The legislature’s top two leaders are pursuing different paths when it comes to the controversy over confidential settlement agreements with state employees. Republicans like House Speaker Kraig Paulsen of Hiawatha argue it’s important to find out how many of these agreements were made during the administrations of previous Democratic governors Chet Culver and Tom Vilsack.
“Thankfully, when Governor Branstad found out about it, he immediately stopped it,” Paulsen told reporters Thursday. “But it appears to be something that’s embedded in the bureaucracy and we need to find out what’s going on.”
Department of Administrative Services officials told legislators Thursday they searched through 45 boxes of documents and found five confidential settlements from Vilsack’s eight-year tenure. The agency previously reported finding eight during Culver’s four years in office.
Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs has been arguing digging through the past is irrelevant to the current issue.
“The Branstad Administration paid people money to shut the hell up,” Gronstal told reporters Thursday. “The Culver Administration never did that.”
Department of Administrative Services director Mike Carroll denies workers were offered extra cash in their settlement package if they agreed to keep the deals confidential.
“That just didn’t happen,” Carroll told reporters Thursday.
Carroll testified before the Legislature’s Oversight Committee Thursday, saying the decision to lay off workers had been “heart-wrenching.” Carroll cited a Legislative Services Agency analysis which concluded his department’s new system of overseeing state government construction projects yielded 1.2 percent annual savings in its first year. With a construction budget of hundreds of millions of dollars, Carroll said that likely will translate into $1.5 million dollars in savings in this state budgeting year.