improperly stripped of her powers.

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