A district judge has refused the state’s request to dismiss a lawsuit brought by a former DCI agent alleging the Branstad administration improperly shared a confidential personnel file with an independent investigator reviewing agent’s firing and claims of retaliation.
Larry Hedlund, a former special agent with the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, has challenged the state’s decision to share a lengthy report related to his firing with former Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Louis Lavorato – who Gov. Terry Branstad appointed to review disciplinary action taken against Hedlund.
Lavorato concluded last August that the governor’s office was not involved in decisions to place Hedlund on leave in May and to eventually terminate his employment. Hedlund was a central figure in a high-profile incident last April where a state trooper driving an SUV carrying Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds was clocked driving 84 mph in a 65-mph zone.
The incident became public because Hedlund, who initially spotted the speeding SUV, complained it wasn’t ticketed. He was later fired, although state officials say it was not linked to his complaint.
In his petition, Hedlund asserts the Iowa Department of Public Safety violated state law by disclosing an investigative report compiled by the agency regarding his employment. The contents of the report allegedly led to his termination, according to court records. Hedlund claims the investigative report is confidential and DPS officials violated the statute when Branstad disclosed the report to Lavorato.
State attorneys argued that disclosing the report to Lavorato did not violate state law because there was no disclosure to the public since Lavorato was an agent of the state at the time he received the report under a non-disclosure agreement.
Polk County District Judge Larry McLellan ruled Monday that the court must ignore the non-disclosure agreement since it is not part of Hedlund’s petition. “Accordingly, the court denies the DPS’s motion to dismiss,” McLellan wrote, adding that the issues raised by the state would better be considered in a motion for summary judgment or a trial in denying the motion to dismiss Hedlund’s petition seeking a $2,500 fine against the department’s records custodian and other remedies.