A Democratic senator is accusing Branstad Administration officials of playing “rope-a-dope” with legislators seeking answers about secret settlements paid to fired state workers. Senator Matt McCoy, a Democrat from Des Moines, said this morning that legislators need to find out where a dozen state agency managers found nearly half a million dollars of “hush money” in their budgets.
“This is not a monarchy,” McCoy said during a speech on the Senate floor. “We come in and we hold people accountable. That’s our job.”
McCoy questions why the top three managers in the Department of Administrative Services aren’t available today to appear before the legislature’s Oversight Committee to answer questions.
“I’m told they’re being directed to stall, stall, stall; not come in, play the clock, rope-a-dope,” McCoy said. That’s their game.”
The top Republican leader in the House said late this morning that Republicans are just as interested in getting answers, but House Speaker Kraig Paulsen of Hiawatha is accusing Democrats of grandstanding.
“I’m looking forward to the Senate Democrats spending as much time and energy on doing Iowans’ work as they the Jack Hatch gubernatorial campaign,” Paulsen told reporters today during his weekly news conference.
Hatch, a current member of the Iowa Senate, is the only Democrat running for governor. According to Paulsen, legislators are going through “quite a bit of information” in documents Republican Governor Terry Branstad gave legislators Monday. Paulsen said Republicans may participate in next week’s Oversight Committee hearings.
“If it’s about getting to the bottom and getting to the answers that are still outstanding and making sure that good public policy’s taking place, absolutely,” Paulsen said. “If this is about another one of these campaign events, then no. That’s not what the people of Iowa pay us to do.”
Senator McCoy said legislators need to hold the “massive bureaucracy” of the executive branch of state government accountable.
“I know the governor would like to end it with the executive order and sweep it under the rug,” McCoy said. “But…I have neews for Governor Branstad that we do have a job to do here, an oversight job. We’re going to be fair and we’re going to be reasonable, but we’re going to ask some tough questions.”
Branstad issued an executive order Monday which bars confidential settlement agreements with state workers who’re being terminated and he told reporters “heads would roll” if any of his managers try to use them again. Senator Sandy Greiner, a Republican from Washington, Iowa, on Wednesday said the Branstad Administration needs to tell legislators “exactly why” the workers were fired.
“That’s the piece that nobody is talking about,” Greiner said during a short speech on the Senate floor. “…We, as appropriators, need to know why. What were the charges? Why were those people asked to leave? And I, for one, am not going home until I find out.”
Greiner is a member of the legislature’s Oversight Committee. The panel plans to meet next week to interview Branstad Administration officials.