Investigators for the US Department of Labor are now interviewing Administrative Law Judges in Iowa Workforce Development’s Unemployment Insurance Bureau. The questions surround allegations that IWD Director, Teresa Wahlert pressured judges to rule against employees appealing their unemployment benefits.
Former Chief Administrative Law Judge, Joe Walsh made the same claim in a lawsuit filed against Wahlert and IWD on April 3. The suit alleges Walsh was let go after criticizing Wahlert’s attempt to influence the judge’s rulings.
Wahlert addressed the lawsuit in a statement the same day, even though we now know the Iowa Attorney General’s Office did not approve of the statement or deem it appropriate.
In that statement, Wahlert says Walsh was let go because of “federal budget cuts and the poor performance of the UI Appeals Bureau.”
“Every step of the way I was told that it was budget,” said Walsh. “I was absolutely stunned after I filed the lawsuit and I learned for the first time that there were allegations about my performance.”
Wahlert raised several performance issues in her statement. Among them, Walsh’s failure to provide his employees with a state required annual performance review.
“That’s true. I didn’t do it.” said Walsh.
But according to Walsh, Wahlert knew the reports weren’t being filed and didn’t have a problem with it.
“The director received the reports that IPP’s were not in. She never said anything about it until the very end.”
Performance reviews for Walsh from 2007 to 2011 showed he “exceeded expectations.” Former IWD Director, Elizabeth Buck called him a “fabulous administrator” and said it was “an honor and pleasure to serve with him.”
Wahlert’s review of Walsh in 2012 showed he met expectations in every category. But in 2013, she failed to provide any supervisory comments – good or bad – before signing off on the review.
“She didn’t fill it out at all,” said Walsh.
In her statement, Wahlert also claimed Walsh cost IWD federal funding by “failing to ensure the Bureau was meeting the mandatory US Department of Labor metrics of deciding at least 60-percent of the cases within 30 days.”
Walsh questions whether Wahlert has a firm grasp of how the funding works.
“The 30-day standard has no effect on the funding what so ever,” said Walsh.
Wahlert also claimed all “this led to the agency being placed on a corrective action plan by the DOL.
“When I took over the unit, we were already on a corrective action plan,” said Walsh. “And they’re still on a corrective action plan now, as we stand today, as I understand it.”
When asked to comment, IWD spokesperson, Kerry Koonce told us the Director would not comment on the law suit. Koonce did not respond to our request to interview Wahlert about other IWD issues.
Wahlert has denied trying to influence judges to rule in favor of employers.