WIUM Tristates Public Radio

Meet Lisa Schaefer - Des Moines County Attorney Candidate - June 5 Iowa Primary

May 29, 2018

Lisa Schaefer (D-Burlington) is running for Des Moines County Attorney. She said one of her top priorities, if elected, is to improve transparency and accountability.

Schaefer is one of two Democrats on the June 5th primary ballot. The other candidate, William Monroe, has not responded to Tri States Public Radio’s requests for an interview. No Republicans filed nominating petitions.

Incumbent Amy Beavers turned in her nominating petitions to seek another term in office. But she withdrew them before the end of the filing period amid backlash over her handling of a criminal case involving a local nursing home.

Schaefer brings a wide range of experience to the race.

She currently works in private practice, focusing on criminal defense and family law. Prior to that, she worked nearly 12 years in the Des Moines County Attorney’s Office and a couple years as a professor in Western Illinois University's LEJA program as well as working in victim services in Iowa and North Carolina.

Schaefer said while she enjoys her current job, her goal has always been to become a prosecutor.

“The U.S. Constitution always provides a defendant with an attorney but victims don’t have that and so I wanted to advocate for those who were not in a position to advocate for themselves,” said Schaefer. “Even now, as I am in private practice and I do enjoy what I do, to me, that is one of the most important things you can do as a lawyer is to advocate for those who cannot advocate for themselves.”

Schaefer said she would work to improve transparency within the Des Moines County Attorney’s Office and make sure it is accountable to the public. She said one way to accomplish that will be to produce monthly reports on what is going on within the office.

“So at the end of the year, I can actually compile an annual report to make sure we are prioritizing our resources appropriately,” said Schaefer. “But I also think it is important for transparency and accountability for the public. It is the public office, not a private law firm.”

Schaefer said she would also make sure that if a law enforcement officer that works with her office is accused of wrongdoing or criminal activity, she would avoid any hint of impropriety by calling in outside agencies to investigate.

“I don’t feel that it’s appropriate for the County Attorney to investigate and review a case where maybe it’s a member of law enforcement where it is alleged they have done something wrong and they are the ones under investigation,” said Schaefer.”

Schaefer said mentoring and training would be another priority for her office. She said she would keep a small caseload, handling both high profile and routine offenders while also making sure her assistant county attorneys were prepared to handle the same.

“Make sure all of the assistants in the office are getting sufficient training and sufficient experience to make sure they could handle a case if need be,” said Schaefer. “Homicide cases are extremely time consuming and I want to ensure each of the assistants in the office has the training and the experience that if we really need them to step up to the plat in one of those cases, I could feel confident and they could feel confident in their ability to do so.”

On other issues

  • Schaefer wants to create a “youth offender” court. This speciality court would hear specific cases against young adults (18-21 or so), similar to how the drug court works in southeast Iowa.
  • She would work with local law enforcement, mental health care providers and educators to create “diversion programs” in the hopes of reducing incarcertations and increasing treatement for those who need it.
  • Schaefer said she would review the merits of each case before deciding whether a plea bargain is appropriate. She said along those lines, she would invite people who question a decision she makes to come and talk to her about why the decision was made.
  • She said she does not see any conflict of interest releated to her being married to a member of the Burlington Police Department, adding that she has also discussed it with the Iowa Attorney General's office prior to announcing her campaign.