Governor Terry Branstad today said Iowa Department of Public Safety officials were justified in the firing of the Division of Criminal Investigation agent who reported the governor’s vehicle was speeding excessively.
According to Branstad, Special Agent Larry Hedlund’s firing was unrelated to the speeding incident.
“I can’t go into the details of this,” Branstad said during a noon-time news conference in his statehouse office. “I can just say that they felt for the morale and for the safety and well-being of the department, this was action that was necessary.”
Hedlund was fired Wednesday after a 25-year career in the DCI and he’s suing. Hedlund’s bosses drafted a confidential, 500-page report on his conduct and firing that Branstad said he read for the first time this morning.
Branstad met with reporters a few hours later to publicly call on Hedlund to agree to release the report.
“I’ve got to be so careful,” Branstad said. “I would love to tell you everything, but the lawyers tell me I can’t and this is what’s so frustrating to me because I believe in openness and that’s why I am saying instead of making false accusations and only giving people a portion of the facts, let’s let the public see all the facts.”
When asked whether the state’s Public Safety commissioner has his “full support,” Branstad said he’s not going to “second-guess” the decision to fire Hedlund. Critics charge it’s too much of a coincidence that the agent who first reported the vehicle carrying the governor and lieutenant governor was speeding back on April 26th now has been fired.
“That’s the same questions that I asked and I asked very emphatically, just like an attorney would in cross-examination, of public safety (officials) today,” Branstad told reporters.
Branstad is accusing Hedlund and his attorney of making “false accusations” about the reasoning behind Hedlund’s firing. The governor said that’s why he wants Hedlund to agree to release the confidential, 500-page report on Hedlund’s conduct.
“The public should be able to see all the facts and know the whole history of it and the specifics,” Branstad says.
Documents which have been released show Hedlund had been accused of “insubordination” and of using a state vehicle on a vacation day. It was the day of the now-infamous speeding incident which focused public attention on the unregistered license plates for the governor’s vehicle. Branstad said after 9/11, there are security reasons for not identifying the governor’s vehicle, but he has directed state transportation officials to review the hundreds of other state vehicles that have plates which don’t show up on traffic enforcement cameras.
“There are 3200 unidentified official license plates. This is an unacceptably large number,” Branstad said. “…When the review concludes, the amount of unidentified plates should be restricted to those only absolutely necessary because nobody is above the law. We public servants need to lead by example.”
The governor said from now on, the troopers who drive him around the state will “abide by” the speed limit unless there’s an emergency.
“I’m not trying to second guess what’s done…what I’m saying is I don’t want to see another incident like this occur,” Branstad said.
The trooper who was driving the governor and lieutenant governor on April 26 was clocked going 84 miles an hour. The governor said that trooper’s superiors have not completed their review of the speeding incident.
AUDIO of Branstad’s news conference, 15:38