State Cites Speeding Trooper, While Branstad Launches New Probe

By Erin Jordan, Reporter

DES MOINES, Iowa - A state trooper driving Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad in April was given a $181 speeding ticket Thursday after completion of a review of the incident by the Iowa Department of Public Safety.

Trooper Steve Lawrence was cited for driving 84 mph in a 65-mph zone on Highway 20 in Hamilton County, the Public Safety Department announced Friday. Trooper Matt Eimers, who pursued the speeding SUV April 26, was not disciplined.

As one investigation ended, Branstad on Friday launched an independent review of the firing of a veteran investigator who had complained to supervisors about the handling of the Branstad speeding incident.

Former Supreme Court Justice Louis Lavarato, who served on the court from 1986 to 2006, will review the July 17 firing of Division of Criminal Investigation Agent Larry Hedlund, who claims his termination was in part due to his complaint that Branstad's vehicle wasn't stopped.

"Iowans may continue to have questions and doubts about the allegations made until they know the whole story. I want Iowans to know the truth," Branstad said in a prepared statement. "Former Chief Justice Louis A. Lavarato is a respected and impartial statesman, and will offer a fresh, independent review of this matter. He will share his findings with Iowans, and will bring to light the full truth."

Branstad did not put a time frame on the review, but said he will allow Iowans to review the findings as early as possible.

Branstad appointed Lavarato to the Supreme Court in 1986. Lavarato, 78, served as chief justice from 2000 to 2006.

Hedlund, a 25-year investigator, was fired for insubordination, using a disrespectful tone to his supervisor and driving a state car on his day off, according to a three-page termination letter signed by DCI Director Chari Paulson.

Hedlund, 55, was put on paid leave May 1, two days after writing an email to his supervisors complaining state troopers did not pull over the speeding SUV after Hedlund spotted the vehicle during about 90 mph and reported it dispatch.

Eimers, who pursued the SUV, did not initially know it carried the governor because the car's plates were not listed in computerized files. He aborted the pursuit when he realized the car was driven by a fellow trooper.

Following the review, the State Patrol Command Staff recommended the DPS strengthen its policies for troopers by adding the passage:

"While providing transportation for the Governor, First Lady, First Family, Lieutenant Governor and other dignitaries, Executive Protection Unit Troopers are subject to rules, requirements and restrictions imposed by law, and applicable Department standards, and will operate state vehicles in accordance with section IV of DPS Operating Manual 22-03.06 (General Guidelines Regarding Operation of State Vehicles)."

Branstad has denounced Hedlund's assertion that he was fired for complaining about the incident. He called on Hedlund and his attorney, Tom Duff, to release to the public a 500-page report explaining what led up to the termination.

The state had not yet provided the report to Hedlund or Duff earlier this week. Duff has said they would review the report before deciding whether to make it public.

Duff said Hedlund plans to file a wrongful termination lawsuit against the state.

The Iowa Department of Public Safety launched a review of the speeding incident after audio and video was made public this month.
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