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Former colleagues of Eau Claire County District Attorney Gary King call for his removal; Video shows him falling asleep in a meeting

Updated: Jun. 4, 2021 at 9:34 PM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - The Eau Claire County Sheriff’s Office reports District Attorney Gary King appeared to be intoxicated at work after deputies performed a welfare check on June 1. This comes as King is under investigation for sexual harassment and it is the second welfare check performed by the sheriff’s office after colleagues accused King of working while intoxicated.

According to an incident report, County Administrator Kathryn Schauf contacted the sheriff’s office for a welfare check on King after noticing him struggling to stay awake in meeting beginning at 7:30 a.m. on Tuesday. Captain Dave Riewestahl says when he responded to King’s office around 10:30 a.m. the DA explained his behavior was due to family matters and trouble sleeping. His office was searched for alcohol but deputies did not find anything.

That afternoon King was scheduled to be in a court hearing at 2:15 p.m. According to a report from the Eau Claire County Sheriff’s Office, Judge Michael Schumacher asked Deputy Chad Strasburg to observe King’s behavior. When Strasburg reported smelling an “odor” from King, Judge Sarah Harless said she would not proceed with the hearing until DA King took a breath test for alcohol. Around 2:45 p.m. documents from the sheriff’s office show a breath test was administered to King and the reading came back at .047 showing alcohol in his system. Judge Harless postponed the hearing.

The issue of King falling asleep at work is nothing new according to two of his former colleagues who recently wrote to Governor Evers, asking for King to be removed from office.

The first letter comes from former Eau Claire County Assistant District Attorney Loralee Clark who is retired after working as a prosecutor for 33 years. She worked in the Eau Claire DA’s office from 2009 through July 2020. The second is from Ellen Anderson who worked in the DA’s office with King from 2011 through February 2020.

Anderson says in her years of working with King, there were concerns of him being under the influence at the office and claims she saw him sleeping in meetings and court proceedings. She writes the DA would interfere in cases in which a former colleague acted as defense attorney.

“I witnessed DA King’s erratic behavior and displays of temper. He sought to intimidate staff, wasted their time by planting himself in their offices spending hours discussing Seinfeld episodes or sports, and then berated them for not being on top of their caseloads,” Anderson wrote.

Loralee Clark described similar behavior and writes she too saw King fall asleep frequently. She says King would distract his employees and then criticize them for being able to complete their work.

“I am utterly heart sick at the conditions under which my former colleagues are trying to work,” Clark wrote in her letter to Evers.

In March, a third party investigator concluded King did make inappropriate comments to female staff members after one employee filed a complaint with the human resources department.

Sheriff Ron Cramer also responded to a February incident in which King appeared to be intoxicated while at work. At that time, King refused to take an alcohol breath test.

King is an elected official and a state employee so the decision over whether or not he keeps his position falls in the hands of Governor Tony Evers. According to a process outlined in state statute, in order to begin to investigate the allegations against King, he needed a letter from an Eau Claire County resident like Loralee Clark. Next, Evers could appoint a committee to investigate the DA but there is no set timeline for the process. In a statement, the governor’s office says it is reviewing the letter received to determine next steps.

King was elected to the position of District Attorney in 2012 and is not up for re-election until 2024.

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