July 25, 2014

Ex-Branstad aide says governor ‘has to improve’ management of state gov’t

A long-time ally of Republican Governor Terry Branstad says Branstad needs to act now to address concerns that have been raised about his management of state government. Des Moines attorney Doug Gross, the Republican Party’s 2002 nominee for governor, once served as Branstad’s chief of staff.

“I think he can improve his governance of the state and I think he needs to,” Gross says.

Branstad has been beset by recent revelations about alleged sexual harassment and bullying at the Iowa Veterans Home to the disclosure that a dozen state agencies struck at least 25 confidential settlements with laid off workers, some of whom were paid extra to stay silent about the deals. A fellow Republican, House Speaker Kraig Paulsen of Hiawatha, has repeatedly suggested the controversies are being manufactured by Senate Democrats for one of their own — Senator Jack Hatch, the Democrat who will challenge Branstad’s reelection this fall.

“Politics clearly and particularly the gubernatorial campaign entered the Iowa Senate and virtually brought us to a standstill for many weeks,” Paulsen said Friday afternoon.

Daily floor speeches in the Iowa Senate have raised questions about Branstad’s management of state government. The Senate Oversight Committee has grilled some administrators and has given a handful of state workers a chance to air their grievances during lengthy hearings. Gross, who urged Branstad to come out of political retirement in 2010 and run for governor, says there has been no better campaigner in the history of Iowa.

“The issue is not the campaign. The issue is the governance,” Gross says. “I mean the question here is whether or not he, in fact, has appropriate control and management of the state government. That’s the issue here. Now, that bleeds into impacting an election.”

Branstad often says that he is not a “micromanager” and Gross agrees, calling Branstad’s a “great delegator.”

“That’s why people love him, love to work for him and he’s a great person, but he does delegate because he likes to be out with the people,” Gross says. “Well, you’ve got to, then, have people within the organization that are running the place consistent with your principles and your management style. In some cases that hasn’t happened, so it has to improve.”

Gross made his comments during a weekend appearance on Iowa Public Television’s “Iowa Press” program.