More follow-up on secret deals

The Gazette Opinion Staff
Published: March 26 2014 | 12:01 am - Updated: 1 April 2014 | 10:09 am in

By The Gazette Editorial Board

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Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad was right to be angry about revelations that 12 state agencies have made 24 secret termination settlement agreements with employeees ó payouts totaling $427,000 ó since he was took office in 2011.

ďThis practice of keeping information from the taxpayers is unacceptable and wrong,Ē he said during a news conference Monday. ďHeads will rollĒ if it happens again.

Assuming the governor was completely in the dark about these deals, why shouldnít some heads roll now?

The governor said his administrationís internal review, launched after a Des Moines Register story that documented some of the settlements, found that 321 settlements involving personnel matters have been carried out. Of the 24 issued with confidentiality, 10 involved lump sum payments ranging from $4,000 to $110,000.

Branstad also said Monday that the Iowa Attorney Generalís Office told him that personnel settlement agreements cannot be confidential, according to the Iowa Code.

The names of the 24 former state employees involved in those deals were released Monday, along with the payment amounts. The governor also issued an executive order banning state agencies from entering into settlement agreements without authorization from the Attorney Generalís office, specifically forbids confidentiality agreements and requires all settlement deals to be posted online.

Thatís all good, but itís troubling that the administrationís department heads involved in those deals chose to keep them secret in the first place. Itís not accountable to Iowans. And it raises suspicions that the settlements were largely politically motivated.

At the least, the Attorney Generalís Office should investigate how the deals were made and clear the air. And the governor should formally propose legislation that would make permanent what his executive order called for.

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