A lawyer who works for the state says he’s in shock after two of the governor’s top deputies demanded his resignation yesterday.
Christopher Godfrey, the Iowa Workers Compensation Commissioner, says after he refused, his salary was cut by 33 percent.
“I informed them that I was unwilling to resign. I gave up a lot to take on this position. I gave up a legal career to take on this position and that I was not in a position, financially or otherwise, to give up the position,” Godfrey said during an interview with Radio Iowa.
“I was then told would I change my mind if they would cut my salary by nearly $40,000. I told them that, no, that would not change my position because I took an oath to the people of Iowa and the senators who voted for me, and then they immediately turned around and cut my salary immediately after I left their office.”
Godfrey met with the governor’s chief of staff and legal counsel yesterday.
“I can’t believe another Iowan would treat a hard-working Iowan in this manner. I’ve put in a lot of effort to serve the people of Iowa. I have respect from both the business community and the labor community,” Godfrey told Radio Iowa. “…I earn a salary that is a fair salary for the work that I do.”
Until yesterday, Godfrey’s annual salary was $109,000. Godfrey has been the state’s workers compensation commissioner since January of 2006. He was reconfirmed for the post in 2009, on a 49-0 vote in the state senate, which means no Republican raised a concern about Godfrey, and his term is to end on April 30, 2015.
“I was shocked by what I would call, maybe, the extortion, being put on the spot about my salary,” Godfrey told Radio Iowa. “…It really was sort of a low-ball deal in terms of the way that it was carried out, in my opinion.”
Godfrey, who is 38 years old, is a life-long Iowan and a graduate of Drake University Law School. Godfrey spent most of his legal career as a lawyer for IBP, which is now part of Tyson Foods, and other large employers. He then worked as a defense lawyer for injured workers for a couple of years before taking the job in state government. Godfrey isn’t ruling out a lawsuit against the state.
“I believe there may be some recourse that is available,” Godfrey said this morning. “I don’t have that answer at this time, but I have consulted with an attorney.”
Godfrey oversees a staff of 12 administrative law judges who make decisions about workers compensation disputes, as well as staff who monitor Iowa businesses’ compliance with workers compensation laws.
A spokesman for Governor Branstad says the governor asked Godfrey to resign last November, and since he refuses to do so, the governor’s only recourse to express his displeasure is to cut Godfrey’s salary.
“This is not unusual. governors do this all the time,” Branstad spokesman Tim Albrecht said this morning. “And Mr. Godfrey did not resign and chose, instead, to serve out his term.”
Albrecht, who is the governor’s communications director, said Branstad believes Godfrey’s job performance is adding to the costs of doing business in Iowa.
“In the last four years Iowa has gone from the 45th least expensive workers comp claims in the country to 36th,” Albrecht said. “Under Mr. Godfrey’s leadership it’s actually gotten more expensive to do business at a time when we need to be more cmopetitive not just with other states but across the world in this global marketplace.”
Albrecht said Branstad wants to install individuals in state government who “share his vision for the future” and the governor doesn’t believe Godfrey fits that bill.
“Workers comp claims have become too expensive on our job creators and we believe that is unacceptable and the governor is seeking to put in place a different leader in there who would better manage Iowa’s workers comp system,” Albrecht said during a telephone interview with Radio Iowa.
(This article was updated at 11:04 a.m.)