Former workers at the Iowa Veterans Center in Marshalltown say Commandant David Worley’s bullying management style threatened and intimidated workers and that he sexually harassed female employees. The center cares for nearly 500 veterans and their spouses and employs more than 800 workers.
Monday afternoon, the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee held a nearly 2 1/2 hour-long hearing into allegations of Worley’s tenure. Former workers say current employees were too scared they would lose their jobs if they took their allegations public. Mike Schlesinger, the publisher of the Marshalltown Times-Republican newspaper, shared some of the complaints he said workers told him. Schlesinger read some of those to lawmakers, “They gave examples of the commandant saying sexually harassing comments to women, comments that frankly anyone in private business would be fired for. I heard from one person who was physically threatened when the commandment screamed at them saying, ‘Don’t f with me’. And I won’t get into that.” Schlesinger continued to read the alleged comments Worley made, “I have guns. I have a brother in prison for murder so don’t f with me.”
Other former employees complained Worley had hurt moral and chased away longtime employees with his abrasive, inappropriate behavior. Worley declined to specifically address the allegations. He invited lawmakers to come to the center to see for themselves the care residents get. And he said they could talk to himself and staff about the way he runs the center. Worley acknowledged improvements could be made and that not all employees agree with his decisions. He said, “A lot of it has to do with communication. I listen and we try very hard. And sometimes as a leader, I do have to make some decisions that everybody’s not going to be happy with.”
Senator Steve Sodders, a State Center Democrat, represents the area where the center is. He called on Governor Terry Branstad to place Worley on leave pending a law enforcement and government oversight committee investigation into the allegations. Branstad’s Communication Director Tim Albrecht released a statement in response:
“The governor is proud of the entire staff for their standard of care and commitment at the Iowa Veterans Home. The Iowa Veterans Home received flying colors, and a sterling report, in its annual review by the Veterans Administration for the care it provides its residents.
Governor Branstad always wants to make sure that every department and agency within state government is operating at top efficiency while delivering high quality services to the Iowans they serve. We are confident that our veterans are being extremely well cared for at the Iowa Veterans Home.
David Worley has been a strong, effective leader at the Iowa Veterans Home, and Gov. Branstad wholeheartedly supports him.”