Governor Branstad is suggesting critics of the Iowa Veterans Home’s commandant are engaged in a political witch hunt.

Branstad has repeatedly defended the way Commandant David Worley is managing the home in Marshalltown, however late last week Branstad named a retired Iowa National Guard Brigadier General to be the home’s chief operating officer and oversee the “day-to-day” management of the Veterans Home..

“She can help Commandant Worley address some,” Branstad told reporters this morning, but he didn’t finish that sentence before he moved on to another. “And I would also say, you know, most importantly the veterans who are residents of that home get the best possible care and we are confident that is the case. We want to make sure it continues to be.”

The state senator who represents Marshalltown has called on the governor to place the commandant on paid administrative leave while questions about his management are investigated, but Branstad said that won’t happen.

“I think this has got a lot to do with politics and I think it’s got a lot to do with personalities,” Branstad said this morning. “But the fact is I think we have a very dedicated public servant and I guess I don’t appreciate people using character assassination and attacking people with second-hand information.”

About a dozen former employees and members of the Marshalltown residents voiced their concerns about Commandant Worley during a legislative hearing last week, accusing Worley of being a bully. That testimony hasn’t convinced Branstad there’s a problem.

“There’s a lot of second-hand information and a lot of hearsay that people have repeated,” Branstad said.

A state long-term care advocate who met with 11 residents of the home in January told lawmakers the residents told her they feel as if the home has turned into a prison and they are afraid of Worley. The governor told reporters he’s never heard of that meeting and the concerns raised by the residents.

Branstad discussed this subject during his weekly news conference. Find the audio here.