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Lincoln County judge ups security level in case elected official returns to courthouse

Lincoln County judge ups security level in case elected official returns to courthouse

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LINCOLN COUNTY — The presiding judge here warned dozens of court and law enforcement officials this month that the elected court clerk may seek to return to her courthouse office.

After saying he’d met with police in Troy, as well as the Lincoln County sheriff and court security personnel, Circuit Judge Patrick Flynn wrote that all involved “are taking a heightened awareness in their safety protocols” in case the clerk, Karla Allsberry, attempts to return.

Allsberry’s lawyer David Duree wrote in a court filing that Flynn’s April 5 letter “strongly implies that Karla Allsberry is a threat to the safety of all personnel in the Justice Center.”

The warning letter is the latest round in a more than two-year battle between Flynn and Allsberry since he suspended her in 2019, nearly six months after she took office.

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

Flynn’s appeal of that decision is pending.

U.S. District Judge Stephen Limbaugh, presiding over a separate lawsuit filed by Allsberry, kept the case on hold in an April 2 order, citing the pending appeals in state court.

Duree’s legal motion said Flynn’s letter “falsely claims” that Limbaugh denied Allsberry access to the courthouse, instead of simply extending the hold. Duree also said Flynn has banned Allsberry from even public areas of the courthouse.

In Flynn’s letter, he cites a March 25 email from Duree to the lawyer with the Missouri Attorney General’s office who is representing Flynn. In Duree’s email, he opposes a transfer of the case to the Missouri Supreme Court, saying “the more efficient way to resolve” Flynn’s appeal would be an expedited opinion from the Eastern District Court of Appeals while Allsberry resumes her duties, under a court order or by “self help.”

Duree did not respond to messages seeking comment this week. Allsberry, in an emailed statement, wrote, “The term ‘self help’ simply meant that I would return to the Justice Center to resume my duties as the elected Circuit Clerk. I have not used self help thus far because of the risk of a confrontation with Judge Flynn,” she wrote, saying that she’d instead turned to the court system.

“I simply want to safely and peacefully walk into my office and perform the duties the people elected me to do,” Allsberry wrote.

The Attorney General’s Office did not respond to questions about the case, other than to provide an update on court filings.

Flynn’s letter went to dozens of court personnel, such as deputy clerks, sheriff’s officials, prosecutors, Troy police and other judges, including Allsberry’s husband, an associate circuit court judge.

Gregory Allsberry defeated Flynn in a judicial election in 2014. Flynn supported Allsberry’s opponent in the 2018 election for circuit clerk, but has denied any political motivation for removing her from office.

Instead, he has insisted that he was moved to act by vacancies and departures among the clerk’s office staff, as well as alleged misconduct, which Allsberry has denied.

Less than two weeks after Allsberry took office in January 2019, Flynn stripped her of the power to hire, fire, promote and discipline clerks and removed her authority over computer security and payroll, Callahan wrote in his decision. Flynn suspended her on May 28, 2019, later claiming 14 reasons why she was removed.

Callahan rejected them all, writing, “None of the above allegations, individually or collectively, nor any others were supported by proof to establish that Karla Allsberry committed a misdemeanor in office.”

Callahan also has expressed concern for the amount of time that has passed while the issue awaits resolution.

One recipient of Flynn’s letter who did not want to be named for fear of offending or angering him said recipients did not take it seriously and viewed it as Flynn’s attempt to embarrass Allsberry.

The Troy police chief didn’t return messages seeking comment on the letter. Sheriff Rick Harrell said people were taking Flynn’s letter “at face value. That’s going to mean something different to everybody.”

The sheriff’s department was unaffected, he said.

“When it concerns the security of the court, we’re always at 100%,” he said. “We’re going to do everything we can do at all times.”

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