Jim Kurtenbach to lead Iowa's HR agency. What was Kim Reynolds thinking?

Governor Kim Reynolds announced last week that Jim Kurtenbach will be the new director of the Iowa Department of Administrative Services (DAS), effective July 1. Paul Trombino has held that position on an interim basis for about a month, after the Iowa Senate did not confirm previous DAS Director Janet Phipps.

Tapping Kurtenbach for this job was a strange choice. The agency has broad responsibility for human resources, procurement, and accounting on behalf of the state. Sexual harassment or discrimination by senior officials has led to several lawsuits against the state and millions of dollars in settlements in recent years. Yet not only does Kurtenbach lack relevant experience in the HR field, his hiring and managerial decisions a Iowa State University’s vice president and chief information officer were far from a model for best practices.

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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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Payout for sexual harassment leaves oversight failures unexplored

A divided state board has approved settlements worth a combined $4.15 million to two women who reported extensive, appalling sexual misconduct by former Iowa Finance Authority Director Dave Jamison. Under the agreements posted in full below, $2.35 million will go to the agency’s former business development director Beth Mahaffey, and $1.8 million will go to the agency’s communications director Ashley Jared. Attorney’s fees for both women will come out of those payments.

The settlements bring closure to women who endured a horrific workplace environment. But they also ensure that oversight failures at the finance authority will never be fully explored in litigation.

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Iowa public employees will lose ability to bargain over health insurance

What a way to begin the holiday season: Governor Terry Branstad’s administration is negotiating new employment contracts on the assumption that health insurance benefits will no longer be subject to collective bargaining.

Judging by past experience in Iowa and other states, the 59 incoming House Republicans and 29 Senate Republicans will rubber-stamp the new policy, gutting a collective bargaining law that has served this state well since 1974.

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WellCare loses battle to maintain Iowa Medicaid contract

One of the four companies the Iowa Department of Human Services initially selected to manage care for Medicaid recipients has given up the fight to keep a contract that would have been worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Follow me after the jump for details on the final stages of WellCare’s unsuccessful effort to overturn state officials’ decision to terminate that contract.

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Well-placed allies couldn't save WellCare's Iowa Medicaid contract

They were so close. Florida-based WellCare played the game almost perfectly to win a contract for its Iowa subsidiary to manage care for Medicaid recipients, which could have been worth hundreds of millions of dollars over the next three years.

The first sign that WellCare’s ambitions might come to nothing attracted little notice, appearing just before the long Thanksgiving weekend. More bad tidings for WellCare arrived yesterday in a late Friday afternoon dump, the classic way for government officials to bury news. Reading Jason Clayworth’s report for the Des Moines Register, it’s easy to see why the Branstad administration sought minimal attention for fixing an embarrassing oversight.

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