April 18, 2014

Olson, Hatch say governor should explain why public safety commissioner left

Two Democrats in the legislature who’re running for governor say Republican Governor Terry Branstad needs to explain why the state’s public safety commissioner has resigned.

Brian London resigned Tuesday night after a private meeting with Branstad and, while Branstad issued a written statement about London’s replacement, Branstad has been silent as to why London left. Representative Tyler Olson of Cedar Rapids, a Democrat who announced he was running for governor in June, says Branstad’s “lack of oversight” has put Iowans in “jeopardy.”

“Director London’s departure is part of a pattern of mismanagement at government agencies — the Iowa Veterans Home, the Iowa Juvenile Home, now the Iowa Department of Public Safety — where the public places a lot of trust to protect especially vulnerable Iowans,” Olson says.

According to Olson, Iowa’s rank-and-file law enforcement officers are doing a great job in serving and protecting the public, but Branstad has hired administrators who are “not up to the job.”

“I think there’s some real questions about the governor’s inability to provide effective oversight of agencies that are tasked with protecting vulnerable Iowans,” Olson says. “Whether it’s at the Veterans Home or the Juvenile Home, there’s just a lack of attention by the governor to these important agencies.”

Branstad recently appointed a task force to recommend changes at the Juvenile Home after revelations that some teenage girls in the facility were kept in isolation cells for months at a time. Last spring Branstad asked a retired Iowa National Guard brigadier general to step into a top job at the Iowa Veterans Home after citizens complained to legislators about how the home’s commandant was running the facility.

Senator Jack Hatch, a Democrat from Des Moines, plans to formally declare himself a candidate for governor later this month. In a written statement, Hatch said the governor “owes us an explanation” as to why the state’s public safety commissioner abruptly resigned Tuesday night. Hatch questions why Branstad backed London for months, “despite numerous concerns and incidents” that may cost the state “hundreds of thousands of dollars” in attorneys fees and legal settlements.

Here is Branstad’s first and so far only public statement on London’s departure and his appointment of Larry Noble to lead the agency:

(DES MOINES) – Gov. Terry E. Branstad today named Larry Noble as head of the Iowa Department of Public Safety following the resignation of Brian London.

“I am pleased to bring Larry Noble back to serve as Public Safety Commissioner,” said Branstad. “Larry has 30 years of experience in the Iowa Department of Public Safety, and served four years in the Iowa Senate, giving him the experience and leadership ability to restore stability and predictability within this very important department of state government.

“I appreciate Larry’s willingness to come back and serve Iowans in this important role. Larry Noble has a reputation for integrity and humility, which is important as we focus on the department’s future. I have chosen Larry because he has a wealth of experience in the Iowa Department of Public Safety, and has demonstrated the ability to lead with integrity.

“Larry Noble has the respect of the people within the department, and he will be a strong leader as we move forward.”