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Gov. Branstad Issues Executive Order on Secret Employee Settlements

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DES MOINES, Iowa - A visibly angry Gov. Terry Branstad announced Monday that 12 separate state agencies had entered into 24 secret settlement agreements with employees totaling nearly $350,000 a practice that he called unacceptable and declared would not happen again in his administration.

To make the sure that does not happen, the governor told reporters he has signed an executive order to increase accountability, openness and transparency of employee settlements.

"I am troubled and disappointed by the use of confidentiality agreements. This practice of keeping information from the taxpayers is unacceptable and wrong," Branstad told his weekly news conference. He said an internal review by his administration determined that "employees were not terminated based on political affiliation."

However, the governor said his administration's internal review confirmed that 321 settlements have been entered into relating to personnel matters since he took office Jan. 14, 2011.

Of those, he said, 24 contained some provision relating to confidentiality and 10 involved lump-sum settlements ranging from $4,000 to $110,000.

Branstad said he has been advised by the Iowa Attorney General's office that personnel settlement agreements cannot be confidential under Chapter 22 of the Iowa Code and any confidentiality clause that keeps the agreement secret would be unenforceable.

According to the Attorney General's office, settlement agreements with confidentiality clauses must be released and Branstad said his administration intends to make the information available online for public access.

"I've signed Executive Order 85 today to ensure the executive branch operates in a transparent manner, ending the use of these confidentiality agreements, increasing accountability, and making employee settlements readily available for taxpayer viewing online," Branstad said.

The governor said he has discussed the "ill-advised" confidentiality clauses with agency managers but no one has been disciplined or fired for engaging in a practice that he says runs counter to his administration's philosophy.

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