Former Chief Justice Louis Lavorato says Gov. Terry Branstad took a “hands off” approach in Larry Hedlund’s termination. Just like when he’s speeding in his SUV and his hands aren’t on the wheel.
As Hedlund noted, the governor didn’t need to overtly instruct Commissioner K. Brian London or anyone at Department of Public Safety to carry out the firing. He didn’t need to email a termination directive. He didn’t need to hold a meeting with DPS leadership to express his desire for termination. He didn’t need to do anything that would leave any record of his intention.
Say I’m the DPS commissioner. I’ve been appointed by Branstad. I’ve already received complaints from Hedlund about my DCI leadership team. Now I receive a complaint involving the governor’s speeding vehicle that alleges such speeding is common and mentions discussing it with county authorities. I share this development with my pal, the governor, who is irate at the idea of a state employee crossing him and the potential PR mess that may result. He is angry. I share his anger. (How dare this agent accuse the governor of disobeying traffic laws? How dare he accuse our leadership team of misconduct?)
But nothing needs to be said directly. No order needs to be given. I value my job, I know who gave it to me, and I know what I need to do.
The circumstantial evidence (highly important, according to Lavorato) supports such a scenario. Lavorato’s report is not the last word. Only the appropriate legal process will reveal the whole story.
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