It was the moment Iowa Democrats had been waiting to get.
Thursday morning Department of Administrative Services Director Mike Carroll sat before lawmakers in the packed, stuffy old Supreme Court chambers inside the state Capitol. He answered their questions for two hours about confidential agreements given to dismissed state workers.
Carroll told lawmakers several times he made a mistake by using the settlements. He said no one in Governor Terry Branstad’s office, the governor or anyone else, knew about the settlements beforehand. “There would have been no reason why they would have known that or should have known that.”
And Carroll said he now understands the governor doesn’t believe in them. Carroll also supports changing the law to ban confidential agreements in the future.
“Why did you need confidential agreements? What was there to hide?” asked Senator Janet Petersen, a Des Moines Democrat.
Carroll said he only signed off on four of the 24 agreements that used confidentiality clauses. But he said he had agreed to them at the time because he was negotiating the terms of those four workers’ departures. And confidentiality assured that workers wouldn’t talk to others who hadn’t yet completed the terms of their final settlement.
Carroll denied that dismissed workers were offered more money, or “hush money” as some Democrats and workers have alleged, so they wouldn’t divulge issues in their workplace.
When asked after the hearing whether Petersen believed Carroll’s responses, she responded, “I’m not going to say.”
Petersen said she wants to hold more hearings to bring in other department heads who signed off on the confidential agreements.