DES MOINES, Iowa — Iowa House of Representatives Democrats on the Government Oversight Committee called for immediate hearings on Monday because of a statement made by Former Department of Human Services Director Jerry Foxhoven.
According to Iowa Public Radio, Foxhoven made a statement to Pitchfork that said Gov. Kim Reynolds’ staff asked him to do something illegal. Foxhoven alleged he said he wouldn’t do it, so they asked him to leave.
“I trust that he would not have made that kind of statement without something to back it up, but let’s say he did, we still need to find out why, and that’s the role of the oversight committee,” Iowa House Rep. Ruth Ann Gaines, D-32, said.
The governor’s spokesperson Pat Garrett responded saying, “We have no idea what the former director is referring to. He never raised a concern like that to us.”
Gaines said the public has a right to know why Foxhoven was forced to resign.
“It leads the public — and I’m also a part of the public — to feel that something is hidden. No matter what the reason is, it needs to be said. I suppose there’s various ways that things can come out and a lot of information could be withheld, but the primary reason hasn’t been said. We have nothing, and that’s wrong. That’s against the law,” Gaines said.
Gaines said the law she is referring to is, “House File 291. That was a part of the collective bargaining bill that states if a state employee is either fired or asked to resign in lieu of being fired, the public needs that information.”
House Speaker Linda Upmeyer responded to the call for hearings saying, “The former director’s vague comment to a music publication (Pitchfork) has not come with any other details. I would not have our chairwoman of the Oversight Committee initiate an investigation when the former director has declined to elaborate.”
Gaines said she expected this response.
“I knew that some resistance would be in play once I posed the statement, but it’s still important to ask for this committee meeting because it’s like back and forth. We are supposed to be above that as lawmakers, as elected officials. Whether or not he gave background to his statement is irrelevant,” Gaines said.
Gaines said she takes Upmeyer’s response as denial for her call for an investigation and Democrats will need to convene to decide what the next step will be.
“And if nothing happens, what does this tell the public? That the current administration is willing to go against the law to keep something secret. So it makes us think it must be pretty big and Governor Reynolds, Jerry Foxhoven, everybody involved is not above the law,” Gaines said.