“I felt there was a gun to my head. Do this or you’re going to have big consequences.”
That’s what the Chairman of the Public Employee Relations Board told the Legislative Oversight Committee Thursday. The Committee’s investigation into secret settlements to dismissed state workers is branching out, to include hiring and firing practices in Governor Branstad’s administration.
Jim Riordan said Governor Branstad’s former Chief of Staff, Jeff Boeyink told him who to hire for a position created in 2012. Boeyink allegedly told Riordan to hire Bob Wilson as an administrative law judge, even though the Board had not asked for another judge.
“My initial reaction was this is not how we do it here,” said Riordan. “This isn’t the way we hire people.”
Riordan told the Legislative Oversight Committee Boeyink implied that PERB’s funding would be cut if he didn’t hire Wilson.
“In the history of the Board, no Governor’s office has intervened in this way, to tell us ‘You will hire this person.'”
When Oversight Committee members asked if Wilson was working out, Riordan said he and one other Board member have “deep concerns” about Wilson’s work product thus far.
Boeyink did not return our call.
The Governor’s Spokesperson, Jimmy Centers, issued this statement: “Allegations made by the outgoing Public Employee Relations Board (PERB) chairman, Mr. Jim Riordan, are unfounded… Mr. Wilson is an at-will employee of PERB, meaning if the board wasn’t satisfied with his work, they could remove him.”
Representative Julian Garrett, one of the few Republicans to attend the hearing asked Riordan for evidence, like emails to support his allegations. Riordan said there were no emails, but other PERB members were present during conversations with Boeyink.
We contacted Jamie Van Fossen, another PERB member, but Van Fossen declined to comment.
Garrett calls the investigation “mostly politics.”
Senator Janet Petersen, who chairs the Oversight Committee disagrees.
“You know, we’re not running a family business here. We can’t just hire our friends and family and think that we’re going to get the best product,” said Petersen.
Petersen is planning additional Oversight hearings next week and anticipates inviting Boeyink to testify.