John Morrissey

Why U of Iowa business school is running TV ad campaign

John Morrissey is a freelance writer in Des Moines.

Sharp-eyed readers may have noticed this summer that the University of Iowa’s Henry B. Tippie College of Business has signed on as a sponsor of the 6 pm newscasts on KCCI-TV 8 and WHO-TV 13. Those viewers may also be mystified about why the ads are running

The business school has placed 15-second sponsorship ads during the Des Moines television newscasts along with radio, print, billboard, and digital ads in order to reintroduce the Tippie College of Business to central Iowans, College Dean Amy Kristof-Brown told Bleeding Heartland.

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Exclusive: Iowa trooper crash investigation details remain secret

John Morrissey, a freelance writer in Des Moines, follows up on his coverage of a fatal accident last year.

More than nine months after the crash that killed on-duty Iowa State Trooper Ted Benda, the Iowa Department of Public Safety has nothing more to say about the cause of his death, or its implications. The department’s technical investigation is classified as confidential.

The initial public incident report seems to attribute the accident to the trooper’s driving behavior. That was likely a contributing factor, but was it the sole cause?

The five-month technical investigation into this crash may or may not have considered a poor headlight rating, or higher than average driver death rates for the vehicle involved, as contributing factors. It’s unclear because the technical investigation report will remain secret unless it is sought as part of several exceptions to state law, none of which allow public review.

In response to Bleeding Heartland’s inquiries, the department offered no explanation of steps it might have taken since Benda’s death to reduce future risks, such as testing the headlight aim of its Dodge Chargers, or reviewing the crash statistics for its workhorse patrol vehicle, or even providing a “don’t veer for deer” reminder to troopers.

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Iowa State Patrol fatality involved vehicle model with "inadequate" headlights

John Morrissey is a freelance writer in Des Moines.

Iowa State Trooper Ted Benda, who died of injuries suffered in a single-vehicle crash on October 14, had been driving a vehicle rated by a national standards organization as having poor-performing headlights.

The Iowa State Patrol reviews a variety of information about vehicles it purchases, spokesperson Sgt. Alex Dinkla told Bleeding Heartland. The department has received “no complaints” about vehicle headlights, he said. The Iowa State Patrol has not yet issued its final crash report; Dinkla suggested it may take weeks or months to complete.

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Iowa State Fairgrounds closed; Polk County rents dorm for COVID-19 recovery

John Morrissey is a freelance writer in Des Moines. -promoted by Laura Belin

Iowa State Fair officials closed the fairgrounds on the east side of Des Moines to the public on March 18 and are readying the 4H dormitory near Dean Avenue to house homeless people in the Des Moines area who may come down with minor symptoms of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) infections.

These plans were formalized after Polk County officials were briefed recently with World Health Organization estimates about the spread of COVID-19. If it gets a foothold in the metro area, as many as 34,000 central Iowans could fall ill, and perhaps 1,500 will need intensive care treatment, said Polk County Board of Supervisors Chair Matt McCoy. He repeated the call from local and state officials for people to stay home and avoid contacts that may spread the disease. McCoy said he and other leaders are confident the area’s health care facilities can handle the challenge if the virus infections do not all occur at once.

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Sedgwick landed six-year, $7.9 million state contract with also-ran cost proposal

Des Moines freelance writer John Morrissey digs into how a well-connected company landed a lucrative state contract. Laura Belin contributed reporting to this story.

Four months after being awarded a contract to administer Iowa’s worker’s compensation program for state employees, a politically connected West Des Moines company has apparently not come to terms with the state to continue its work.

Sedgwick Claims Management Services LLC was selected in early March to keep handling the program, even though a competitor achieved a better score on three cost proposal items. The state will pay Sedgwick $7.9 million in administrative costs over six years. Runner-up bidder TRISTAR Risk Enterprise Management LLC offered to do the work for a little more than $6 million, a potential savings of nearly $1.9 million over the contract period.

The Iowa Department of Administrative Services (DAS) provided copies of all submitted bids for the current and previous bid cycles upon receiving John Morrissey’s public records request. But the department has declined further comment about the award and refused to clarify the scoring system or other matters related to this bid process. The new DAS director Jim Kurtenbach did not respond to a request for an interview about this matter.

Sedgwick’s bid contact officer referred questions to several state officials and the company’s public relations office. That office also did not respond to Bleeding Heartland’s inquiry.

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