Paul Trombino resigning as Iowa Homeland Security director

Paul Trombino III is resigning as director of Iowa’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management Department, effective June 3, the governor’s office announced on May 20. A news release said Trombino was “leaving his position to pursue other opportunities.”

Trombino led the Iowa Department of Transportation for five years while Terry Branstad was governor, stepping down in late 2016 to work for an engineering firm. President Donald Trump appointed him to head the Federal Highway Administration, but Trombino withdrew his name from consideration for that position in late 2017.

Governor Kim Reynolds brought Trombino back to state government in early 2019, creating a new position on her staff called chief operating officer. He continued to do that job for the next two years, while doubling as the Department of Administrative Services director from March 2020 until January 2021. That department paid Trombino’s full salary and benefits during that period, which helped the governor’s office balance its budget.

Reynolds named Trombino to lead the Homeland Security department upon Joyce Flinn’s retirement in January. The agency oversees millions of dollars designated for disaster relief and has already been allocated $66 million from Iowa’s Coronavirus Relief Fund.

In the statement announcing Trombino’s resignation, Reynolds praised his work “around the clock to coordinate Iowa’s emergency response” and “his willingness to challenge the status quo to improve efficiency and functionality in state government.” Trombino was involved in many controversial decisions, from negotiating no-bid contracts for the Workday computer system and COVID-19 testing to appearing in a promotional video for a Test Iowa vendor to leading a project to spend CARES Act money on upgrading the governor’s office software. (Officials later decided not to use federal COVID-19 relief funds for that purpose.)

The governor awarded Trombino a $46,176.40 “retention bonus” in February to ensure he would not take a pay cut when moving from the governor’s office to Homeland Security. He’s been receiving portions of that bonus in biweekly installments, but he won’t receive the full amount, since he didn’t stay in the new position for twelve months. I’m seeking to clarify whether Trombino will have to return any of the bonus pay already received.

This post will be updated once Trombino reveals his new career plans and Reynolds appoints an interim Homeland Security director.

UPDATE: I’m investigating whether Trombino’s departure could be related to a last-minute attempt to allocate $4.5 million to the Homeland Security agency for a no-bid contract.

LATER UPDATE: Trombino accepted a local government job in Colorado.

John Benson became Homeland Security director in October. He has worked in the department since 1992 and served as chief of staff beginning in April 2019.

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