Outgoing Iowa Utilities Board member slams Branstad's attempt to "appease" major utility

Outgoing Iowa Utilities Board member Sheila Tipton sent Governor Terry Branstad a scathing letter after not being reappointed to the three-member board last month, Ryan Foley reported yesterday for the Associated Press. Tipton defended a board decision from earlier this year, which greatly displeased MidAmerican Energy. She warned that by removing her and demoting Iowa Utilities Board Chair Libby Jacobs, Branstad was undermining state agencies’ independence “in order to appease MidAmerican Energy,” thereby doing “a disservice to the citizens of this State.”

Tipton also characterized Branstad’s recent personnel changes as  “unfair,” saying she had received verbal assurances in 2013 that she would be reappointed to a full six-year term if she accepted the governor’s offer to serve out Swati Dandekar’s unexpired term.

I enclose the full text of Tipton’s letter after the jump, along with a statement provided by the governor’s office, which defends the appointment of Geri Huser and denies that Tipton was promised a full term on the Iowa Utilities Board.

Even if Branstad or his staff did promise verbally to reappoint Tipton, the governor retains the right to change his mind. However, Tipton is unquestionably correct that the latest Iowa Utilities Board changes look like “an attempt to ‘bring the agency in line’ and to influence its future decision-making in a way that favors the utilities.”

Statement provided by Governor Terry Branstad’s communications director, Jimmy Centers:

Gov. Branstad selected Geri Huser to chair the Iowa Utilities Board because he has been impressed with her career in public service and saw her hard work first-hand during her time at the Iowa Finance Authority. With her legal background, Gov. Branstad believes she is well-equipped to chair the Iowa Utilities Board.

The changes were made by Gov. Branstad to improve the board. We regret that Ms. Tipton is dissatisfied with the governor’s decision, but believe Ms. Huser will provide exceptional leadership, which will benefit the board and those it serves.

Ms. Tipton was not assured reappointment to a full term when her term expired. The members of the board are appointed to the independent board by the governor. When an individual’s term is up, as was the case with Ms. Tipton, the governor is free to make changes that he feels will best serve Iowans, while considering Iowa law to maintain gender and party balance.

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