Public Safety

Johnson County supervisors to send letter to Muscatine County officials over anti-Muslim, homophobic writings by employee

The Muscatine County Jail Friday, August 19, 2011 in Muscatine, Iowa. (Beth Van Zandt/The Muscatine Journal)
The Muscatine County Jail Friday, August 19, 2011 in Muscatine, Iowa. (Beth Van Zandt/The Muscatine Journal)

IOWA CITY — The Johnson County Board of Supervisors plan to send a letter to Muscatine County officials expressing their concerns with Islamophobic and homophobic writings of their jail administrator.

“I think it’s a good start,” said Supervisor Janelle Rettig. “We can say we find these beliefs reprehensible. We would like them to ... guarantee us it’s not bleeding into the staff and treatment of people.”

The letter — which was discussed during Wednesday’s board work session — is in response to the writings and YouTube videos of Muscatine County Jail Administrator Dean Naylor, first reported upon by the Iowa Capitol Dispatch. One lengthy post from Naylor states that Muslims are “at war with Christians and Jews,” asserts Muslims are unknowingly worshipping Satan and refers to the “gay lifestyle” as “an abomination.”

The reason local officials have concerned themselves with Muscatine County employees is Johnson County has sent inmates to be housed in the Muscatine County Jail in the past when the sheriff’s office did not have room at their own facility.

Each of the Johnson County supervisors condemned Naylor’s commentary and noted his beliefs are not in line with Johnson County’s values.

“I, too, have a huge concern and am appalled by this behavior,” said Supervisor Pat Heiden. “I do believe we need to address this unacceptable behavior.”

But how to do it was the question. The supervisors collectively had little appetite for suggesting another county draft a policy governing its employees’ online behavior when Johnson County doesn’t have its own policy. And while Supervisor Royceann Porter suggested finding another jail for inmates, Sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek said he couldn’t have a plan in place until this summer at least with the COVID-19 pandemic not offering an accurate picture of jail vacancies in other counties. Generally speaking, finding space for overflow inmates has been difficult in recent months, Pulkrabek told the board.

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“Last fall, everyone in Eastern Iowa was full,” he said. “I would say we wouldn’t be able to give you something that’s reasonably accurate until this summer.”

Pulkrabek said he did plan to discuss the Naylor situation with Muscatine County Sheriff J.J. Ryan separately from the board’s letter, which will be addressed to the Muscatine County Board of Supervisors, but copied to both Ryan and the Muscatine County Attorney.

Pulkrabek told both The Gazette and the board that he was not aware of Naylor’s views impacting operations at the Muscatine County Jail or adversely impacting inmates. However, Zach Peterson with Teamsters Local 238, which represents Muscatine County deputies and jail staff, said union members — including gay and lesbian staff — are uncomfortable working with Naylor and there have been issues with him and inmates there.

“This is something that has absolutely spilled into his management of the jail,” said Peterson.

The board said they plan to include in the letter that they will continue to monitor the situation.

Comments: (319) 339-3155; lee.hermiston@thegazette.com

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