SETTLEMENT HEARING: Ex-State Workers Testify

Two days of hearings began Wednesday into confidential settlements given to state employees by Branstad administration officials.

Gov. Terry Branstad says two dozen state workers were given confidential settlements by his department heads when the employees changed jobs.

Wednesday the Senate Oversight Committee started hearings focused on workers who received those settlements.

Tony Schmitz told the committee he’d been with the Architectural Engineering and Services Department for five years. He testified that the morning he and other staff members were laid off, just two hours later, an entire new staff took over.

He claimed workers weren’t given any explanation and they were sent home with 20 days worth of pay.

“So, they paid us out 20 days, they paid the new people coming in more money than any of us were making, and then they turned around and paid us settlements. How is that saving the taxpayers money,” Schmitz asked.

Schmitz didn’t give any concrete testimony over the size of the new staff in his old department, if he actually knew how much any of them were being paid, or whether the change led to overall savings in the state budget

Republicans decided not to go to Wednesday’s hearing saying they don’t agree with the plan to talk to workers who received settlements.

“Bringing people in that are basically breaking their confidential agreements to do an interview. I don’t agree with that approach,” says Representative Kevin Koester. He called Wednesday’s hearing political theater and won’t provide answers to his questions.

However he says he will take part in Thursday’s hearing. That’s when the director of the Department of Administrative Services will be called in.

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