Questions and answers: Jerry Foxhoven's wrongful termination claim

Former Iowa Department of Human Services director Jerry Foxhoven revealed more details about his wrongful termination claim on August 1. He asserts that he was fired after expressing concern about the DHS continuing to pay a large share of the salary for the governor’s deputy chief of staff, Paige Thorson.

As Bleeding Heartland reported last week, Thorson worked extensively on Medicaid-related issues for some time, but she became less involved with the DHS this spring, as Governor Kim Reynolds brought on a new health policy adviser.

Foxhoven and his attorney Tom Duff released a written statement and answered many follow-up questions during a 45-minute news conference. Radio Iowa posted the full audio. The questions and answers below are not a transcript from the conference, but rather my effort to put information about Foxhoven’s case in context for readers.

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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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Jerry Foxhoven stopped playing along. This will end badly for Kim Reynolds

Editor’s note: Bleeding Heartland’s coverage of this story continues here and here.

Governor Kim Reynolds didn’t want the public to learn why she forced out Jerry Foxhoven as director of the Iowa Department of Human Services. The vague official narrative about Foxhoven’s unexpected departure remained intact for a month.

But the ground shifted last week. As further details emerge, the governor and her top staff will have more explaining to do.

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Auditor: Service cuts to some Iowans on Medicaid violate state contracts

State Auditor Rob Sand warned the Iowa Department of Human Services on June 26 that service cuts to two quadriplegic Iowans indicate that Amerigroup and UnitedHealthcare “have failed to comply” with their state contracts. Sand said the managed-care organizations (MCOs) have pushed both Medicaid recipients to move into assisted living, rather than meeting their contractual obligations to ensure members have access to covered benefits and adequate health care services.

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IA-02: Abby Finkenauer, Cindy Axne endorse Rita Hart

Former State Senator Rita Hart now has the backing of every Democrat representing Iowa in Congress for her bid to succeed Representative Dave Loebsack in the second district. The campaign announced support this morning from Representatives Abby Finkenauer (IA-01) and Cindy Axne (IA-03). I enclose below the full statement.

Loebsack endorsed Hart last month, and State Auditor Rob Sand did the same last week. Former Lieutenant Governor Patty Judge and a number of state lawmakers are among more than six dozen other high-profile supporters of Hart in the 24 counties that comprise IA-02. The current press contact for Hart’s campaign, Zachary Meunier, managed Loebsack’s re-election effort in 2018.

With several other prospective Democratic candidates taking themselves out of contention in recent weeks, Newman Abuissa appears likely to be Hart’s only competitor for the 2020 nomination. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee will surely back Hart but probably will spend little on the primary.

The Republican field has not yet settled in IA-02. Although the GOP has vowed to play for this seat, and recent voting patterns suggest it could be competitive, I question whether Republicans will invest heavily in the race. Hart is a good fit for the area and should be able to capitalize on the district’s slight Democratic lean.

The 24 counties in IA-02 contain 164,390 active registered Democrats, 142,462 Republicans, and 184,572 no-party voters, according to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office.

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Reynolds/Miller deal could encourage future Republican power grabs

Governor Kim Reynolds issued her first item veto of the year this week, rejecting part of a budget bill that sought to limit Attorney General Tom Miller’s authority to sign on to multi-state lawsuits. However, she did so only after Miller agreed not to join any such litigation without her permission, ensuring that he “will not be suing the Trump administration” anymore. In addition, the governor’s veto letter praised the “Legislature’s leadership on this issue.”

While not the worst-case scenario, the resolution of this conflict could invite more Republican bills encroaching on the authority of statewide elected Democrats. The governor and her staff could then pressure those officials to cede some of their power in exchange for a veto.

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