September 19, 2014

Senate votes for auditor to examine controversial confidential settlements with fired state workers

Two Republicans joined the 26 Democrats in the Iowa Senate to ask the state auditor to examine confidential settlements with fired state workers who were paid extra money to keep their firings secret.  Senator Rob Hogg , a Democrat from Cedar Rapids, questioned why the other 22 Republicans in the senate would resist the idea.

“I would have hired an independent auditor to do it, but we’re trusting the state auditor who’s a Republican and not only a Republican, but a Republican who was appointed by Governor Branstad,” Hogg said.

Republicans argued the audit should cover not only Branstad’s current administration, but any deals struck when Democrats Chet Culver and Tom Vilsack were governor. Senator Jack Whitver, a Republican from Ankeny, points to revelations that eight confidential settlements were struck during Culver’s four years as governor.

“This issue has been going on for several years,” Whitver said. “The reason we want to go back is figure out when this happened, why it happened and try to get to the bottom of it.”

Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs accused Republicans of trying to divert attention from the core question.

“Did the governor, did the executive branch in fact dump state employees for political reasons?” Gronstal asked during remarks on the Senate floor late Wednesday afternoon. “Maybe previous governors did, but this legislative body can’t change that.”

The money for the state audit was included in a budget bill that passed the Senate last night.

Republicans in the House, meanwhile, are crafting a bill that would put the governor’s recent executive order — which bars confidential settlements — in state law. Democrats oppose the bill because they say it would change the state’s collective bargaining law that governs negotiations between state managers and the unions that represent state workers.