Gov. Branstad Calls for Release of Investigation into State Agent's Firing
By Erin Jordan, Reporter
DES MOINES, Iowa – Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad challenged a fired investigator to allow the state to release to a 500-page report describing what led up to Special Agent in Charge Larry Hedlund’s termination this week.
“Based on what I know, I believe what they did was a fair and just decision,” Branstad said of public safety officials. “I would love to tell you everything, but the lawyers tell me I can’t.”
Branstad went on the offensive during a news conference Thursday, denouncing Hedlund’s claim that he was fired for complaining when state troopers did not stop a state-owned SUV speeding with Branstad aboard.
The governor also called for reversal of laws that require state officials to keep personnel matters secret.
“That person and his attorney are using that (Iowa’s confidentiality laws) as a weapon to make false allegations,” Branstad said of Hedlund and attorney Tom Duff.
Hedlund, a 25-year investigator for the Iowa Department of Public Safety, was fired Wednesday 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 Chari Paulson, director of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation.
Duff made the letter public Wednesday.
Hedlund 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 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.
A trooper 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.
But Iowans do not know the whole story, Branstad said.
He has asked the Iowa Attorney General to ask Duff and Hedlund to allow the state to release a complete investigative report. He said he will also ask the new Iowa Public Information Board to look into whether confidentiality laws can be changed so that state officials can defend their actions when it comes to high-profile terminations.
Branstad talked about other changes he’d like to see following the April 26 speeding incident.
Branstad, who first served as governor from 1983 to 1999, said during his early terms, he rode around the state in a distinctive car with a distinctive plate. But when he returned to office in 2011, the state had switched to unmarked cars with license plates not listed in computerized files. The changes were meant to thwart “assassins and others who want to do harm,” Branstad said.
Iowa now has more than 3,200 state vehicles with plates that are not listed in computerized files. These cars are immune to traffic tickets in several Iowa cities with electronic traffic cameras.
“I want the DOT to review that,” Branstad said Thursday. “I expect that number to be dramatically reduced.”
Further, state troopers not on emergency business will be told not to exceed public speed limits, Branstad said.
“We need to obey the speeding laws and traffic laws,” he said. “I don’t want to see another incident like this one.”
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