Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad hit every green light, he still would not have been able to keep a busy Monday schedule of stops in Des Moines, Adair, Denison and Sioux City without exceeding the speed limit.
In the wake of a second speeding violation by his security detail, Branstad said Monday he has put his drivers on notice that they will abide by Iowa’s traffic laws.
“If they value their jobs, they are going to abide by the law,” the governor said. “I’ve made that clear. If they value their jobs, they have the same responsibility as any other citizen to abide by the speeding laws of this state.”
Yet that same day, Branstad had a schedule that would force the driver to choose: Get the boss to his events late, or break the speed limit.
Even without factoring in wiggle room for road construction, traffic backups, bathroom breaks and shaking hands after events, Monday’s schedule didn’t allow enough time to make it from point A to point B on time.
Branstad spokesman Tim Albrecht said the governor’s schedule relies on Google Maps to estimate how much time it will take to get across the state between events.
“When scheduling we take into account how far point A is from point B, we look at the times and we base the schedule on that,” Albrecht said.
In the event of construction or traffic, Albrecht said, “Iowa is a big state with a lot of roads to take into account.” If they can’t keep the schedule, he said, then “we are delayed and we go to the event, and we’ll make adjustments at the event as needed.”
Keeping the taxing schedule relies on Branstad ending his visits on time. This was not the case Monday.
Branstad attended an Executive Council meeting from 10 to 10:15 a.m. That started his travel day on a tight schedule, because then he hit the road for an 11:15 a.m. event in Adair, an estimated 57-minute drive from the Capitol.
The governor also was running behind after the visit to Agri-Drain, an Adair manufacturer and supplier of water-management products, that was supposed to end at 12:15 p.m. Even if it ended on time, Branstad’s driver had an hour and 15 minutes to tackle an hour-and-20-minute drive, ending in Denison for an event at 1:30 p.m
An employee at his stop in Denison said Branstad was held up in Adair and arrived about 10 minutes late to the scheduled hourlong visit at Bohlmann Inc., another manufacturing firm.
Branstad left Denison around 2:30 p.m., which was essential to making it to Sioux City even close to 4 p.m., when he was scheduled to speak at Sioux City Young Professionals Day. Google says the trip takes 91 minutes, which doesn’t take into account the major construction on Interstate 29 near the Sioux Gateway Airport.
Albrecht said that Branstad keeps a busy schedule. He gets requests for visits from around the state, and they build trips to allow the governor to reach all 99 counties, Albrecht said.
Tim Hagle, a University of Iowa political science professor, said Branstad could reduce his number of stops to allow for safer travel.
“But then you’re opening yourself up to criticism that you’re not being available to Iowans,” he said.
Hagle sees presidential candidates visiting Iowa face the same challenge — how to hit the most places during a limited time.
“That’s not to say that speeding on roads in Iowa is inconsequential,” Hagle said. “This can be a problem if you’re not careful.”
Branstad’s silver Chevrolet Tahoe was pulled over for speeding at 11:34 a.m. Aug. 27 on Highway 3 in Franklin County, just west of Hampton. Chief Franklin County Deputy Linn Larson gave Trooper Darren Argabright a written warning but not a citation. The deputy did not know the SUV was carrying Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, who attended events in Webster City, Clarion, Hampton and Lime Springs that day.
Branstad noted that a state trooper who was stopped for exceeding the speed limit by less than 10 mph in August was issued a warning ticket, which is the same penalty another Iowa resident would have received, and was sanctioned by Department of Public Safety superiors for the infraction.
The traffic stop was the second in five months for Branstad’s drivers.
The first high-profile incident was April 26 in Hamilton County, where Trooper Steve Lawrence was clocked driving 84 mph in a 65-mph zone. In that case, a dash-camera video from a trooper pursuing the speeding SUV shows Lawrence passing several vehicles, including a school bus.
The pursuing officer, Trooper Matt Eimers, did not stop the vehicle once he realized it was a colleague driving Branstad.
The incident became public because a longtime Division of Criminal Investigation agent, who initially spotted the speeding SUV, complained it wasn’t ticketed. Agent Larry Hedlund was later terminated, although state officials say it was not linked to his complaint.
Brian London, former public safety commissioner, raised concerns about what might be a pattern of Branstad allowing his drivers to speed
London said a recent check of a federal database ordered by the governor’s staff showed law enforcement officers have run the license plate on Branstad’s vehicle more than 20 times since he took office in January 2011. London said the report also shows former Gov. Chet Culver’s plates were checked about 13 times.