There’s still an open investigation of allegations the former commandant of the Iowa Veterans Home mistreated residents of the home, plus new questions are being raised about a previous investigation of allegations the home’s manager sexually harassed and threatened employees.
Jeff Panknen of the Iowa Department of Administrative Services conducted two investigations into complaints about former Iowa Veterans Home Commandant David Worley, but Panknen told legislators today he cannot disclose many details.
“I’d want to make sure I’m allowed to share that information before I shared that,” Panknen said during a nearly two-and-a-half hour long Senate Oversight Committee hearing.
Panknen’s boss told senators an executive summary of the investigation was turned over to the governor’s chief of staff and Senator Matt McCoy, a Democrat from Des Moines, said the public deserves to know whether the investigation concluded the complaints against Worley were valid and Worley should have been fired.
“Who knows what actions the governor took as a result of these two investigations?” McCoy asked. “Is it just the governor? I’m mean, is it the governor and God?”
McCoy recently listened to the recording of Panknen’s interview of a former Veterans Home employee who said the commandant made sexually explicit comments to her and intimidated staff.
“I think the allegations that were brought forward and obviously sent to the governor were never acted on and that’s what I’m alleging today because I have no evidence to the contrary,” McCoy said. “I think the governor swept it under the rug.”
Ruth Cooperrider, the state Ombudsman, told legislators her agency doesn’t have authority to investigate complaints from Veterans Home employees, but she and her staff are investigating complaints about Worley from the veterans who live in the facility.
“We are in the process of interviewing individuals,” Cooperrider said.
In addition, Cooperrider’s investigative team has reviewed the investigative reports about Worley that were turned in to the governor’s office, but the Department of Administrative Services had stipulations.
“Initially we got resistance,” Cooperrider said. “…Finally we were allowed access to look at the file, but it was not as freely as I wanted. They required us to sign a ‘Memorandum of Understanding’ for us to review the file under their supervision and we could not remove any of the documents and we could not make copies either.”
Cooperrider, however, said confidentiality requirements prevent her from revealing what was in the files.
Former Governor Chet Culver hired David Worley to be commandant of the Iowa Veterans Home. When Terry Branstad became governor in 2011, Branstad kept Worley on and, when Worley left the job last fall, Branstad praised Worley’s work.
A spokesman for the governor issued a written statement this afternoon, saying the allegations about Worley are “protected” by law, because they are contained “within the individual’s personnel file.”
“It’s ironic Senate Democrats are discussing personnel matters on the same day they unveiled a bill which disregards the increased transparency measure passed by the Iowa House in a bipartisan fashion,” Branstad press secretary Jimmy Centers said. “If Senate Democrats were truly interested in increased transparency they wouldn’t be caving to union opposition to openness of personnel files.”