Islamophobic Polk County Sheriff’s Deputy Fired, Says He’ll Appeal Decision

Dan Charleston, posing with a gift he received in an image posted on Facebook on the day he was fired from the Polk County Sheriff's Office. Photo: Dan Charleston/Facebook

Dan Charleston, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office deputy who became the subject of an internal investigation earlier this month after posting comments on Facebook that denigrated all Muslims as adherents to an extremist ideology — news that was first reported by the Informer — has now been fired from the department.

“Former Sgt. Dan Charleston’s employment with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office has been terminated,” Rick Blaylock, a lieutenant in the department, said in a statement Friday. “As a respect for possible appeals or litigation, we have nothing further to share at this time.”

Charleston himself discussed his firing in a Facebook post that he later deleted, but not before WOI-TV took a screenshot of it. In the post, Charleston refers to Iowa Code 341A.12 (PDF), which refers specifically to disciplinary hearings that deputy county sheriffs can appeal their demotion or termination through.

Facebook via WOI-TV
Facebook via WOI-TV

The section of Iowa Code states that a deputy county sheriff cannot be fired “except for cause, and only upon written accusation of the county sheriff, which shall be served upon the accused.”

Although he portrays himself as a martyr unjustly targeted for having opposed Sheriff Bill McCarthy in county elections in 2012 and 2016, Charleston has long been a thorn in the side of the department. In 2004, he was reinstated after appealing his first termination through the Polk County Civil Service Commission. Last year, he was cited by the county human resources department for harassment and gender bias against women he worked with, after an HR report found that several co-workers, men and women both, said Charleston was biased against women, assigning them demeaning work he didn’t request of men and leaving them “almost always close to tears.” (And before starting his job in Polk County, Charleston was fired from the Pomona, California, police department for lying about the identification of an alleged carjacker.)

As he mentioned in his Facebook post announcing his termination, Charleston has sued McCarthy three times in federal court for supposed job discrimination (Charleston is a Republican and McCarthy is a Democrat). Two of the suits remain active but the other was dismissed. In one of the suits, McCarthy is accused of “engaging in willful and malicious conduct toward Dan including but not limited to referring to Dan as dangerous, cancerous, [and as] radical as one can get” — but Charleston does hold extreme views, including an affinity for the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, an organization with ties to the anti-Semitic Posse Comitatus movement, the Oathkeepers, and Joe Arpaio, the infamous former sheriff of Maricopa County in Arizona who is now facing criminal contempt charges for refusing to stop targeting immigrants in traffic stops.

Full disclosure: After our previous report on him, Dan Charleston shared the story on social media, joking with Facebook friends about how Informer editor Gavin Aronsen was an unemployable loser living in the basement of his parents, who “have called him upstairs for breakfast all day.”

Gavin Aronsen
Gavin Aronsen is an editor and reporter for and founding member of the Iowa Informer. He previously worked as a city reporter for the Ames Tribune, research assistant to investigative journalist Wayne Barrett at the Village Voice, and in various roles at Mother Jones, where his work contributed to a National Magazine Award nomination for the magazine's digital media coverage of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Email: garonsen [at] iowainformer [dot] com.