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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Exclusive: Iowa's state medical director received 45% pay raise

The base pay for Iowa’s medical director and state epidemiologist Dr. Caitlin Pedati increased by 45 percent as the current fiscal year began on July 1, records obtained by Bleeding Heartland show. The additional $3,144 that Pedati began receiving per two-week pay period would translate to an extra $81,744 in base salary over twelve months.

The doctor leading the state’s COVID-19 pandemic response also received more than $55,000 in overtime pay from March through early July, even though her job class would not normally be eligible for overtime compensation.

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Ousted staffer pulls back curtain on Iowa's COVID-19 information blockade

“I am embarrassed and saddened by the way the media has been treated during COVID,” Polly Carver-Kimm wrote in an email to the Des Moines Register on July 15. “You are not receiving timely answers and you are getting scripted talking points when you do get an answer.”

Carver-Kimm discussed the state’s handling of press inquiries hours after being shown the door as communications director for the Iowa Department of Public Health.

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Why was Jerry Foxhoven worried?

Jerry Foxhoven has shed more light on the disagreement that preceded his forced departure as Iowa Department of Human Services director last month. On July 24 he told David Pitt of the Associated Press “that he declined to approve paying the salary of Elizabeth Matney, who left DHS on May 17 to accept a job as Gov. Kim Reynolds’ adviser on health policy.”

Staff for Reynolds disputed Foxhoven’s account, saying he never raised concerns about covering Matney’s salary and wasn’t fired for that reason. They also noted that for many years, state agencies including DHS have occasionally paid employees working in the governor’s office.

Foxhoven’s aware of that precedent, having signed some of the relevant documents himself. So why would he question the legality of this arrangement? The former director’s comments to reporters and records obtained by Bleeding Heartland provide some clues.

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Iowa DHS director Foxhoven resigns; governor appoints Gerd Clabaugh (updated)

Jerry Foxhoven has resigned as Iowa Department of Human Services director, effective today, Governor Kim Reynolds’ office announced on June 17. The news release did not give a reason for Foxhoven’s departure. Staff for DHS and the governor did not immediately respond to questions including:

  • Did Reynolds request Foxhoven’s resignation? UPDATE: Foxhoven confirmed that she did. See update below.
  • Was the resignation related to UnitedHealthcare’s impending departure from the Iowa Medicaid program on June 30?
  • Was the resignation related to DHS negotiations with Centene/Iowa Total Care, which will begin managing care for hundreds of thousands of Iowans on Medicaid as of July 1?

  • What is the status of negotiations with the state’s negotiations with Centene/Iowa Total Care regarding the Medicaid program?

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  • What's going on at the Iowa Department of Revenue?

    Governor Kim Reynolds appointed former Iowa House Speaker Kraig Paulsen as director of the Iowa Department of Revenue on February 22, only six weeks after she had named Adam Humes to lead the agency. A late Friday afternoon news release did not explain the reason for the change, saying only that Humes “has decided to pursue other opportunities.”* Paulsen will start work this coming Monday. Leadership transitions at state agencies typically are weeks or months in the making.

    Humes’ predecessor, Courtney Kay-Decker, also left under odd circumstances. Appointed by Governor Terry Branstad in 2011, she sounded excited to continue to lead the department after the 2018 election. But in early December, Kay-Decker announced her resignation, effective at the start of the new year.

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