Accused of being drunk at work, county’s top prosecutor resigns

By: - December 15, 2022 12:48 pm

Dickinson County’s top criminal prosecutor, charged with public intoxication and accused of being “passed out” on more than one occasion while at work, has submitted her resignation to the county board. (Photo by krisanapong detraphiphat/Getty Images)

Dickinson County’s top criminal prosecutor, charged with public intoxication and accused of being “passed out” on more than one occasion while at work, has submitted her resignation to the county board.

According to the Dickinson County website, the board of supervisors voted earlier this week to accept the resignation of County Attorney Amy Zenor.

The vote came four weeks after Zenor was arrested and charged with being publicly intoxicated while at the county courthouse on Nov. 10. Court records give no indication as to the events that led up to the arrest, but they state that a preliminary breath test showed Zenor’s blood-alcohol level was 0.195 percent, well above the .08 limit to operate a motor vehicle.

Earlier this week, a judge ordered Lyon County Attorney Amy Oetken to act as special prosecutor in the case.

Zenor’s resignation is expected to take effect on Jan. 2, 2023.

According to state records, the Iowa Attorney Disciplinary Board asked the Iowa Supreme Court in November to suspend Zenor’s license to practice law due to “a disability that prevents her from discharging the professional responsibilities associated with the practice of law.”

Zenor filed a written consent to the immediate suspension of her license, after which the court agreed to impose the sanction.

Currently, Zenor and Dickinson County are defendants in a lawsuit brought by Hillary Henningsen, a former employee of Zenor’s office who alleges she faced harassment and retaliation from Zenor and others at work because of her gender and her status as a pregnant woman.

Henningsen alleges that in October 2018, while 20 weeks pregnant and working as a sheriff’s investigator for the office of the Dickinson County attorney, she talked to Sheriff Greg Baloun and asked about the county’s policy on maternity leave.

Baloun allegedly responded, “I would just keep your mouth shut about that because you shouldn’t even be working … You can’t fit into a uniform, you can’t be a deputy.”

“So, I am supposed to be off work without pay until after the baby in late February 2019?” Henningsen allegedly asked.

Baloun reportedly responded, “Yep, that is what I make the jailors do who have been pregnant.  I’m not going to create a position for you to pull out staples.”

When Henningsen asked whether Baloun was threatening her job, the sheriff allegedly responded, “I can’t fire you because you are pregnant … I’m just saying that if you become too much of a pain in the ass …”

Henningsen had her baby in March 2019. In January 2020, Zenor, who had been an assistant county attorney, took over the position of county attorney. On one occasion in late January 2020, the lawsuit alleges, Zenor brought a beverage container into work. The container allegedly was tested by an assistant county attorney for alcohol, with the results coming back positive.

The lawsuit alleges that both before and after Zenor took over as county attorney, Henningsen saw Zenor at work when she was “obviously under the influence of alcohol and to the point of inebriation.” Zenor also is alleged to have made comments about cases “which made no sense” while talking with Henningsen and others in the prosecutors’ office.

The lawsuit also alleges Zenor came into work while appearing “zoned out” and she “regularly forgot what she had told defense attorneys in criminal cases, and would deny having made plea deals that she had actually made earlier … In addition, Zenor was found passed out in her office a couple of times and one time was found passed out on the bathroom floor.”

In April 2021, Zenor allegedly informed Henningsen that her employment was being terminated due to the county’s elimination of her position. Zenor has denied any wrongdoing in Henningsen’s termination. The lawsuit is scheduled to go to trial in September 2023.

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Clark Kauffman
Clark Kauffman

Deputy Editor Clark Kauffman has worked during the past 30 years as both an investigative reporter and editorial writer at two of Iowa’s largest newspapers, the Des Moines Register and the Quad-City Times. He has won numerous state and national awards for reporting and editorial writing.