Hatch calls on Branstad to contact authorities about employee abuse claims

Governor asks state lawmakers to ease confidentiality protections for terminated state employees

Rod Boshart
Published: April 4 2014 | 2:53 pm - Updated: 7 April 2014 | 3:12 pm in

DES MOINES – Gov. Terry Branstad’s likely rival in the 2014 election called on him Friday to report the allegations he’s made about abusive state employees to law enforcement to back up his claims.

Earlier this week, Branstad told reporters that state employees had been dismissed for incidents of elder abuse, child abuse and sexual misconduct that have gone unreported to the public due to employee confidentiality agreements and personnel protections in state law. Asked how many incidents had taken place, the governor told reporters “I don’t know, but there are a lot of them.”

On Friday, Sen. Jack Hatch, a Des Moines Democrat who likely will face Branstad, a five-term Republican, in the November general election, issued a statement urging the governor to “call law enforcement and immediately provide the names of former state employees who were abusers or predators” or to “own your fraud.”

“This is a deeply serious allegation and the governor should immediately contact law enforcement, whether it’s his own DCI or local agencies, to begin an investigation into the whereabouts of these abusers,” Hatch said in a statement.

The Des Moines Democrat said he suspects the governor may not actually know of abusers and predators in state government, and he certainly doesn’t know of “a lot of ‘em,’” Hatch added.

“Is there even one example?” Hatch asked. “Just let Iowans know a report was made and that there is some truth to what the governor said. Otherwise, what the governor said helps perpetrate a fraud in order to deflect away criticism from his office over how the administration fired state employees and brought in their friends.”

Branstad aides responded to Hogg’s request by saying disclosure of the requested information currently is prohibited by the Iowa Code. During an event in Newton Wednesday, the governor said he was unaware of Hogg’s request but noted it points up his concern that Iowa law makes personnel items confidential that cannot be disclosed.

The governor said that’s why he is asking the Legislature to change the law to allow more disclosure and hoped Hogg would work with his administration to accomplish that “and not just play politics.” Branstad said state government has “a few bad apples” that have been guilty of the offenses he cited but “unfortunately the law doesn’t permit us to release that. I think it should be available to the public in the future.”

Branstad has called on state lawmakers to ease what he considered to be overly broad confidentiality protections for state employees who are dismissed or disciplined for inappropriate on-the-job action. The governor said it was not enough to prohibit secret employment settlements from taking place, he wants the Legislature to go further and require the reasons for a state employee’s dismissal to be made public.

Monday’s debate list for the Iowa House includes a measure providing that information in any state employee’s personnel records regarding situations where an individual resigned in lieu of termination or was demoted as the result of a final disciplinary action by a government body, that the documented reasons and rationale for any resignation in lieu of termination, discharge, or demotion against an individual are public records and not confidential. The provision of House File 2462 would take effect upon enactment and retroactive to Jan. 1, 2004.

"We look forward to Sen. Hatch following Gov. Branstad and House Republican's lead in supporting House File 2460, which would increase transparency and allow the public to have access to these documents hidden by Iowa Code 22.7,” said Tommy Schultz, communications director for the Branstad-Reynolds campaign, said in response to the statement Hatch issued Friday.

Comments: (515) 243-7220; rod.boshart@sourcemedia.net

 

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