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Branstad: report “clears up” retaliation claims

(Radio Iowa) – Governor Branstad says a report released today by the former head of Iowa’s highest court should clear the governor’s office of any wrongdoing in the firing of a longtime Iowa DCI agent. Larry Hedlund was dismissed from the agency not long after he reported a speeding SUV that turned out to be carrying the governor and lieutenant governor.

Former Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Louis Lavorato wrote in his report that he sought only to determine whether Larry Hedlund’s firing was in retaliation for reporting the governor’s vehicle speeding, and for that, Lavorato says he found no evidence.

“I think the public’s entitled to the truth and (Hedlund) has made a false accusation about retaliation in the governor’s office,” Branstad told reporters today during a stop in Tipton. Hedlund is suing the state, claiming his firing violates Iowa’s whistle-blower law.

The governor has said he had no idea his driver, a state trooper, was going 84 miles per hour in a 65 mph zone. The SUV was not stopped, although the trooper was just recently ticketed and paid a fine.

Branstad told reporters Lavorato’s report backs his claims that he had no involvement in the firing of Hedlund. “The lieutenant governor and I did not know about this until months later,” Branstad said. “We think that we’ve been unfairly accused and we believe having the former Chief Justice review this as an independent review, I think, clears that up.”

In the report, Lavarato wrote he found no evidence that Hedlund’s termination was in retaliation. But, he specified that the report is not meant to pass judgment on whether his firing was justified. Lavorato wrote many facts of the case cannot yet be made public — including information as to why personnel acted so quickly to fire Hedlund after the speeding incident.

Governor Branstad asked Lavorato to review the matter. Senator Jack Hatch, a Democrat from Des Moines who’s exploring a run for governor, issued the following statement about the report: “If Justice Lavorato had come back with anything other than a report backing up the Governor, then that would have been a truly shocking news story. The Governor got the result that he asked for, no surprise here. None of this passes the smell test. If this is what the Governor considers to be transparency, then it is apparent that the legislature should investigate immediately. No one in this state is above the law.”