IOWA SENATE NEWS
June 20, 2019
Statement from Senate Democratic Leader Janet Petersen on new DAS Director appointment
“The biggest job for Governor Reynolds and Jim Kurtenbach in the coming months is to restore taxpayers’ faith in the Department of Administrative Services.
“In a May 29 letter, I encouraged Governor Reynolds to appoint a new Director with the experience and proven track record necessary to write a new chapter. The Department must establish higher expectations than what we’ve seen over the past several years.
“It’s unclear at this time whether she has accomplished that goal with the appointment of Mr. Kurtenbach.
“The Governor and Mr. Kurtenbach will need to explain to Iowans how his background is suitable for this new job. We have seen numerous problems in recent years – multi-million dollar harassment settlements, hush money payments, understaffing that puts at risk the safety of state workers, and unfair bargaining tactics, and biased hiring and procurement practices – that need to be addressed, not ignored.
“Mr. Kurtenbach must explain to Iowans what specific plans he has for addressing those problems and ensuring that all state employees and Iowans are safe and treated with dignity, and that tax dollars are not abused.”
|The May 29 letter from Sen. Petersen to the Governor outlined problems that previous Directors either created or failed to address:• Denied Iowans access to basic public information about the number of harassment complaints in state government and how much taxpayer dollars have been spent to compensate harassment victims.• Taken a restrictive, punitive approach to negotiating contracts with state employees.
• Put the health and safety of state employees and Iowans at risk through dangerous staff reductions, overtime policies, and other employment practices that were previously protected under collective bargaining.
• Mishandled a sweeping scandal at the Iowa Finance Authority (IFA) that included rampant harassment of employees, a failure by IFA staff and DAS staff to address complaints, and pay raises and promotions that were based on cronyism rather than merit.
• Approved secret settlements – described by some as “hush money” – to outgoing state employees.
• Endangered the rights of workers by maintaining a “do-not-hire” list without due process for workers to challenge their inclusion on the list.
• Failed to adequately update and enforce harassment policies in the executive branch.
• Conducted hirings, firings and promotions across state government that appear to be based on political connections rather than qualifications.