Exclusive: Test Iowa vendor gave officials talking points for PR video

Governor Kim Reynolds and other officials with important roles in Iowa’s COVID-19 response received talking points from Domo, Inc. before filming a promotional video for the company on state property last July.

The Utah-based firm, part of a group that received a $26 million no-bid contract to create the Test Iowa program, provided each interview subject with questions and “key statements” in advance, documents Bleeding Heartland received through a public records request show. State Medical Director Dr. Caitlin Pedati, the governor’s chief operating officer Paul Trombino, and others voiced some of those messages on camera.

Despite official claims that “no state resources were used” for the video, email records indicate two of the governor’s staffers spent time on preparations such as securing permissions to use different areas of the state capitol building. In addition, Trombino asked Dr. Michael Pentella, director of the State Hygienic Laboratory, to participate in the Test Iowa video.

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Best of Bleeding Heartland's original reporting in 2020

My primary goal in running this website is to provide Iowa political news and analysis that’s not available anywhere else. I’m proud of what Bleeding Heartland accomplished in 2020 and want to highlight some of the investigative reporting and accountability journalism published first or exclusively here.

A forthcoming post will review the site’s most popular pieces from 2020, which included many I worked hardest on or most enjoyed writing.

As always, I’m grateful for readers whose appetite for this kind of reporting keeps me going.

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Exclusive: Iowa medical director's 45% raise violated state policy

Iowa Medical Director Dr. Caitlin Pedati received a 45 percent raise this summer despite a state policy limiting within-grade pay increases, records obtained by Bleeding Heartland show.

Department of Administrative Services (DAS) Interim Director Paul Trombino III advocated for Pedati to receive the unusually large raise three weeks after informing state agency directors that they could give employees within-grade salary hikes of up to 3 percent.

State rules also require that “any within grade pay increase must be accompanied by a current performance evaluation,” Trombino reminded directors in the same memo. However, staff with the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) and DAS did not answer questions about whether anyone has formally reviewed Pedati’s work this year.

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Kim Reynolds' commitment to "normalcy" is getting a lot of Iowans killed

Governor Kim Reynolds found a way to make a bad situation worse.

In the past month, Iowa’s coronavirus deaths have accelerated, while hospitalizations have nearly doubled, far surpassing the previous peak in early May.

Despite numerous warnings from experts that Iowa is on a dangerous path, Reynolds refuses to take any additional steps to slow community transmission of the virus. Instead, she is sticking with the “trust Iowans to do the right thing” playbook, confident that hospitals will be able to handle the influx of COVID-19 patients.

The numbers speak for themselves.

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Iowa surpasses New York, New Jersey in COVID-19 cases per capita

Iowa continues to attract national media attention due to our high coronavirus case numbers, uncontrolled outbreaks on college campuses, Governor Kim Reynolds’ refusal to mandate face coverings, and her stubborn insistence that all school districts return to in-person instruction.

Another milestone in our state’s losing battle to contain the virus passed with little notice this week. Iowa moved up to eleventh place among the 50 states in terms of COVID-19 cases per capita, surpassing early hot spots New York and New Jersey.

There’s no excuse for how poorly we are managing the pandemic.

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