Governor Terry Branstad says the Iowa Civil Rights Commission was “a total mess” when he became governor again in 2011.
“You had people in that agency who were literally not investigating cases and spending all their time doing personal email on state computers,” Branstad says. “You had people in that agency, supposed to be investigating civil rights complaints, that had nasty nicknames for all of their co-workers.”
Three employees were fired last summer for sending vulgar emails. One of the workers sent an average of 75 personal emails per day, but completed just one state civil rights investigation during a four-month period.
Branstad’s comments come as the NAACP charges that the agency over the past 15 years has had a dismal record of reviewing complaints of discrimination. In January of 2010 Branstad appointed a civil rights attorney who also had experience as a military lawyer to lead the Iowa Civil Rights Commission.
“She’s a done a great job and I guess I think, if you want to look back the last 10 years, I admit it was a disaster. It was a mess,” Branstad says. “She’s dramatically turned things around and I think if you look prospectively forward I think you’re going to see much different results from the Civil Rights Commission under her leadership.”
According to an NAACP analysis, the Iowa Civil Rights Commission found just one percent of complaints alleging discrimination in the areas of education, credit applications and employment reached “probable cause” status for future action. The 15-year period covered the final part of Branstad’s third term as governor and the beginning of his fifth term in 2010. The two terms of Democratic Governor Tom Vilsack and single, four-year term of Governor Chet Culver, a Democrat, are also included in that time period.