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Iowa’s largest newspapers criticize Gov. Branstad’s board of regents move

Iowa’s two largest print outlets spent some ink this week to call attention to Gov. Terry Branstad‘s push to replace certain state leaders. The attention wasn’t of the positive variety.

It was recently unearthed that Branstad urged at least three independent state leaders to step away from their posts. Two men, one Republican and one Democrat, announced they would be stepping away from leadership roles on the Iowa Board of Regents. A third man serving as Iowa Workers’ Compensation Commissioner refused and the Branstad administration showed its displeasure by docking more than $30,000 per year from his salary.

While many in state government leadership roles serve at the pleasure of the Governor’s Office, these three had been selected independently to a predetermined term of service that had not yet expired.

“The fact is the governor sought the resignation of department and agency heads in November, and Mr. [Chris] Godfrey[, Iowa Workers' Compensation Commissioner,] refused this request,” Branstad spokesman Tim Albrecht explained to reporter Jason Clayworth. “Because he does not have the full faith and confidence of the governor, his pay was lowered to reflect his performance.”

On Thursday, the editorial board of The Gazette summarized their views in an opinion piece entitled, “Gov. Branstad crossed the line.”

… Branstad wrongly meddled in the long-established independence of the [Regents] to select its own leadership. …

Godfrey’s position is among several that long have been intended to be protected from political influence and carry through multiple administrations to ensure continuity. …

Use your power, Gov. Branstad, but respect the limits designed to prevent any one office of government from becoming too powerful.

The editorial board at The Des Moines Register chimed in on Friday, and called for lawmakers to investigate the actions of the Governor’s Office.

… The Legislature should do what Sen. Bill Dotzler, D-Waterloo, suggested this week: Bring the governor, his staff and “their political allies” before the Legislature’s Government Oversight Committee to get some answers. The people of Iowa should know what — and who — is behind trying to run Godfrey out of office. …

Despite the cut in pay, Godfrey has said his intention is to remain in his current position.

Members of the Board of Regents selected new leadership following the resignation of David Miles and Jack Evans. They named Craig Lang, one of only two members to object (along with state Republican lawmakers) to naming an Iowa State University policy institute after U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), as their new president and Bruce Rastetter, the largest donor to Branstad’s gubernatorial campaign, as vice president.

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