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April 3rd, 2014
 

Witnesses Refute Democrat, Register Claims; Possible Witness Tampering by Committee Chair

Three of the four former state employees that the Democrat-led Iowa Senate government oversight committee heard testimony from on Wednesday said they did not think their firings were politically motivated. Those statements directly refute attacks by the Iowa Democratic Party and run counter to the main basis of the Des Moines Register’s “investigation” into supposedly secret settlements paid by state departments.

Here is the first sentence of the Register’s article from March 16, the initial article on the issue of settlements paid to fired state employees:

 “The state of Iowa has paid more than $282,000 over the past three years in secret settlement deals with six former employees, most of whom claimed their jobs were eliminated because they have Democratic ties.”

That claim, made by Register writer Jason Clayworth, was refuted by three of those six former employees during Wednesday’s hearing. Sen. Julian Garrett asked the witnesses at the hearing if they believed they lost their jobs because of any political ties:

Sen. Garrett: You stated a little while ago that you didn’t believe that your personal political affiliation or beliefs had any bearing on your being laid off, is that correct?

Dean Ibsen, a registered Democrat: I had no reason to believe that at the time, yes.

Sen. Garrett: I think you stated you don’t really like politics, you haven’t been involved in politics?

Ken Thornton: I haven’t been very political my entire life.

Sen. Garrett: So you’re not alleging that you were laid off because of your political affiliations or political beliefs?

Thornton:  No.

Sen. Garrett: I gather from your testimony that you’re not claiming that you were laid off because of your political affiliation or political beliefs.

Carol Frank: No, not really.

The other witness, Tony Schmitz, is a registered independent. He did not make charges of being fired due to his political affiliation in the Register’s original article.

The other two employees in the Register’s article are Gary Forshee, a registered Republican, who also did not make political accusations, and Pam Deichmann, a longtime liberal activist who is running for the Iowa Senate this year…as a Democrat.

So, instead of “most” of the six fired workers claiming their job loss was due to political reasons, as the Des Moines Register and Iowa Democrats claimed, we now have only one making that claim and she is a Democrat state senate candidate.

For more insight into the Register’s clearly biased and erroneous reporting, check out this piece by IowaPolitics.net.

Other Facts from the Iowa Senate Government Oversight Committee’s Hearing That You Won’t Read or See Elsewhere

You are unlikely to read or hear these facts elsewhere, although there was a very large media presence there, but here is what actually happened during Wednesday’s hearing and its aftermath:

Purely partisan hearing

–Democrat Senator Janet Petersen, the chair of the oversight committee, set a very partisan tone at the very beginning of the meeting, claiming it was an investigation into “actual and attempted hush money payments by the Branstad administration”. That was in the first sentence out of her mouth.

Witness tampering?

–One of the witnesses testified that Senator Petersen contacted him about coming forward:

Garrett: What process did you go through to decide that it was ok to come talk about your settlement and so on when you signed an agreement that said you wouldn’t do it? What was your process?

Tony Schmitz: Yeah, I was real hesitant about it. Uh, Senator Petersen called me, quite some time ago, and also just recently. So I talked to my lawyer.

Sen. Janet Petersen is the chair of the committee and any contact between her and a witness could be a case of witness tampering. Petersen attempted to clear the record at the end of the meeting, but admitted to calling Schmitz. She claimed it was the Legislative Services Agency who invited Schmitz to come forward.

Perhaps there needs to be an open, transparent investigation into the Iowa Senate Democrats’ contact with any of these disgruntled ex-employees. After all, open, transparent government it what this all about, right?

The layoffs saved millions of dollars in taxpayer money

–10 positions were eliminated and replaced by three. One witness claimed this somehow cost the state more money. It actually saves the state $730,000 per year.

Other tidbits from the hearing

–Despite claims from the Des Moines Register and Iowa Senate Democrats that some of these employee layoffs did not go through the proper channels, all of these employees went through a grievance process that involved the Department of Administrative Services, a mediator, the employee, their attorney and or a union representative.

–Governor Branstad’s name was only mentioned twice during the entire hearing. Once by Petersen at the beginning and another time by Sen. Julian Garrett.

–AFSCME, the state employees’ union, was never mentioned.

–Adding to the partisan nature of the hearing, Democrat gubernatorial hopeful Jack Hatch was seated at the committee table, although he is not on the committee. Iowa Democratic Party Executive Director Troy Price and the Jack Hatch’s gubernatorial campaign advisor John Hedgecoth were also in attendance.

Does wannabe governor Jack Hatch understand separate branches of government?

–Following the meeting, Senator Hatch criticized Governor Branstad’s Executive Order 85 that abolishes confidentiality agreements in state government. Hatch said the order doesn’t affect the judicial and legislative branches. Quick, someone give the Democrat’s gubernatorial candidate a lesson on the three separate branches of government.


About the Author

Kevin Hall
Kevin Hall brings almost two decades of journalistic experience to TheIowaRepublican. Starting in college as a radio broadcaster, Hall eventually became a television anchor/reporter for stations in North Carolina, Missouri, and Iowa. During the 2007 caucus cycle, Hall changed careers and joined the political realm. He was the northwest Iowa field director for Fred Thompson's presidential campaign. Hall helped Terry Branstad return to the governor's office by organizing southwest Iowa for Branstad's 2010 campaign. Hall serves as a reporter/columnist for TheIowaRepublican.com.




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