The Ottumwa Courier

AP Iowa

April 18, 2014

Chairman: Branstad staff pressured board on hires

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The chairman of the state's Public Employment Relations Board said Thursday that two aides to Gov. Terry Branstad pressured the board to hire a friend of the administration, in the latest accusation that top government officials pushed to fill state positions with allies.

Board Chairman Jim Riordan told the Senate Government Oversight Committee on Thursday that Branstad's former chief of staff, Jeff Boeyink, and current staff attorney, Brenna Findley, threatened the board with budget cuts if it didn't hire Robert Wilson as an administrative law judge.

Branstad appointed Wilson, a Republican, as a district court judge in 1995.

Riordan, a former Democratic state senator, said Boeyink told members of the board they had better go along with hiring Wilson.

"He made it clear to us if we weren't willing to go along with this idea there would be serious consequences related to the budget," Riordan said.

The PERB board was established in 1974 as a mediator and arbitrator when there are disputes between workers and the government agencies for which they are employed. It handles many grievances from fired workers, among other issues.

The three board members are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate. It is designed to be autonomous so it can operate in a neutral fashion, said Riordan, who has served on the board for 14 years and as its chairman for 12.

Riordan said the office dynamics changed dramatically after Wilson arrived in November 2012.

"Everybody was on edge. We felt that he was put there to spy on us and try to guide outcomes," Riordan said.

Wilson did not immediately return a call seeking comment Thursday.

Questioned by reporters after the hearing, Branstad flatly denied the claims and accused Riordan, who wasn't reappointed by the governor, of making false accusations.

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