Four former state workers Iowans get their chance Wednesday morning to address allegations of office politics and cronyism. They are the first group to testify before the Senate Oversight Committee. Senate Democrats say they have been talking to workers who got dismissed after Republican Governor Terry Branstad returned to office.
Democrats claim some workers lost their jobs because of their political beliefs. Others they say have lost their employment as part of a bigger movement to reclassify workers from “merit” to “at will,” with the later classification easier to terminate.
The last three weeks at the Statehouse has been full of talk of workers getting confidential separation agreements to leave their positions, some getting five or six-figure financial settlements. Leaders in both parties have expressed outrage about the settlements. Although, no one can seem to say how these agreements began or if there was one person who shared the concept throughout state government.
Governor Branstad denied knowledge that his top department officials were signing off on 24 confidential agreements since he returned to office. He has since signed an executive order banning such agreements in the future. House Republicans have just drawn up a bill to codify the bill, essentially making Branstad’s executive order intentions permanent. Otherwise a future governor could rescind Branstad’s executive order.
Documents revealed former Democratic Governor Chet Culver’s administration also used confidential clauses, but far fewer. The Department of Administrative Services released records for just eight cases, compared to Branstad’s 24. Culver’s documents also appear much simpler. You can compare them for yourself here.
Click to read the confidentiality agreements dismissed state workers received during Governor Chet Culver’s administration.
Senate Democrats set up two days of testimony so far. House Republicans have already said they won’t part in day one because they feel it will be more political theater with the testimony of former workers who could have an axe to grind after losing their job. House Republicans say they take an active role in the questioning on Thursday for day two.
Senate Democrats released this schedule of those expected to testify over the next two days:
April 2, 11 AM, Room 22
Testimony from four ex-state employees
offered hush money to sign secrecy agreements
· Ken Thornton
· Carol Frank
· Tony Schmidt
· Dean Ibsen
April 3, 11 AM, Room 22
Branstad Administration officials
· Director Mike Carroll, Department of Administrative Services
· Doug Woodley, DAS General Services Enterprise Chief Operating Officer
· Paul Carlson, DAS Chief Resource Maximization Officer