Washington Evening Journal

Fairfield Ledger   Mt. Pleasant News
Neighbors Growing Together | Aug 21, 2018

Management in State Government can be difficult

By Rep. David Heaton

To effectively direct a department, a director needs to manage with a team approach.  Many times, members of these teams are also members of their state union. This can create problems because of the difficulty the director may have when making adjustments to the management team.  Grievance procedures can get in the way and delay actions made by the director.  One of the tools used to get around this barrier is to offer a settlement to that employee to resign or to be placed in another position that may be less than the position they currently hold.   
For the past couple of weeks there has been much discussion about the use of confidential settlement agreement involving state employees and the Governor’s office.  The Governor has been accused of secretly permitting these agreements. Governor Branstad has repeatedly denied any knowledge of these agreements and has issued an Executive Order that calls for transparency in all future agreements made.  This insures that the public will be kept in the loop as long as Branstad is Governor.  
That’s not good enough.  
Yesterday, the House passed HF 2462.  This would replace the Governor’s Executive Order into State Code, making the Governor’s order permanent, not only for today but for all future governors and their administrations.  
As set forth in The Des Moines Register dated April 7, 2014, the bill does four important things:
FIRST, it defines a “personnel settlement agreement” as a binding legal agreement between the state and an employee that resolves a dispute, including an employment grievance.  The terms of these agreements would be explicitly covered by an existing provision of the open-records law requiring public disclosure of all state and local government settlement agreements.
SECOND, it makes clear in state law that “personnel settlement agreements shall not contain any confidentiality of nondisclosure provision that attempts to prevent the disclosure of the personnel settlement agreement.”  Any such confidentiality language in settlements would be rendered void and unenforceable.
THIRD, it makes a record open to the public of the fact that a public employee “resigned in lieu of termination” or was demoted.  The bill would also require public disclosure of “the documented reasons and rationale for the resignation in lieu of termination, the discharge, or the demotion.”
FINALLY, it would require personnel settlement agreements to be posted on the Internet.
This bill, if enacted, should prevent future agreements designed to keep the public in the dark when an agreement is reached with a public employee to settle an employment grievance.  It would make clear that the terms of settlement agreements are open for public inspection.  And it would go the extra mile to assure accountability by making the agreements publicly available online.
I am proud of the way the House has responded to this issue.  Until this news broke a couple of weeks ago, I don’t believe anyone here in the House knew that these agreements existed.  It’s not that they are not necessary, but if exercised the public has the right to know.  This bill, if signed by the Governor, will assure this.  

Dave Heaton, State Representative, State House, Des Moines, Iowa 50319
Phone: 515-281-7327~Fax: 515-281-6958
E-mail: dave.heaton@legis.state.ia.us
Web page: http://www.daveheaton.net