NEWTON, Iowa — Former Workers Compensation Commissioner Chris Godfrey thought he had a more than reasonable lawsuit.
“I knew once they heard the evidence they would be supportive of the claims,” said Godfrey.
A decision by jurors in a Jasper County courtroom Monday morning agreed wholeheartedly on all counts. They awarded Godfrey $1.5 million in his sexual orientation discrimination lawsuit against the state of Iowa and former Governor Terry Branstad. “I’m a little shocked, but I knew I had the best legal team. The jurors were attentive and considerate,” Godfrey said.
Godfrey`s lawyer, Roxanne Conlin, who has also been assisted by the Fiedler Law Firm, filed the lawsuit in 2012 after Branstad slashed Godfrey`s salary by $40,000 a year. It’s a much smaller amount than awarded to them today. Conlin said, “I called the governor’s office and asked they restore his salary and that they apologize and we’d just go right on. They declined and now eight years later we have vindication of Chris Godfrey.”
It’s vindication Godfrey had been seeking for nearly a decade. He said, “I just go on with my life. I finally have justice. I can sleep a little bit better tonight. I can`t wait to talk to my mom and life will go on. It will just go on with justice.”
Taxpayers however may not sleep as easily. Aside from the $1.5 million, the state used a private firm for their defense, instead of the Attorney General`s office. Conlin said, “They`ve paid two law firms I think more than $2 million to defend this lawsuit. “The law says if I win, the state of Iowa pays my fees and it won`t be inexpensive.”
Conlin sees it as a multi-million dollar lesson. “As a citizen of Iowa, I don’t want my government discriminating against anybody on the basis of sexual orientation. I hope the verdict says that to the government,” said Conlin.
The state of Iowa has not commented on whether or not they plan to seek an appeal.