During the Iowa Senate Democrats’ neverending attempts to aid the colleague Jack Hatch’s gubernatorial campaign via the Government Oversight Committee, Senator Julian Garrett stands as a voice of reason, cutting through the clutter and capably dissecting witnesses’ testimony.
More than once, Garrett has made witnesses rebut or greatly differ from claims attributed to them in the Des Moines Register. When the Register reported that “most” of six laid off DAS workers claimed they lost their jobs due to their ties to Democrats, Garrett was able to get three of the four witnesses brought before the committee to clearly state in testimony that they did not believe their firings were due to political affiliations.
Garrett, a Republican who represents Warren and Madison counties, shined again Thursday. Under Garrett’s grilling, former Democrat State Senator and outgoing Public Employee Relations Board Chairman Jim Riordan offered different testimony than what was attributed to him in the Des Moines Register that morning.
The Register claimed Riordan said former Branstad chief of staff Jeff Boeyink and attorney Brenna Findley administration “threatened to cut the office’s budget” if its three board members did not hire Robert Wilson as an administrative law judge for PERB.
Earlier in the hearing, responding to questioning from Democrat senator Matt McCoy, Jim Riordan dialed back that claim. “He didn’t say cut your budget. He said there would be consequences.”
When it was Senator Garrett’s turn to question the witness, he used some of his University of Iowa law school training to pick apart the inconsistency between that statement and the Register article, especially after Riordan changed his story again:
Riordan: It wasn’t an open threat, but it was like, ok, if you don’t do this then you’re going to have consequences in regards to budget and we concluded also salaries.
Garrett: To follow up on that, the words were, ‘If you don’t hire this fella there will be consequences to your budget, or there will be consequences’?
Riordan: It was uh, we, this was over two or three meetings, ok. What was conveyed is that our budget would be seriously impacted if we did not bring this person on board.
Garrett: Excuse me, I want to be clear on this because earlier you said there would be consequences. Now, you’re telling me there would be consequences to your budget. I’m not clear. It seems to me you’ve said different things. You have, at one point, said ‘It was implied and I felt there was an implication.’ But then another time it sounded like you’re saying it was an explicit statement, there would be consequences to your budget. Which is it?
Riordan: The implication was there would be consequences to our budget.
Garrett: Ok, but not explicitly stated. That was an implication.
The back and forth continued a bit longer, with Garrett again pointing out Riordan was “giving shifting stories”. The PERB board chair again stated clearly that no one explicitly told him his budget would be impacted, which contradicts that Des Moines Register’s claims attributed to Riordan.
Senator Garrett also capably painted Riordan as someone who might have an ax to grind, considering his long tenure on the PERB board comes to an end soon because Governor Branstad was not going to reappoint him.
“You’d been notified that you were not going to be reappointed?” Garrett asked.
“Yeah, that happened, let’s see I think I found out right at the very end of February or early March that the governor was going to go a different direction,” Riordan replied.
Riordan said more than once that he was concerned about making a living if he was removed from the board. He also complained that that the PERB board’s salary had not increased in six years, although they had received cost of living adjustments.
“What do you get paid on the board? What is your salary?” Garrett asked.
“My salary is, uh, right around, uh, I think it’s $96,500, I believe,” Riordan answered.
“You’re thinking that salary is not enough?” Garrett scoffing quizzed later.
Julian Garrett is up for reelection this year in Senate District 13. He was elected to the Iowa House in 2011 and joined the senate this following a special election to fill the seat vacated by Kent Sorenson. The farmer and attorney from Indianola is running unopposed in the June primary. He faces longtime Democrat activist Pam Deichmann in the general election.
You can view Garrett’s grilling of Jim Riordan below:
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