The governor is dispatching one of his department directors to take over as the chief operating officer at the Iowa Veterans Home in Marshalltown.
The move comes about 24 hours after a variety of concerns about Iowa Veterans Home Commandant David Worley were aired at a legislative hearing, but Tim Albrecht — a spokesman for Governor Branstad — said Iowa Department of Veterans Affairs director Jodi Tymeson is taking on a newly-created role at the Veterans Home, and Worley will be her boss.
“He will be the name, the voice, the face and the person who creates the overall vision of the Iowa Veterans Home,” Albrecht told reporters. “…General Jodi Tymeson is going to oversee the day-to-day efforts. She’s going to oversee the departments and the staff who work within those departments to ensure that those residents of the Iowa Veterans Home get the care they deserve and the care that Iowans expect them to have.”
On Monday afternoon about a dozen people testified at a public hearing about Worley, accusing him of being a bully. A long-term care advocate said residents told her they felt as if the home had become a prison. Albrecht said this change in management of the home has been “in the works” for a while.
“This is unrelated to anything that was aired yesterday and, in fact, David Worley has the governor’s full faith and confidence,” Albrecht said. “…These kind of decisions aren’t just made overnight. This has been a long process and one that everyone believes will continue to offer the high-quality care to Iowa’s veterans.”
When news of the management change broke, Senator Steve Sodders, a Democrat from State Center who represents the Marshalltown area, told reporters he hopes this is in response to the concerns that were aired at Monday’s hearing.
“I think this is a first good step, that they did hear. They did listen and they did understand that somebody else has to be there, to kind of be a watchdog,” Sodders said.
But the governor’s staff insists the management change has been in the works for weeks, prompting Sodders to say he’ll take the governor’s staff “at their word.” Senator Matt McCoy, a Democrat from Des Moines, also participated in Monday’s hearing.
“I’ll give ’em the benefit of the doubt,” McCoy told reporters this afternoon. “But clearly there was a timing that startling and not coincidental.”
McCoy said management issues at the Veterans Home appear to be a “complete nightmare” for residents and staff.
“What concerned me about the governor’s announcement is that in the announcement it indicated the home had had a ‘sterling review’ and I hardly consider what we heard yesterday sterling,” McCoy said. “And the fact that they’re perpetuating that through the governor’s office is a myth and it deserves a full investigation.”
Sodders has been calling for the governor to place Worley on paid administrative leave until a criminal investigation of the complaints can be completed.
“If you want to get down to the nitty-gritty, to get to feel comfortable to testify or to talk to investigators, the head there cannot still be there putting the intimidation down on people,” Sodders said this afternoon. “If you remove him with leave with pay then the investigation can happen and I think it’ll actually help Jodi. Jodi can run the place. She can be a part of the investigation on these complaints and if it comes out that there’s nothing to it, then he comes back to work.”
The governor’s spokesman said Branstad has no intention of placing the commandant on paid leave.
“David Worley does have the governor’s full support,” Albrecht said. “(He) has been a phenomenal leader for the Iowa Veterans Home.”
Worley was named head of the Iowa Veterans Home in August of 2010 by former Governor Chet Culver and Terry Branstad kept Worley on when Branstad became governor again in 2011. Tymeson — the new chief operating officer for the Veterans Home — is a former legislator and a retired brigadier general. She was the Iowa National Guard’s highest-ranking woman when she retired. She’ll start her new job at the Veterans Home on May 28.