Be careful what you brag about in politics. Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz highlighted alleged cost savings to the state in his Congressional campaign’s first television commercial. As journalists looked more closely at staff reorganization in the Secretary of State’s Office, they discovered details that will likely derail Schultz’s aspirations in IA-03.
Ryan Foley of the Associated Press was the first to report that Schultz kept his political appointee Jim Gibbons on the payroll for seven months after deciding to eliminate Gibbons’ position. It’s not clear what work, if any, Gibbons was doing during his final months as a state employee.
Yesterday Foley reported for the Associated Press and Jason Clayworth reported for the Des Moines Register on more political appointees whom Schultz allowed to work from home after requesting their resignations in 2011 and 2012. I’ve posted excerpts from both stories after the jump, but you should click through to read them in full. In a statement to the Des Moines Register, Schultz defended his actions:
“What the liberals in the media are ignoring as they level their attacks against me, is that the Department of Administrative Services, the state’s personnel experts, advised my office that instead of severance an agency could keep an employee on payroll longer than they are required to come to the office, so long as the employee was available for phone calls and questions from home. […] If the media had real integrity they would be thanking me for protecting Iowa’s election integrity and finding ways to save Iowa taxpayers more than $200,000.”
I doubt that excuse will fly in a GOP primary where voters have several other credible candidates to choose from. Schultz has some powerful backers and donors, but so do a few rivals with less baggage. Even if Schultz surprises me by winning the Republican nomination in IA-03, the latest revelations provide plenty of ammunition for Staci Appel in the general election–not that we needed more proof that Schultz has been ineffective in his current position. He pursued the wrong priorities and spent federal funds on his own crusade rather than how they were intended to be used.
Excerpts from Ryan Foley’s May 5 report for the Associated Press:
Schultz said that he allowed assistant director of business services Todd Henderson to work from home for 90 days after submitting his resignation Feb. 1, 2012. Schultz also said he let former communications director Stephanie Laudner work at home for 30 days after requesting her resignation in 2011.
Schultz said those arrangements were allowed by the Department of Administrative Services for resigning at-will employees instead of severance pay, which isn’t permitted. In particular, he said DAS advised agencies can “keep an employee on payroll longer than they are required to come to the office, so long as the employee was available for phone calls and questions from home.” He said that was the case for Henderson and Laudner, who each had $63,000-annual salaries.
“With the two at-will staff members, we followed the advice of DAS and sent one individual home for 30 days and sent the other individual home for 90 days,” Schultz said.
In an interview last week, Laudner denied that she had any such arrangement. She said that she agreed to resign because Schultz was doing little press outreach after taking office in January 2011. She said that by March, she had few duties.
“There wasn’t anything for me to do. I asked him, ‘why should I stay on the payroll? I’m a fiscal conservative. You’re paying me to do nothing’,” she said.
Schultz spokesman Chance McElhaney said Monday that accusation was “totally false” and the conversation never occurred, claiming that Schultz requested her resignation for job performance issues.
Henderson didn’t respond to messages seeking comment.
Excerpts from Jason Clayworth’s story posted to the Des Moines Register’s website on May 5:
Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz allowed at least three political appointees to work from home after their positions were eliminated, saying Monday that he did so at the advice of the state’s human services department.
Despite multiple requests, it’s unknown what work was accomplished by those employees during the times when they were allowed to work from home. One was allowed the home arrangement for 90 days, two had the arrangements for 30 days. […]
The state does have a work-from-home policy that agencies may use as they see fit, Caleb Hunter, a spokesman for the DAS said Monday. But that policy also outlines expectations of the hiring authority and the employee, he noted. Among them: work-from-home employees are expected to complete work consistent with the standards adopted for all other employees in the work group.
“DAS provided advice to the Secretary of State’s office in general but not to any specific scenario,” Hunter said. “Ultimately, the hiring authority is responsible for their employees’ work assignments and their employees’ work product.”
Despite nearly a month of media coverage on the issue, Schultz has yet to outline what work Gibbons provided to the state during the seven months that he remained on the payroll collecting his annual $126,655 salary.
And Gibbons, who is now the president of First American Bank in Ames, has not returned multiple phone calls seeking comment.
Iowa State Auditor Mary Mosiman was a deputy for Schultz while Gibbons worked for the Secretary of State’s office. She has claimed she warned Schultz that allowing Gibbons to stay on the payroll was hurting employee morale. Speaking to the Des Moines Register on May 5, Mosiman said that going forward, reviews of all state departments will include any work-from-home arrangements.