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Special prosecutor named in investigation of Lincoln County presiding judge

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LINCOLN COUNTY — A special prosecutor has been appointed to investigate an allegation that the presiding judge in Lincoln County lied on an affidavit he filed in a long-running battle against an elected official he suspended from office.

Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney Trisha Stefanski was appointed to investigate the misdemeanor allegation against Circuit Judge Patrick Flynn of filing a false affidavit, documents obtained this week by the Post-Dispatch show. Stefanski’s appointment followed an investigation by Troy police and the Missouri Highway Patrol.

In an email Wednesday, Stefanski said she could not comment on cases under review. Flynn and lawyers for the Missouri Attorney General’s Office who represent Flynn did not respond to requests for comment.

The investigation of Flynn centers around an Aug. 19, 2020, affidavit he filed as part of a lawsuit against him brought by Circuit Clerk Karla Allsberry, a police probable cause statement shows.

In the affidavit, Flynn complains that Allsberry refused to turn over personnel files on herself, her husband and a former judge. But the police investigation showed that the personnel files likely never existed.

Flynn also said Allsberry allowed a deputy clerk to remain in the building after he had placed the deputy clerk on administrative leave and ordered her out of the courthouse. But a recording of the incident revealed that Flynn was blocking the door of Allsberry’s office, and refused to get out of the way so the deputy clerk could leave, the police report says.

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

Flynn made the same statements last year in a civil trial over Allsberry’s suspension from office.

Lincoln County Prosecuting Attorney Mike Wood sought the special prosecutor in April, citing a conflict in his office. Stefanski was appointed in June.

It is the second time a special prosecutor has been appointed or sought in the feud between Flynn and Allsberry. Last year, Flynn appointed St. Charles County Prosecuting Attorney Tim Lohmar to investigate claims against Allsberry, but Lohmar’s office investigated and declined to initiate proceedings.

In a letter to Flynn, Lohmar wrote, “the evidence fails to establish willful abuse of her authority, corruption or gross and willful misconduct in the performance of her duties as Circuit Clerk.” The letter says some of the alleged misconduct occurred soon after she took office, “and while the evidence suggests that these acts were negligent or performed erroneously, the evidence does not support that these actions were undertaken with corrupt motives. Additionally, many of the perceived instances of misconduct were rebutted with reasonable explanations.”

Allsberry’s lawyer, David Duree, declined to comment this week on the appointment of Stefanski.

The feud, which has sparked multiple lawsuits, dates to the 2018 election, when Allsberry beat the incumbent clerk supported by Flynn. Allsberry’s husband, Associate Circuit Judge Gregory Allsberry, defeated Flynn in a 2014 judicial election. Flynn successfully ran for circuit judge in the 2018 election, saying he was motivated to do so by the problems in the Lincoln County court system.

Shortly after Allsberry took office in January 2019, Flynn and a panel of local judges stripped her of the power to fire, promote and discipline clerks. They also limited her computer security and payroll powers. The problems continued, despite attempts by state court officials and judges to mediate the disputes. Flynn suspended her from office on May 28, 2019, and then appointed a replacement.

Flynn claimed 14 reasons why Allsberry should have been removed from office and even criminally charged, but a Cole County circuit judge rejected them all in February and said Allsberry should not have been removed from office. He also said Flynn did not have the power to remove an elected official.

“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,” then-Judge Richard Callahan wrote.

A Cole County judge ruled that the presiding judge in Lincoln County did not have the authority to remove the elected circuit clerk..

But Callahan also said he did not have the power to reinstate Allsberry. The case is still pending, with a lawyer for Allsberry seeking a court order that would allow her return to office.

The various disputes have resulted in disciplinary complaints being filed against Flynn, and by Flynn against Gregory Allsberry.

Flynn has not been handling criminal cases in Lincoln County since 2019 after the prosecuting attorney’s office began disqualifying him from every case, Wood said. A contributing factor was when Flynn issued a “show cause” order to one prosecutor threatening to find her in contempt, he said.

Flynn now assigns criminal cases to another judge.

“The prosecuting attorney’s office has the right to disqualify a judge for any reason and we decided that it was best to start exercising that,” Wood said. “Employees were consistently unhappy and potentially would have threatened to leave had they continued to be forced to practice in that division.”

Robert Patrick • 314-340-8131

@rxpatrick on Twitter

RPatrick@post-dispatch.com

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