The director of the Iowa Department of Human Services has won senate confirmation to stay in the job, despite complaints from some senators about controversial closings of state-run Mental Health Institutions in Clarinda and Mount Pleasant and the Iowa Juvenile Home in Toledo.
DHS chief Chuck Palmer was confirmed for another four-year term in the job by a vote of 39-11.
Senator Rob Hogg, a Democrat from Cedar Rapids, calls the closings illegal because the legislature never approved them.
“So this is a gut check moment for this body,” Hogg said. “I think it is essential that we say, ‘No, we are not going to tolerate lawbreakers as directors of our departments.'”
Senator David Johnson, a Republican from Ocheyedan, said Palmer is a compassionate and stable leader.
“This is a gut check,” Johnson said. “…I have full confidence in director Palmer.”
Johnson also discounted a district court judge’s ruling that Governor Branstad overstepped his authority in closing the Juvenile Home.
“What a judge says is an opinion,” Johnson said. “I haven’t seen anything there that negates what happened last November. Elections have consequences and if there was a lack of confidence by the people in the direction that we’re going, we would have heard that.”
Senator Rich Taylor, a Democrat from Mount Pleasant, responded to Johnson.
“There would have been a bigger consequence to last November had the people of Iowa known the governor for three years has been planning to close these two mental health institutions,” Taylor said, “but he didn’t bother to tell anybody about that before the election.”
Palmer got five more votes than the two-thirds support he needed to win confirmation. The state senate on Tuesday also voted to confirm the governor’s budget director for another four year term. The woman who’s been leading the Department of Administrative Services since the governor fired the former director last year was also confirmed by the senate yesterday.