A legislative committee is suspending its investigation into the Atalissa bunkhouse case for fear it would impede the ongoing investigation by law enforcement. Eleven separate state and federal agencies are investigating the case where 21 mentally retarded men lived in the bunkhouse in Atalissa until the fire marshal declared the house unsafe.
Senator Rich Olive, a Democrat from Story City, is co-chair of the committee and says they will hold off on the legislative hearings until they get the okay from the D.C.I. "Over the next couple of weeks were going to allow that investigation to continue but be assured that this committee will do its job and do the responsibilities we’ve been entrusted to do," Olive says.
The committee had hoped to hear testimony from officials with the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals, which has come under scrutiny for how it handled past complaints about the bunkhouse. the other committee chair, Representative Vicki Lensing, a Democrat from Iowa City, says there needs to be a general number where people can all in complaints.
She says there is not one number to call. "And if you’re involved with DHS maybe you know who to contact but in terms of big picture we don’t have a system in place. So I think that’s certainly something the agencies need to look at and that we as a committee can follow up on," Lensing says. Lensing says the Atalissa case also shows the need for additional whistle blower protections.