DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Settlement agreements are likely to continue to dominate the agenda at the Iowa Capitol this week as some lawmakers remain unsatisfied with discrepancies in testimony and answers they received during hearings last week.
Former employees testified at a Government Oversight Committee hearing last week they were treated badly when fired in 2011 and were offered money to keep quiet about their dismissals. They also claimed their replacements were less qualified, that jobs weren't advertised and that administrators at the Iowa Department of Administrative Services had connections with the people they hired.
They also claimed the state isn't saving money as it claims as a result of restructuring that led to their layoffs.
DAS Director Mike Carroll later denied those allegations, giving testimony to the committee that completely contradicted the workers.
He said the new employees had a different set of skills more appropriate for the government reorganization and he provided information claiming the state will save up to $12 million through the reorganization.
Democratic Sen. Janet Petersen, chair of the Senate Government Oversight Committee, said she plans to ask state department heads and human resources officials to come before the committee.
"I think we found out that job postings were not handled correctly and so we've got more questions," she said. "I still don't believe we're getting the right answers when it comes to contracting and the amount of money. Are we really saving taxpayers' dollars?"
More than 320 state workers have entered settlement agreements since Republican Gov. Terry Branstad took office in 2011, and more than two dozen were asked to sign confidentiality agreements. The total paid exceeded $500,000.
Lawmakers have raised questions about where the money came from and why the workers were fired. Some former workers have alleged their firing was motivated by politics and some say they were asked by the state to accept cash in exchange for keeping the agreements quiet.