Branstad says he gave former public safety head 'plenty of chances'

Governor says some suggested London should have been fired sooner

Erin Jordan
Published: September 9 2013 | 8:53 am - Updated: 28 March 2014 | 8:11 pm in
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Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad said he gave former Public Safety Commissioner Brian London “plenty of chances” to succeed before asking for his resignation.

Branstad, speaking with reporters Monday morning during a teleconference from Japan, responded to claims London made in an interview Friday with the Gazette. London, who resigned Sept. 3, said many DPS employees were against him from the beginning because he was an outsider intent on shaking up the 900-employee agency.

Branstad placed the blame on London.

“I think we gave him plenty of chances and, in fact, there are a lot of people who said maybe we should have gotten rid of him sooner,” Branstad said.

London, hired last October, said he talked with Branstad’s Chief of Staff, Jeff Boeyink, before buying a $428,000 house in West Des Moines Aug. 20. Boeyink, who has since left Branstad’s office for a job in the private sector, did not give London a reason to think his job was in jeopardy, London told The Gazette.

London also acknowledged that he offered Branstad his resignation last month.

“At a meeting, he was angry about the whole situation,” London said, referring to a controversy over a state patrol speeding incident and the firing of a veteran agent. “I said, ‘Governor, if you feel it will help you, I will turn in my resignation.’ And he said no.”

Branstad told London he wanted to wait on the decision, the governor told reporters Monday.

“I contacted Larry Noble because I thought we needed somebody with Iowa experience who had the respect and trust of the people in the Department of Public Safety, and I’m really pleased that Larry was willing to come back,” Branstad said.

Once Noble was secured, Branstad called a meeting with London and accepted the resignation.

“I’m really focused on the future and feel that although Brian London has a great resume, there’s a lot of turmoil and a lot of problems in that department that I think Larry Noble is already addressing in a very effective way,” Branstad said.

London, 60, had worked with the Secret Service, CIA and INTERPOL, among other agencies, before coming to Iowa.

He almost immediately reorganized the public safety department, replacing the head of the Iowa State Patrol and dividing duties in the Division of Criminal Investigation. He also fired Dave Heuton, the department’s director of administrative services, because Heuton shared the reorganization plans with some DPS employees.

Other changes London made at DPS include reducing the number of unmarked cars and starting a financial crimes unit.

Although London is out as DPS head, he’s still among named defendants in a wrongful termination lawsuit by former DCI agent Larry Hedlund, who claims he was fired, in part, because he complained that the governor’s speeding SUV wasn’t cited in April. Hedlund and others have said London was a dictatorial leader who caused poor morale.

London, who is married with adult children, told The Gazette he doesn’t think he’ll ever work in law enforcement again because of the negative publicity surrounding his stint in Iowa. But he complimented Noble, who spent 30 years in the public safety department, and said he hopes Noble will continue some of the initiatives London started.

“These are important things for Iowa,” London said.

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