Governor Terry Branstad is dismissing complaints from Democrats about the way the director of the Iowa Workforce Development agency is handling disputes over unemployment benefits.
“I have great confidence in Teresa Wahlert,” Branstad said this morning during his weekly news conference. “I think she’s an outstanding administrator. I think she’s very fair.”
Senate Democrats charge Iowa Workforce Development director Teresa Wahlert is trying to tilt unemployment cases in favor of businesses by firing the chief judge in charge of the administrative law judges who handle the cases and putting herself in charge. She’s also asked the judges to develop “tip sheets” and Democrats say those are designed to help businesses win their cases. Branstad strongly rejects that.
“This is the same kind of stuff that the Department of Revenue gives to taxpayers, in other words how you can comply with the law, how you can do things right, how you can do things well,” Branstad said. “It’s advice on how you can be successful and the information is available on their website to everyone — to the employee that’s making the claim and to the employer, so I think it’s very fair and very even-handed.”
The legislature’s top Democrat late last week said the “tip sheets” were an effort to cheat workers out of their unemployment benefits. Branstad said Wahlert has never tried to change an administrative law judge’s ruling on a case.
“These are very unfair, personal attacks against her and I’m very proud of the work that she has done,” Branstad said.
Wahlert worked for over thirty years in the telecommunications industry, starting her career in Northwestern Bell, continuing with U.S. West and then Qwest before retiring in 2002. She soon returned to the business world, serving as head of the Greater Des Moines Chamber of Commerce before taking over as CEO of The Mid-America Group, a real estate development and investment firm. Branstad appointed her to lead the Iowa Workforce Development agency in early 2011.