Governor Branstad was left will no real choice but to fire Department of Administrative Services Director Mike Carroll on Tuesday. Branstad had given Carroll the benefit of the doubt when he said laid off state employees did not receive extra money to sign confidentiality agreements.
That is what the DAS director told the Iowa Legislature’s Government Oversight Committee last Thursday and repeated the claim to Governor Branstad in private. However, email correspondence between two laid off employees and their attorneys showed differently. Late Tuesday afternoon, Branstad terminated Carroll’s employment, primarily because the DAS director was not truthful about the extra money.
Carroll’s lie was unnecessary. He provided a reasonable explanation for why four laid off workers were offered confidential agreements. Their positions were all terminated at the same time and the DAS was negotiating settlements with each of them. They didn’t want the employees telling others what they were getting, in an effort to save taxpayer money, Carroll said.
If Carroll had explained that was the reason they offered a little extra money for those who signed confidential agreements, he would likely still be employed today. Instead, he lied and it cost him a lucrative job.
Confidentiality agreements are a common practice in the private sector, but the pushback against the practice in state government is due to the belief that government should be open and transparent. This issue quickly became a partisan, election year witch hunt.
Iowa Democrats were hoping this episode would somehow tar Governor Branstad. However, past Democrat administrations unwittingly helped Branstad bolster his claim that he was not aware of the confidentiality agreements with former state employees.
Former Lt. Governor Patty Judge adamantly claimed on WHO-TV that the Culver/Judge administration never engaged in confidentiality agreements with employees. State records showed that they did. At least five cases of confidentiality agreements were discovered from Tom Vilsack’s tenure as governor. Vilsack claimed he has no recollection of those.
So, if Democrat gubernatorial hopeful Jack Hatch were to claim now that Branstad is incompetent for not knowing about the agreements, he is also saying Culver, Judge and Vilsack were also incompetent.
Also, Iowa Democrats and the Des Moines Register initially claimed employees were terminated due to their ties to Democrats. That was the lede of the Register’s original story on the matter. That charge was proven false by the testimony of those same employees and a look at their actual registration. Only two of the original six were Democrats. One of those Democrats, Dean Ibsen, testified to the oversight committee that he had no reason to believe his firing was political.
The Register’s claim that these settlements were “secret” also remains false. They obtained the records through a public information request. Anyone who wanted the requests could have gained access to them.
The Register also falsely claimed on Tuesday that Democrat gubernatorial hopeful Jack Hatch is a member of the Government Oversight Committee. He is not. They later changed the story, but did not note the correction.
Mike Carroll’s claim that reorganizing the DAS saved millions of dollars still holds true. That analysis was done by the non-partisan Legislative Services Agency.
The most interesting aspect of this story is the seemingly unwillingness of Iowa Senate Democrats to pass legislation barring confidentiality agreements. They are the ones that have been pushing this issue the hardest and making all sorts of claims about how the practice is improper.
Governor Branstad issued an executive order banning confidentiality agreements with state employees in the executive branch. The Iowa House passed similar legislation Monday night. However, the Democrat-controlled Iowa Senate has not taken up the bill.
That could be because every state employees union is lobbying against the bill. Those unions give hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Iowa Democratic Party and Democrat candidates. Now, after pushing this issue in an effort to tear Governor Branstad, Iowa Senate Democrats find themselves in a bind between doing what is right and doing what their financial backers want.
Photo by Dave Davidson, Prezography.com
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