Oct 18, 2022 - News

Des Moines' justice center named after controversial county attorney

A photo of John Sarcone.

John Sarcone. Photo courtesy of Polk County government

The Polk County Justice Center was renamed Tuesday in recognition of John P. Sarcone, who is retiring in January after 32 years as county attorney.

  • A resolution to do so was approved by supervisors in a 4-1 vote that came with no public input sessions prior to Tuesday's meeting.

Why it matters: Sarcone is a polarizing figure who faced public outrage in recent months for prosecuting George Floyd protesters and attempts to prosecute journalists who covered them.

  • Under his direction, the county also filed a motion in 2007 to block gay marriage until an appeal could be heard following a district court judge's ruling.

Between the lines: While not everybody agrees with Sarcone's decisions he's made during his time in office, he has always served with principle and integrity, Polk County Chairperson Angela Connolly said during the meeting.

  • Connolly said she is to blame for having no public input prior to Tuesday, saying she was trying to keep it a surprise to Sarcone and his family.

The other side: The name is effectively a slap in the face to marginalized communities, Courtney Reyes, the executive director of One Iowa, the state's largest advocacy group for LGBTQ Iowans, told county supervisors Tuesday.

  • A building that is to serve as a level playing field for the accused should be free of partisanship and controversy, Supervisor Matt McCoy, who was the only "no" vote, said.

Of note: Sarcone did not return a call from Axios seeking comment Tuesday afternoon.


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