Governor Branstad has named the former spokewoman for Iowa Republican Party as acting director of the Iowa Department of Human Rights.
“I think that makes her very well-qualified,” Branstad told reporters today, with a laugh. “She has worked there,in the department, and I wanted to have somebody that I thought was loyal and somebody that I thought would work well with everybody.”
Danielle Plogmann served as communications director for the Republican Party of Iowa during the 2010 election cycle. She was hired in March to be the executive assistant for Isaih McGee, the man Branstad had wanted to serve as the director of the Iowa Department of Human Rights. But senators refused to confirm McGee for the job, citing McGee’s “gag order” which forbid agency staff from speaking with legislators. McGee will remain on the state payroll, however, as he’s been hired to work as a consultant in the Department of Education.
“I think he’ll do a fine job there,” Branstad said this morning. “I feel bad for him in that he kind of got caught in the politics between the House and the Senate and unfortunately did not get confirmed because of that.”
Branstad is interviewing candidates to take over as the director of the Department of Human Rights and he does not anticipate that Plogmann will be more than a temporary agency chief.
“I think this will be fairly short term,” Branstad said. “But I think she is somebody that I think is loyal and competant and can do the job in the short term and we will have a permanent director named in the near future.”
Another official in the agency spoke at a hearing this week organized by Senate Democrats, urging the Democrats to reject a Republican plan that makes a 50 percent cut in the department’s budget. Rachel Scott, an executive officer within the Department of Human Rights, said the agency is often the place of last resort for the state’s growing minority population.
“If growing segments of Iowans are disproportionately living in poverty, incarcertated, not graduating from high school and not receiving basic health care, is that their problem or is that Iowa’s problem?” she asked.
Republican legislators say non-profit groups can do the work now done by divisions within the agency that advocate for minorities, for women and for the disabled, but Scott said those agencies don’t carry the weight of a state agency.
“We are often Iowans’ last call of resort with concerns like: ‘There is not a single child-care provider within 30 miles of me. How am I supposed to work?’ ‘My newborn son is deaf and our insurance is calling it a pre-existing condition,'” Scott told legislators. “When we get those calls, we determine how best to help them.”
According to Scott, the agency has 41 fewer staff positions because of recent restructuring — and that’s before the proposed 50 percent cut in the agency’s operating budget for the next state budgeting year which begins July 1.