INDEPENDENCE, Iowa --- Mayor Carl Scharff in December apologized to fellow citizens “for whatever embarrassment or concerns my situation may have caused.” This week, he admitted committing a minor criminal offense.
Scharff on Monday conceded in Buchanan County District Court that he was guilty of disorderly conduct on Nov. 16. An Independence police officer initially arrested the mayor for public intoxication, but the charge was amended as part of a plea agreement with the county attorney’s office.
In exchange for Scharff’s plea, the court dismissed two additional charges of harassment of a public official and interference with official acts. Those charges are also simple misdemeanors.
As penalty for the conviction, Judge Kellyann Lekar ordered the mayor to pay a $65 fine, a surcharge and court costs within 30 days. Scharff has 90 days, once the court establishes a total, to pay for his court-appointed attorney, James Peters.
The mayor’s arrest developed after emergency personnel responded to a medical problem at Majestic Bar & Grill in Independence. The situation turned out to be a bar fight, which Scharff was not involved in directly, according to Police Chief Randy Miller.
According to the three original criminal complaints, Scharff was unsteady and had watery, bloodshot eyes. He also allegedly disobeyed officers’ instructions, stepped toward an officer and ultimately resisted being handcuffed.
Two others in the bar were also arrested.
Norbert Heinen, 55, of Independence, is charged with third-offense public intoxication, an aggravated misdemeanor. His wife, Kim Webb-Heinen, 41, is charged with second-offense public intoxication. Both have pleaded not guilty.
On his attorney’s advice, Scharff immediately after the incident declined to talk about what had happened. On a video recording in the Buchanan County Jail, obtained by the Courier through a Freedom of Information request, Scharff offers his version of events to a person on the telephone.
During that conversation, Scharff seemed to suggest consequences for one of the arresting officers, David Winger, who he referred to as “Wingnut.”
“He’s messed with me too many times. Now it’s my turn, and I’m coming,” Scharff said on the recording.
A petition calling on the mayor to resign later surfaced, and several residents and Councilman Jon Holland then made the request in person during an Independence City Council meeting on Dec. 10.
“Mr. Scharff, you made a decision that night to put yourself above the morals and ethics of the office of mayor,” Holland said.
“The mayor is the representative face of the community,” Holland added. “Unfortunately, abusing such power, making poor decisions during your personal time is not being a role model and leader of our community.”
At the conclusion of that session Scharff read a prepared statement that included his apology and what he views as his commitment to the city.
“I continue to take care of my responsibilities as mayor as I always have done,” Scharff said. “I continue to be there for you day after day.
Mayor Scharff did not response to a request for comment.