Governor Culver this morning signed an executive order creating a Dependent Adult Task Force. The move is in response to the situation in the eastern Iowa town of Atalissa, where 21 mentally retarded men were living in a bunkhouse which the fire marshall shut down for fire code violations. Officials later discovered the men were being paid little, as most of their paychecks from a turkey slaughterhouse in West Liberty were turned over to a Texas firm which ran the bunkhouse.
"In Iowa, we expect all employers, including the out-of-state corporations doing business in our state, to take the high road and to play by the rules and above all there will absolutely be no tolerance for those who would take advantage of our most-vulnerable citizens," Culver says.
The governor vows to "fully investigate" other unlicensed facilities which house dependent adults. Culver has asked the task force to make recommendations for changes in state regulations or in state law to ensure the "deplorable" situation in Atalissa isn’t happening elsewhere. "We will not allow dependent adult citizens with mental retardation to be the victims of the kind of predatory behavior that seems to have been practiced by the Henry’s Turkey Service," Culver says. Henry’s Turkey Service is the Texas company that ran the bunkhouse in Atalissa where mentally retarded men ranging in age from 29 to over 70 lived.
The mayor of Atalissa and a member of the city council are testifying this morning before the Legislature’s Oversight Committee. The City of Atalissa owned the 105-year-old school building which was turned into a bunkhouse for the mentally retarded men and the Texas company paid rent to the city for over 30 years.