Branstad confirms 24 secret settlements to ex-employees

Branstad said no one has been disciplined or fired for the settlements

Rod Boshart
Published: March 24 2014 | 8:59 am - Updated: 1 April 2014 | 10:04 am in

DES MOINES — A visibly angry Gov. Terry Branstad announced today that 12 separate state agencies had entered into 24 secret settlement agreements with employees topping $427,000 – a practice that he called unacceptable and declared would not happen again in his administration.

To make the sure that does not happen, the governor told reporters he has signed an executive order to increase accountability, openness and transparency of employee settlements.

“I am troubled and disappointed by the use of confidentiality agreements. This practice of keeping information from the taxpayers is unacceptable and wrong,” Branstad told his weekly news conference. He said an internal review by his administration determined that “employees were not terminated based on political affiliation.”

However, the governor said his administration’s internal review confirmed that 321 settlements have been entered into relating to personnel matters since he took office Jan. 14, 2011.

Of those, he said, 24 contained some provision relating to confidentiality and 10 involved lump-sum settlements ranging from $4,000 to $110,000.

Branstad said he has been advised by the Iowa Attorney General’s office that personnel settlement agreements cannot be confidential under Chapter 22 of the Iowa Code and any confidentiality clause that keeps the agreement secret would be unenforceable.

According to the Attorney General’s office, settlement agreements with confidentiality clauses must be released and Branstad said his administration intends to make the information available online for public access.

“I’ve signed Executive Order 85 today to ensure the executive branch operates in a transparent manner, ending the use of these confidentiality agreements, increasing accountability, and making employee settlements readily available for taxpayer viewing online,” Branstad said.

The governor said he has discussed the “ill-advised” confidentiality clauses with agency managers but no one has been disciplined or fired for engaging in a practice that he says runs counter to his administration’s philosophy.

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Here are details of the settlement agreements with confidentiality clauses released by Gov. Terry Branstad on Monday:

• 321 employee settlements occurred since January 14, 2011.

• 24 of the 321 settlements contained confidentiality agreements.

Employee settlement agreements with confidentiality clauses, state agency and lump-sum payments

Employee State agency settlement payment

Kelli Grabau, Iowa Veterans Home, $110,000

Swallow Yan, Department of Natural Resources, $100,000

Carol Frank, Department of Administration Services, $77,326

Gary Forshee, Department of Administration Services, $54,089

Tony Schmitz, Department of Administration Services, $35,725

Pam Deichmann, Department of Public Health, $20,000

Edward Martin, Department of Human Services, $10,000

Deborah Schroeder, Department of Education, $8,000

Sue Frye, Department of Human Services, $7,900

Deanna Edmond, Department of Human Services, $4,000

Confidential employee settlements, state agency (with no lump-sum payment)

Wendy Buenger, Civil Rights

Tiffanie Drayton, Civil Rights

Michele Howard, Civil Rights

John Judish, Department of Inspections and Appeals

Annette Flaherty, Civil Rights

Christopher Davis, Iowa Workforce Development

Judy Davidson, Department of Human Services

Terry McAllister, Department of Human Services

Patricia Harmeyer, Department of Transportation

Ethan Tuttle, Department of Transportation

Diana Aranda, Department of Human Services

Larry Opal, Department of Corrections

Richard Swizdor, Alcoholic Beverages Division

Tim Schaeffer, Department of Human Services

Source: Governor’s Office

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