SECRET SETTLEMENTS: Gov. Says More Widespread

Iowa Governor Terry Branstad admitted Monday morning the practice of paying dismissed state workers additional money in exchange for their confidentiality was far more common than first reported.

Branstad said the workers had been dismissed for a variety of reasons since he took office, some for “incompetence” or other poor job performance, others because department heads had eliminated their positions in a reorganization effort to save taxpayers money. Branstad stressed workers had not lost their jobs because of their political affiliations since dismissals included employees who were registered Democrats, Republicans and Independents.

Branstad’s administration provided numbers that show the state reached confidentiality settlements with 24 former employees since the governor returned to office in 2011. That is four times as many as the office had discussed when news of the payments surfaced in a Des Moines Register report March 16th.

The settlements involved employees from 12 different state department agencies, rather that just two the administration originally admitted. The administration posted terms of the settlements, including the employees’ names, department/agency and settlement amount on the Department of Administrative Services website. 

Branstad said his executive order will halt future use of confidential settlements for dismissed state workers. The governor said, “Confidentiality provisions that prevent disclosure of agreements are wrong and I’m deeply disappointed that they were ever considered, let alone used.”

Monday’s disclosures show at least a dozen of his current and former department heads would have had to sign off on the agreements, along with D.A.S. Director Mike Carroll, before the terms of those agreements could become finalized. Branstad has said repeatedly that neither he nor anyone in his administration had prior knowledge of the settlements until contacted about them by the media.

Branstad expressed confidence in Carroll and released no plans to relieve him as director. But Branstad’s Democratic gubernatorial challenger, Des Moines State Senator Jack Hatch, tweeted that he would. Hatch wrote, “I can tell you, in my administration, if these kinds of settlements were approved without my knowledge, I would have terminated people today.”

Democratic lawmakers plan oversight hearings looking into the secret settlements.

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