DES MOINES, Iowa--Some state department heads should worry for their jobs next year if Democrats control the state senate. That's the gist of the warning from State Senator Janet Peterson, a Des Moines Democrat, and chair of the legislature's senate government oversight committee.
"From the research that I have been doing, I believe there will be a number of administrators that may want to consider a different line of work," Petersen said Tuesday following her committee's meeting.
When asked which department leaders should worry, Petersen responded, "I don't want to name them at this point."
But one name for Petersen is Iowa Workforce Development Director Teresa Wahlert. Over the past few months of legislative oversight committee meetings, Democrats assembled administrative law judges who testified about Wahlert's abusive, bullying tactics. Wahlert denied inappropriate behavior.
Next year, department heads would be up for approval in the state senate. Senate confirmation requires support of two-thirds of the members. Petersen doubts Wahlert could get enough support to keep her job. "I don't see a pathway for her to be reappointed," said Petersen.
Petersen's committee released a list of recommendations for the full legislature to consider next session to improve state government and better protect state workers.
Here's the list.
- A ban on secret settlements and hush money
- Expanded whistleblower protections
- Anti-cronyism measures
- Reform of the state’s “do-not-hire” database
- A ban on no-bid contracts for state projects
- Increase accountability in state infrastructure projects
- Protect Iowans right to fair hearings by preventing political appointees and at-will employees from supervising or evaluating judges
- Restore integrity to Iowa’s unemployment trust fund by appointing trusted and transparent leadership
- Require that the Legislature be notified when the Governor receives reports of founded workplace violence in state agencies.
All three Democrats on the committee voted to pass the recommendations. The two Republicans voted against. State Senator Julian Garrett, an Indianola Republican, argued the entire process was just a way to damage Governor Terry Branstad before November's election. Garrett said, "Senate Democrats have been playing political games with the Government Oversight committee. I am voting 'no' on the Senate Democrats' recommendations today, because they are nothing more than a campaign gimmick."
Garrett said, "Over the last 6 months or so we have heard hours and hours of testimony from witnesses who have come in sometimes 3 and 4 times, to be asked the same questions over and over again in hopes of getting responses that support the conclusions my friends in the other party have already drawn and are trying to lead others to draw."
Garrett pointed out the investigation has cost taxpayers more than $100,000. Petersen couldn't give a total dollar figure. But the $100,000 cost was what it cost to request necessary documents from the Department of Administrative Services.
Petersen wouldn't rule out additional hearings. She said she couldn't say whether she would call for them before the election.