The embattled director of the Iowa Department of Administrativer Services is offering a public apology for offering four former employees confidential settlements, but he denies anyone was offered “hush money” to keep the details of those deals secret.
Department director Mike Carroll said confidentiality clauses were used so the laid off workers wouldn’t compare notes on the exit packages they were being offered.
I’m sorry for not recognizing the fact that these confidentiality clauses were not in compliance with the governor’s transparent government initiatives and it will not happen again,” Carroll said today.
Carroll testified before the Legislative Oversight Committee today, explaining his decision to switch to a new way of managing state government construction contracts. It meant seven agency workers were laid off, three new workers with new job titles were hired and the state signed contracts with six private companies to oversee $430 million in state government building projects.
“Many times positive change requires some very difficult and, frankly, sometimes heart-wrenching decisions to be made…so when the decision was made to reorganize I want everyone to know that it bothered me greatly and it still does,” Carroll said, pausing as his voice broke. “That’s not to say I shouldn’t make those decisions.”
Carroll points to a calculation developed by the Legislative Services Agency which concludes his agency is saving 1.2 percent in “operational costs” on government construction contracts because of the new way projects are monitored. He projects $12 million in savings in a few years.
Three laid off workers on Wednesday told legislators they were offered additional money in their exit packages to keep the details secret. One said she was first offered an extra $2,000 and, when she said no, was offered $5,000 extra in her settlement. Carroll disputed that today.
“I don’t think that’s a true statement,” Carroll said.
Later, Carroll told reporters “that just didn’t happen.” Carol Frank, the former state worker who made the allegation, heard the director’s denial.
“It did happen,” Frank told reporters. “I remember I was with my husband in Hy-Vee, in the check-out line, and I get this call and I’m just going: ‘What?'”
During his testimony, the department director also urged legislators to pass a law that not only makes the governor’s executive order barring confidential settlements in the future, but to go further and make public the reasons state workers sign agreements as they exit state government.
“A lot of those performance issues…I think a lot of you would find quite shocking,” Carroll said. “At that point, if individuals are terminated or agree to leave state employment, it’s very difficult for anyone else to tell why they left.”
Carroll said a state worker fired for sex abuse, for example, could be rehired by another state or a private company and the state is prohibited from disclosing the abuse.
Carroll said his staff has gone through 45 boxes of documents and uncovered a confidential settlement agreement struck in 2000 or 2001, during former Governor Tom Vilsack’s administration. Carroll told legislators his agency can continue the search, but “it’s a laborious, time-consuming process”
“If you’re interested in solving the issue, I think the issue is on the table, out in the open,” Carroll said. “…We could go back as far as you want and come up with as many numbers as you want for who’s ever administration you might like, but the issue will not change.”