Letters to the Editor

BY DI READERS | OCTOBER 16, 2014 5:00 AM

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More secret payments by Branstad administration

Most Iowans have heard the Branstad administration secretly paid out settlements to certain laid-off state employees and, in some cases, paid “hush money” to keep things secret.

But did you know that, according to Iowa’s state auditor, there were almost twice as many secret settlements and they cost $200,000 more than Gov. Terry Branstad first admitted? And that the former Branstad administration attorney who negotiated several agreements testified under oath that he told the governor’s legal counsel about the “hush money” clauses? 

I’ve heard more than most because I’m a member of the Iowa Senate’s Government Oversight Committee. After several months of investigation, here’s what we learned and what we believe can be done to prevent this from happening again.

The money paid out in secret settlements came from at least six separate accounts intended for construction management costs, energy efficiency, and other purposes. Taxpayers and legislators were not told the money had been diverted.

Last month, the Oversight Committee concluded our investigation and made several recommendations. 

One, the Legislature should ban secret settlements and hush money in all branches of government. 

Two, the Legislature should eliminate the slush funds and questionable bookkeeping that gave state agencies a blank checkbook for the secret settlement payments. 

Three, we should expand protections for those who blow the whistle on wrongful activities in state government.

People working for Iowa’s governor, regardless of party, should not be able to pay state workers to stay silent when questionable things are being done. Taxpayers deserve honesty and accountability.

State Sen. Brian Schoenjahn

Elect Ernst

Let’s elect Ernst to the Senate. She will work to impeach Obama and eliminate Medicaid and Obamacare. She will also cut farm aid (a useless program) and use that money to reduce corporate taxes. Vote for Ernst.

Ian Mcleod

Ernst not a combat vet

Joni Ernst claims to be a “combat veteran.” That claim implies that her mission was to actively engage the enemy in combat. However, Ernst is not a member of any “combat-arms” unit (Infantry, Artillery, Armor are combat arms units). Ernst was the commanding officer of Transportation Company responsible for the delivery of water, fuel, and other supplies to units in secure areas.

Ernst did not lead her troops into combat as one of her ads claims. Ernst’s troops were not combat personnel, and their mission was not combat. Essentially, Ernst was in charge of a group of truck drivers. I am sure that the mission of supply delivery had many potential hazards, but driving trucks from one secure area to another secure area is not combat even if personnel were armed with M-16s.

As an Army veteran of the Vietnam conflict, I was awarded the Combat Infantryman Badge to signify my participation in combat. The photos of Ernst in uniform shows that this award is absent.

Any claims that she is a “combat veteran” seem to be a greatly overstated misrepresentation and perhaps a violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. There is a distinct and obvious difference between those who served as combatants and those serving as support personnel. Ernst and her soldiers served an important support role, not a combat role. This overstatement of service/accomplishments to gain political advantage does harm to those veterans who served and actually were “combat veterans.”

If this is an example of the honesty she promises Iowans, I say no thank you.

Larry Hanft

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