DES MOINES (AP) — Iowa agreed to help conceal why at least 55 state workers had been fired by allowing them to voluntarily resign or retire, according to a newspaper report.
In some cases, the state even removed all evidence of past wrongdoing from personnel records, The Des Moines Register reported. And at least 17 fired workers have been reinstated.
As a result, future employers might not know about an individual’s troubled past before considering hiring them.
“It’s not proper because we’re giving out what appears to be false information,” said Sen. Julian Garrett, an Indianola Republican. “We need to be more open and truthful.”
Gov. Terry Branstad has said the rules that allow for these private settlements created a loophole that should be closed, but efforts to do that failed during this year’s legislative session. The Des Moines Register has reported on 325 private settlements in the last three years.
But Matt Glasson, who teaches at the University of Iowa Labor Center, says the practice might not be that unusual. He said governments and private companies routinely make deals with disciplined employees.
States such as Nebraska, Missouri and South Dakota also keep information about an employee’s misdeeds confidential. But other states, including Minnesota, Illinois and Wisconsin, will provide information about a government employee’s termination.
Lance Noe, director for the Center for Professional Studies, said it’s difficult to determine from state records why officials cut deals that allowed workers to resign.
“This is not like a sitcom where state officials can say to an employee, ‘Get out of here,’” said Noe, who is an adjunct professor at Drake University. “This is part of having a union environment. You have to follow a very set procedure for discipline.”