July 23, 2014

Former Veterans Home CPA says there were reprisals for raising management questions

The former business manager at the Iowa Veterans Home says he was demoted, then dismissed after he raised concerns about a major construction project at the home.

Greg Wright testified before the Senate Oversight Committee on Monday, telling legislators his pay was cut by $33,000 and his office was moved near a loading dock after he refused to sign a document certifying the work was being done according to federal guidelines. Wright said he had complained to the personnel agency in state government about the conduct of former Iowa Veterans Home commandant David Worley.

“At every turn it seemed that the governor’s office did not want to hear about anything going awry at the Iowa Veterans Home,” Wright said. “It has been very disheartening to hear repeatedly from the Branstad Administration in the public domain that no credible person has stepped forward…Career state employees, active and inactive, have tried under threat of dismissal, reclassification, pay reduction and professional isolation to communicate up the chain of command.”

Wright said he witnessed some of the same unprofessional and intimidating behavior from Worley that a top female executive at the home reported to investigators. According to Wright, an official in Branstad’s Department of Administrative Services discouraged him from becoming a whistleblower.

“I asked repeatedly: What protection would I have? I was told there was none,” Wright says. “How would you feel as a 29-year, career state employee that you might probably be putting your IPERS retirement at risk by coming forward?”

Wright, a certified public accountant who was a “merit” employee in state government, worked at the home for 14 years. In July of 2012 Wright was dismissed and replaced with an “at will” employee who could be hand-picked by top state managers and hired without a job search.

The Iowa Senate’s Oversight Committee hearing testimony Monday from Wright and a handful of other executives about the long-delayed upgrades at the Iowa Veterans Home in Marshalltown. Senate Democrats argue poor management of the project has put millions in federal funding at risk and has resulted in completion of just one phase of the four-phase project. Senate Republicans on the panel say Governor Branstad’s administration has made changes that have reduced cost-over-runs on the work that has been done.

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