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Governor’s public safety commissioner resigns

(Radio Iowa) – The commissioner of the Iowa Department of Public Safety resigned Tuesday night after a face-to-face meeting with Governor Branstad – and Branstad has asked a former state trooper who led the agency before his retirement to lead it again.

Sixty-year-old Brian London had been the state’s top public safety official since October 8 of last year, but he’s been under fire after reorganizing the agency and firing an agent who reported the governor’s vehicle was speeding in April. Governor Branstad defended London last fall after complaints began to surface.

“You want to have the right people on the bus and you want to have them in the right seats and I think that’s what I think he’s trying to do with the Department of Public Safety,” Branstad said.

Senator Tom Courtney of Burlington said London’s resume raised some eyebrows.

“A few folks said to me: ‘Well, he sure changes jobs a lot,’ but that can also mean you’re really good and you keep getting promoted and moved and hired, so, to me, that didn’t mean a lot,” Courtney told Radio Iowa this morning.

After leaving the military, London worked for the California Highway Patrol, the CIA, the Secret Service, the U.S. Customs Service and INTERPOL — an international police agency. Courtney — the co-chair of the legislative committee that drafts the Department of Public Safety’s budget — said employees in the agency complained to lawmakers about London’s leadership.

“I was not happy with the things that happened after he got there,” Courtney said. “He did seem to move people around a lot.”

Before London’s confirmation vote in the Iowa Senate in April, Senator Jeff Danielson of Cedar Falls said it “was unusual” for employees in the agency to “be as vocal” as they had been about London.

“It would be a stretch to say that the morale of the Department of Public Safety right now is at a high level. It is not, ” Danielson said during a speech on the senate floor. “Given the feedback that many senators have gotten over the past couple of months, I would say it is at an all-time low.”

In July, the assistant director of the Division of Criminal Investigation — an agent who had 28 years of experience in the agency — resigned to become Indianola’s police chief. The long-time DCI agent who was fired after reporting the governor’s speeding S-U-V has filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against the state.

Larry Noble of Ankeny — the man London replaced as the state’s public safety commissioner — has returned to the post today.

In a written statement, Governor Branstad said Noble has “the experience and leadership ability to restore stability and predictability within this very important department of state government.” Branstad also praised Noble’s “integrity and humility” — but Branstad has said nothing about the reason for London’s departure.