INDEPENDENCE - A Buchanan County social worker was charged last week with three counts of perjury for allegedly filing false child welfare reports to the court.
Marie Mahler, 39, of Cedar Falls, filed three reports between Aug. 27, 2004, and Oct. 7, 2004, used in a juvenile court case that she "knew or reasonably should have known were false" and that the reports would be used by a judge to make a decision in the case, according to court records obtained by the Courier.
Mahler entered a written plea of not guilty Thursday.
According to court records, the case was to determine whether or not a mother's parental rights should be terminated. Mahler repeatedly included misrepresentations of conversations, events and relationships of the people involved with the case, according to court records.
Court records say she claimed that Jesup police officers were called to the mother's home for a drug investigation in August 2004. Records indicate an officer was called to the home not for drugs, but to prevent an altercation between two siblings. No signs of drugs were found.
Roger Munns, spokesman for the Iowa Department of Human Services, confirmed Mahler is an employee of the department. Mahler received her social work license in 1998. She has no record of disciplinary action and still is on active duty, according to department records. She has been a social worker in Buchanan County since 1998.
In a parental rights termination case, the decision is made by a judge, Munns said. People involved in the case, like biological parents, adoptive parents or social workers, can give input to help the judge's decision, he said. It's rare to have people charged with such a crime in these cases, Munns said.
"This is really quite unusual," he said.
Munns did not comment further on the case.
Delaware County Attorney John Bernau has been appointed special prosecutor to the case because of a conflict of interest. The Buchanan County Attorney's Office has represented Mahler in juvenile court proceedings.
Bernau said he couldn't comment on specifics about the case, but said perjury charges often are hard to investigate.
While the offenses occurred in 2004, Bernau said Mahler is exempt from Iowa's statute of limitations law because she is still a state employee. In most felony cases, charges have to be filed within three years of the offense. However, that three-year period begins for state employees only after they are no longer working for the state.
Perjury is a Class D felony punishable by up to five years in prison.
Contact Josh Nelson at (319) 291-1565 or email@example.com.