Governor Chet Culver denies he’s demoted the chief of staff at the Rebuild Iowa Office after a dust-up with legislators, but Culver says the man he’s put in charge will tackle the "real challenges" of disaster recovery.
Rebuild Iowa Office Chief of staff Emily Hajek testified last Thursday before a House panel and legislators from both political parties raised pointed questions about the agency’s spending, especially on staff salaries. On Friday, Governor Culver announced that retired Brigadier General Ron Dardis, the former head of the Iowa National Guard, was taking over as executive director of the Rebuild Iowa Office. "Actually, there’s one person and one person only who’s in charge of RIO, and that’s General Dardis," Culver says.
Culver says Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge was an interim director of the office, but hasn’t had direct oversight of the Rebuild Iowa Office "for some time" and Hajek had assumed many of the top duties. "I believe that the time is right for General Dardis to step into that important position…to head the Rebuild Iowa Office," Culver said Monday afternoon during a news conference in his office. "And (I) look forward to working with the legislature during the rest of this session to address any issues or questions that they have."
According to Culver, the Rebuild Iowa Office deserves "some credit" for the "good news" of securing federal help for flood and tornado victims, although the governor adds legislators have raised "fair questions" about the office, including the $19,000 spent putting new carpeting in the Rebuild Iowa Office. "And we’re going to answer all those questions and provide all the information that the legislature needs," Culver said.
A spokeswoman for the Rebuild Iowa Office say the space they’re occupying used to be used by the state crime lab and replacing the carpeting was an "environmental health" issue. Culver also announced today that the new federal Homeland Security secretary will visit Cedar Rapids and Iowa City on Wednesday to inspect flood damage and recovery efforts.