The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Top News

April 30, 2014

Settlements cost 3 universities $1.3M



Gov. Terry Branstad's administration recently divulged more than 300 similar settlements since he returned to the governor's office in 2011 that resolved disputes with executive branch employees. Those included two dozen with payments totaling more than $500,000. Branstad ordered the release of those settlements after coming under fire for the administration's prior practice of offering some employees larger settlements if they agreed to confidentiality provisions.

Branstad said he wasn't aware of those confidential agreements, and he signed an executive order March 24 banning state agencies from including confidentiality clauses in future state settlements. The Iowa Attorney General's Office says those clauses were not enforceable since the agreements were always public records under state law.

Branstad also required his administration and the regents to post future settlements in easily recognizable locations on their websites. The Department of Administrative Services has complied with that order, but the regents haven't responded to inquiries on how they plan to do so.

University of Iowa spokesman Joe Brennan said settlements often save taxpayers money by resolving problems quickly and avoiding litigation. Each case is unique, but the university considers factors such as the merits of claims, impact on the workplace and anticipated costs, before settling, he said.

Brennan cautioned that most, but not all, involved disputes. Some of them were plans for transitioning to retirement, such as a 2012 agreement in which the late Iowa football defensive coordinator Norm Parker stopped coaching but was given a $150,000 one-year staff position.

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