MUSCATINE, Iowa– The Muscatine County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved appointing Jim Barry interim county attorney at the May 11 meeting, Barry replaces Alan Ostergren as county attorney after his resignation May 1.
Following Ostergren’s resignation, the Board created a search committee consisting of Ostergren, board member Nathan Mather (a lawyer himself), board member Santos Saucedo, Ardyth Slight of the Muscatine County Sheriff’s Department, and retired lawyer Walter Conlon. The Board also placed notices in several county newspapers requesting applications. They did not place a notice in any Muscatine Bar Association publications as that law does not require it. The search yielded only an application from Barry. Muscatine Bar Association Member Liz Araguas expressed concern about the Board’s proceedings.
Later, the Association’s president, Kale Knisley, clarified, “While the Muscatine County Board of Supervisors fulfilled the legal requirements for filling the position, the bar association could have helped by providing knowledge through a network of local attorneys who have dedicated their careers to serving the legal needs of this county.”
A Muscatine native, Barry began practicing law in 1987 shortly after graduating from Washington University Law School in Saint Louis, Missouri. He worked as Cass County’s assistant district attorney before becoming their County Attorney.
He served in that capacity from 1990 to 2004 when he got removed from office for allowing people to enter plea deals in exchange for donations to the Sheriff’s department. Barry had also received censure for mishandling driving tickets, allowing people to convert moving violations to equipment violations. These incidents lead to the suspension of Barry’s licence to practice law from 2009 to 2010. Following the suspension, he had his licence reinstated and has remained in good standing with the Iowa Bar Association.
Since that time, Barry has expressed remorse for his actions and states he has learned from his removal. “Both the good and bad experiences of my life and career are a part of me and make me who and what I am,”” he said. “I know that they all make me better capable of serving because I now see the entirety of things.”
Barry worked for Signature Management Company in Davenport for three years before taking a job with Hoffman in Muscatine as an in-house counsel and project manager. He distinguished himself with the company, and Kris Lee of Hoffman spoke on his behalf at the May 11 board meeting.
During this time, Barry and his wife, Diana, lived in Muscatine and raised three children. In his free time, Barry enjoyed participating in various activities at his church.
As Barry begins his work, he expressed a desire to benefit the county. He shared: “We live in a time when distrust, suspicion and negativity rule the day and the news cycle. Unfortunately, many good people stand by and watch it happen every day. I have been one of those people and have decided that I have to at least try again before my time to have a positive impact in government has passed.” He also acknowledged that he will have to stand for election in November if he would like to continue as county attorney, and that the people of Muscatine County will have the opportunity to decide if he suits the job well.