Adam Gregg will "operate" but not "hold" office of lieutenant governor

Seeking to avoid a lawsuit, Governor Kim Reynolds has picked State Public Defender Adam Gregg as her lieutenant governor to “serve in an acting capacity, fulfilling all duties of the lieutenant governor’s office through the January 2019 inauguration.”

Attorney General Tom Miller issued a formal opinion this month stating that Reynolds will not have the authority to name a new lieutenant governor. Reynolds and many other Republicans attacked Miller for what they called a “partisan” decision, but apparently the new governor doesn’t want to roll the dice on how the Iowa Supreme Court would resolve this question.

Instead, Gregg will have the title of lieutenant governor and the salary associated with the position. According to the governor’s Deputy Chief of Staff Tim Albrecht, “Gregg will ‘operate’ the office of lieutenant governor, but not actually ‘hold’ that office.”

The Reynolds administration acknowledges that Gregg will have no place in the line of succession. Under Article IV, Section 19 of the Iowa Constitution, if there is a vacancy in the governor’s office and the lieutenant governor becomes “incapable of performing the duties pertaining to the office of governor,” the Iowa Senate president “shall act as governor,” with the Iowa House speaker next in line to hold those powers.

I sought comment from Miller and others on whether the state constitution allows someone someone to hold the title of lieutenant governor while serving “in an acting capacity.” (The constitution does not discuss that concept, as far as I can tell.) Miller will hold a press conference later this morning, after which I will update this post. Gary Dickey, who researched these questions as legal counsel for Governor Tom Vilsack in 2004, said via e-mail today, “I know of no limitation on giving titles to employees of the office. Whether they want to call him Lieutenant, vice, or deputy means little so long as he does not attempt assume the constitutional right of succession in the event that Governor Reynolds can no longer serve.” Dickey later told the Associated Press, “As a matter of law, he’s just another staff member of the office, […] It’s a positive sign that she recognizes there are constitutional limitations to the office. I’m not sure that’s always been the case for the last six years.”

Today’s news release and background on Gregg are after the jump.

UPDATE: Miller told reporters today that the “fundamental question” in his formal opinion was related to succession questions. He said he’s “pleased” Reynolds took action today “that would not alter the succession provision,” complying with his opinion on the key constitutional question. He added that the governor can designate anyone she wants to perform certain roles on her behalf. Miller noted, “The one question that remains is the title, acting lieutenant governor. It’s a new position. It’s not a constitutional provision or position,” and it’s not part of the constitutional framework. His staff will do further research on that position. “The key fundamental question here” is who succeeds and Reynolds “complied fully” with his opinion about the Iowa Constitution. Asked whether Reynolds had ruled out any legal challenge, Miller replied that he wouldn’t “I wouldn’t go that far” to make such a “broad statement.” But making clear that Gregg is outside the line of succession “dramatically” changes the landscape for such a lawsuit.

As he said on May 1, Miller said he supports amending the state constitution to allow a lieutenant governor who assumes the governor’s office to appoint a new lieutenant governor.

Miller confirmed that no one on Reynolds’s staff consulted him about their plans. He said the governor’s senior legal counsel Ryan Koopmans called the Attorney General’s office around 9:30 this morning to inform them about the decision.

Asked to comment on Republican Party of Iowa Chair Jeff Kaufmann calling his opinion a “ridiculous partisan stunt,” the attorney general repeated that he was persuaded by the weight of the evidence, including “overwhelming” case law from other states.

LATER UPDATES: The Reynolds administration refers to Gregg as “lieutenant governor” in all official communications, even though he does not hold that office and is not in the line of succession. Reynolds said that in making her choice. “I looked for someone that would be a full partner in my administration, […] who shared my vision, someone that I trust, I was compatible with, was a outside thinker and somebody that would work hard for the people of Iowa and I found those qualities in Adam Gregg.”

The governor’s staff still refuse to acknowledge any legitimate basis for Miller’s formal opinion. Iowa Public Radio’s Joyce Russell reported,

Reynolds aides continue to criticize the attorney general’s ruling as politically-motivated. But they said defying it would likely result in an expensive lawsuit.

“When they’re small and petty, we’re big and steady,” said deputy chief of staff Tim Albrecht.

If anyone was “small and petty,” it was Reynolds in the way she and her surrogates trashed Miller without considering the legal and historical evidence presented in
his opinion.

Iowa Senate President Jack Whitver has declined the security detail that would normally be provided to the person next in line to assume the governor’s powers, Ryan Foley reported for the Associated Press on May 30.

May 25 press release:

Reynolds selects Adam Gregg as lieutenant governor

Citing his broad knowledge of state government and his proven, innovative governing style, Gov. Kim Reynolds today selected Adam Gregg as her lieutenant governor. Gregg, 34, who until today was the State Public Defender, will serve in an acting capacity, fulfilling all duties of the lieutenant governor’s office through the January 2019 inauguration.

“I have worked closely with Adam since he became our office’s legislative liaison and policy advisor in 2013, and have been consistently impressed with his energy, work ethic and demeanor as he worked through a number of legislative priorities for us,” Reynolds said. “Adam is someone who understands the responsibilities of the executive branch, someone who has worked closely with the Legislature and someone who has a strong relationship with our courts system. There is nobody better equipped with the skills, knowledge, experience and relationships than Adam to serve Iowans in this important role.”

