Gov. Terry Branstad is defending the Department of Iowa Public Safety following the firing of Department of Criminal Investigations Special Agent-in-Charge Larry Hedlund.
In late April, Hedlund was driving on Highway 20, when he saw a speeding SUV, and reported it to the State Patrol. The vehicle was carrying Branstad, and was not pulled over as a result.
Soon after, Hedlund was placed on paid administrative leave. Now, this week, he was fired. Officials said it’s unrelated, but Hedlund’s lawyer said otherwise.
“The incident with the governor was sort of the straw that broke the camel’s back,” said Tom Duff, Hedlund’s attorney. “The timing of when he caught the governor, reported it, and then is put on suspension is just, you know, it’s not a mere coincidence.”
Laura Folkerts is a lawyer specializing in employment law, based in Waterloo. She said a firing like this is a complex issue.
"I think in this case that the timing is definitely suspicious,” she said. “However, that's not the say-all, end-all."
Hedlund’s superiors said he was fired as result of complaint filed before the speeding incident. But, they can’t release the documents to prove it, because of an exception in the open records law.
"I have got to be so careful,” Branstad said. “I would love to tell you everything, but the lawyers tell me I can't. This what is so frustrating to me, because I believe in openness, and that why I'm saying, instead of making false accusations, and only giving people a portion of the facts, let’s let the public see all the facts."
"Well the public records law is not an open book,” Folkerts said. “There are many exceptions and the exception that most likely applies here to Larry Hedlund is dealing with job performance records."
But Hedlund could possibly clear the air.
"I believe that if the employee wants to obtain and open them to the public he could do that,” Folkerts said.
Branstad wants him to release the full, 500-page document.
"I think when you see the dates in which these things occurred,” Branstad said. “I think it becomes obvious to the public what the problem is and why they felt the action that they took was necessary and appropriate.”
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