Fired State Investigator in Speeding SUV Scandal Files Lawsuit
By Erin Jordan, Reporter
DES MOINES, Iowa - A veteran state investigator sued the state Thursday, alleging he was canned for speaking his mind about problems in his department and for complaining about a speeding incident.
Larry Hedlund, a 25-year Department of Public Safety employee, filed a lawsuit in Polk County District Court against the state and three public safety administrators, Commissioner K. Brian London, Division of Criminal Investigation Director Chari Paulson and Gerard Meyers, assistant DCI director.
“I don’t have an ax to grind with the Department of Public Safety or DCI,” Hedlund said at a news conference Thursday afternoon in Des Moines. “I have devoted my life to that organization and I think the world of most of the people in it. But clearly I was wronged.”
Hedlund was flanked by his wife and his attorney, Tom Duff, who said he will seek “seven figures” for his client.
Hedlund, 55, of Fort Dodge, was fired July 17 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 Paulson.
The investigator was put on paid leave May 1, two days after writing an email to his supervisors complaining state troopers did not pull over a speeding SUV that was carrying Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds April 26 on U.S. Highway 20.
Hedlund spotted the SUV driving about 90 mph and reported the car to dispatch.
Branstad has said Hedlund’s termination was not linked to the agent’s complaint about the speeding incident. The trooper driving Branstad was given an $181 speeding ticket.
Hedlund’s 14-page lawsuit outlines several times he reported to supervisors incidents or conduct he felt violated the law, showed abuse of authority or created a danger to public health or safety.
Three alleged incidents involve Meyers, who Hedlund says didn’t reply to agents’ emails or phone calls, used profanity and aggressive behavior with another supervisor and implied agents could ignore parking tickets.
“Meyers suggested, or at the very least implied, that DCI Agents who received parking tickets at Iowa State University could simply ignore them,” the lawsuit states, quoting from a March 8 email from Meyers.
“I was up there yesterday and simply put a business card on my dash and I encountered no issues’,” Meyers wrote in the email, according to the suit. “We may have to do the best we can to solve the problem. Not too [sic] mention, if they get a ticket simply disregard it as it is a campus ticket only penalty for non-payment. It’s no access to transcripts so read between my lines.”
Hedlund claims Paulson quashed an investigation into an alleged sexual relationship between a drill instructor and a recruit at Iowa’s DPS Academy. The suit says Paulson asked Hedlund in June 2012 to investigate an allegation of assault and hazing at the academy. In that course of that inquiry, Hedlund learned about a consensual relationship between a drill instructor and a recruit, which violates departmental regulations.
“Hedlund was instructed by Paulson to cease any further investigation and not interview any witnesses regarding the sexual relationship between the Drill Instructor and the recruit,” the suit states.
“This was the first time in Hedlund’s career that he had ever been told that he could not interview a witness or follow up on an investigative lead. On June 26, 2012, Hedlund sent Paulson an email that he would follow her orders, but articulated why he thought the investigation was relevant and should continue,” according to the suit.
Hedlund claims London, who was appointed public safety commissioner in September, “had used implied and overt threats of demotion and termination to get his way, had not maintained a work environment of respect and positive conflict resolution and had micromanaged the work of field agents all causing a devastating drop in morale.”
Hedlund is also asking for an injunction requiring a former Iowa Supreme Court justice to return a 500-page report the DPS prepared about the Hedlund’s termination. Hedlund says DPS violated Iowa’s open records laws by providing the personnel record to Louis Lavorato, who Branstad asked to do an independent investigation of Hedlund’s case.
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