Gregg has excelled when it comes to service for his fellow Iowans. He won bipartisan praise as the head of the State Public Defender’s Office, an agency with about 220 employees and a budget of approximately $60 million. Among his accomplishments in that role: creating a new wrongful conviction unit that ensures we aren’t jailing innocent Iowans; modernizing the office, ensuring that legitimate attorney claims are paid quickly and fraudulent claims are detected; and working with the judicial branch to support drug, mental health and veterans courts, which are innovative specialty courts that focus on treatment and recovery rather than punishment and imprisonment.

In addition to his executive branch leadership and work in the courts, Gregg also served as the Governor’s Office’s top legislative advisor from December 2012- June 2014. In this role, he helped in the crafting and adoption of the governor’s bipartisan budget and policy agenda over the course of the 85th General Assembly. He assisted in navigating through the Legislature a balanced budget, transformational education reform and the largest tax cut in Iowa history, among other priorities.

“I am honored and humbled by the trust that Governor Reynolds has put in me,” Gregg said. “Over the last six years, she has revolutionized and rejuvenated the role of lieutenant governor. To follow her in that role, and to serve alongside her as she now leads this state, is the honor of a lifetime. Every day, I will serve Iowans as we connect them to better jobs, better skills training, better schools and continue balancing our state’s budget every step of the way.”

Gregg graduated in 2009 with high honors from Drake University Law School, where he received the institution’s prestigious Opperman Scholarship. While there, he earned the faculty’s William and Ellen Cooney Hoye Award, given to the individual who demonstrates the greatest promise as an advocate, public servant and practitioner. During law school, Gregg conducted legal research in his capacity as an Iowa Supreme Court Scholar with Chief Justice Mark Cady and was a staff member for the Drake Law Review.

Gregg earned his B.A. from Central College in 2006, graduating first in his class with degrees in political science and history. His experience at Central College included internships with the U.S. Dept. of Defense, U.S. Congress and United Kingdom Parliament.

Gregg is a graduate of West Sioux High School and a native of Hawarden, Iowa. He resides in Johnston with his wife, Cari, and their two children, a six-year-old son and a four-year-old daughter. He and his family are active members and volunteers in Johnston River of Life Methodist Church and Meals from the Heartland events.

Jason Noble reported for the Des Moines Register this morning,

Tim Albrecht, Reynolds’ deputy chief of staff, said Thursday that Gregg will “operate” the office of lieutenant governor, but not actually “hold” that office. That means he’ll be tasked with the ceremonial and administrative tasks of the office – and will draw the state salary associated with it – while remaining outside the gubernatorial line of succession. […]

“Despite the high drama behind the attorney general’s reversal of opinion, this does not need to be a crisis or chaotic,” Albrecht said, suggesting that a legal challenge could cost the state potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Reynolds’ senior legal counsel Ryan Koopmans said that the administration has not sought an guidance from the Attorney General’s Office on this approach. But officials are confident that, by sidestepping the succession issue, it avoids any serious legal challenge.

“This really does take care of any remaining serious legal questions,” he said.

Gregg, in this novel role, will receive the $103,212 annual salary of a true lieutenant governor and will be referred to by that title within the administration. He will not, however, have access to a state-provided driver as past lieutenants have.

Official bio from the State Public Defender’s website:

Adam Gregg was appointed by Governor Terry E. Branstad to serve as the Iowa State Public Defender on December 8, 2014.

Gregg previously served as the Governor’s legislative liaison and policy advisor. In that role, he was responsible for helping craft and adopt the Governor’s budget and policy agenda. Gregg served in this capacity for the 2013 and 2014 legislative sessions, working to support a balanced budget, transformation educational reform, and the largest tax cut in Iowa history, among other priorities. Prior to joining the Governor’s Office, Gregg practiced at the BrownWinick law firm in Des Moines. He was the Republican nominee for Attorney General in 2014.

Gregg graduated in 2009 with high honors from Drake University Law School, where he received the institution’s most prestigious honor, the Opperman Scholarship. While there, he earned the faculty’s William and Ellen Cooney Hoye Award, given to the student who demonstrates the greatest promise as an advocate, public servant and practitioner. While in school, Gregg conducted legal research in his capactity as an Iowa Supreme Court Scholar with Chief Justice Mark Cady and was a staff member for the Drake Law Review.

Gregg earned his B.A. from Central College in 2006, graduating first in his class with degrees in Political Science and History. Gregg’s experience at Central College included internships with the U.S. Dept. of Defense, U.S. Congress and United Kingdom Parliament.

Gregg is a graduate of West Sioux High School and a native of Hawarden, Iowa. Gregg is married with two children, a six-year-old son and a three-year-old daughter.

  • Definition please..

    I understand a public defender to be one who works within the legal system to advocate for those who may not have the means or status to defend themselves. Does this describe the duties that Mr. Gregg carried out for Iowa?

    • The State Public Defender

      is responsible for coordinating the state’s Public Defender System (or “Indigent Defense System”).

      https://spd.iowa.gov/about-us

      So, his duties were to be the head of the statewide system of those who work ‘within the legal system to advocate for those who may not have the means or status to defend themselves.’

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