Chris Godfrey is still the only openly gay
person in a top state government job in Iowa.
That’s still apparently one too many for the
It continues to do everything it can to make
his job — and his life — difficult. The latest:
The Governor vetoed a piece of Godfrey’s budget
in the Workers’ Compensation office. And the
governor’s Department of Management appears
to be targeting another chunk of Godfrey’s money
— but not similar money in a sister division
run by a Branstad appointee.
“I am frequently ignored and ostracized by others,
including but not limited to Teresa Wahlert
(his boss and the head of Iowa Workforce Development).
When I greet them or try to interact with them,
they walk away or pretend they do not hear me,”
he told the Iowa Civil Rights Commission in
[Alert: There’s stuff
about Nancy Sebring later in this column]
Meantime, the bills mount up as as the Governor’s
$325-an-hour lawyer prepares to fight a lawsuit
Godfrey filed. So far, the state’s Executive
Council has approved paying $89,297.72 in invoices
submitted by LaMarca & Landry. Expect a
lot more. The trial isn’t scheduled until August
of 2013, and none of the time-consuming — as
in billable hours — depositions have yet been
As Cityview has twice chronicled, after Terry
Branstad was elected in 2010 and before he took
office he wrote Godfrey and asked him to resign
as Iowa’s Workers’ Compensation Commissioner.
Godfrey, who has a statutory term that runs
until 2015, refused. He was then asked to meet
with the Governor and his aides in a campaign
office. “The Governor-elect stated that he had
a mandate and was entitled to have ‘his team
on the field,’ ” Godfrey told the Civil Rights
Commission. “I advised him that my position
was designed by the legislature to be insulated
from the type of political change the Governor-elect
Then, a few months after the Branstad administration
settled in, the Governor’s lawyer, Brenna Findley,
and his chief of staff, Jeff Boeyink, met with
Godfrey and again asked him to resign. Again,
he refused. They then, that day, reduced his
pay as much as they legally could — cutting
it to $73,500 annually from $112,068.84.
Godfrey, now 39, is a graduate of Drake University
and its law school. He practiced law until 2006,
when he was appointed to a stub term as Workers’
Compensation Commissioner by Gov. Tom Vilsack.
He was reappointed to a full term by Gov. Chet
Culver in 2009. He twice has been confirmed
by the Senate, the first time on a 48-2 vote,
the second time unanimously. By nearly every
account, he has done a first-rate job.
But, of course, he is gay.
In August of last year, he filed a complaint
with the Civil Rights Commission, which must
be done before a lawsuit can be filed, and he
amended it in April. In January of this year,
Godfrey sued in Polk County District Court,
alleging discrimination based on sexual orientation
— “willful and wanton, and done with malice
or in reckless disregard of [Godfrey’s] rights”
— and retaliation, including the demand for
his resignation, the cut in his pay and creation
“of a hostile working environment.”
The defendants are Branstad, Findley, Boeyink,
Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds (who as a senator voted
for his confirmation), Wahlert, Branstad communications
director Tim Albrecht, and the State of Iowa.
Godfrey’s lawyer is the formidable Roxanne Conlin,
who — adding an intriguing twist to the case
— lost to Branstad in her 1982 run for the governorship.
It’s not that Godfrey is a Democrat and Branstad
a Republican. Insurance Commissioner Susan Voss
is a Democrat with a fixed term, and Branstad
didn’t ask her to resign. And former Secretary
of State Michael Mauro, who is Labor Commissioner
and who works just down the hall from Godfrey
in the Workforce Development building, is a
Democrat whom Branstad appointed to a fixed
six-year term right after the election.
But, of course, neither Voss nor Mauro is gay.
As Workers’ Compensation Commissioner, Godfrey
has a budget of $2.26 million, which was set
by the Legislature this year. The legislation
says Godfrey had to spend $153,000 for salary,
benefits and the costs of hiring a Chief Deputy
Commissioner. Branstad item vetoed that requirement
— even though in his last go-round as Governor
his commissioner had three chief deputies —
and said the $153,000 should revert to the state.
Those who disagree with the governor, and that
includes Godfrey, think the veto simply means
Godfrey doesn’t have to hire a chief deputy
but gets to keep the budgeted money to use as
Then last week the Department of Management
called over to Iowa Workforce Development and
began asking about some carryover funds, appropriations
and miscellaneous receipts not used last fiscal
year. They did not ask about similar funds in
the office of the Labor Commissioner, whom Branstad
appointed and likes.
“I’m not very happy about what’s going on here,”
Kelly R. Taylor, the bureau chief for financial
management at Iowa Workforce Development, said
in an e-mail to Wahlert. “I do not believe I
would be asked questions about Worker’s Compensations
carryover if there wasn’t a pending lawsuit....I’m
surprised that DOM would be involved in asking
questions that could lead one to believe there’s
bias involved…” Taylor, incidentally, was the
whistle-blower in the CIETC doings of 2006.
A few months ago, the Governor and Lieutenant
Governor had a retreat for all state agency
heads and division directors. Godfrey apparently
was the only office holder not invited. “I asked
Ms. Wahlert about the event and why I was not
allowed to attend when other similarly, non-elected
office holders were invited,” Godfrey said in
his complaint to the Civil Rights Commission.
“Ms. Wahlert responded by informing me that
I was not to attend the event.”
There’s always an upside. ...
Let’s see if we have this straight. The three
new options for Des Moines Register subscribers
are (a) $10 a month for home delivery of the
Sunday print edition plus full access to the
digital paper; (b) $14 a month for home delivery
of the Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday
print editions plus full digital access; (c)
$23 a month for home delivery of the print edition
seven days a week plus full digital access.
If you assume that each month is four weeks,
this means you’re paying $2.50 for each Sunday
paper, 33.3 cents for each Thursday, Friday
and Saturday paper, and 75 cents for each Monday,
Tuesday and Wednesday paper. That’s especially
curious when you consider that the Monday paper
is the tiniest — and, one might say, crappiest
— of the week.
Of course, you can pick up Cityview for free.
Randy Brubaker, who had been managing editor
of the Register, now is “senior news director
(investigative reporting).” Two others seem
to have become equals. Carol Hunter, onetime
editorial page editor and more recently political
editor, now is “senior news director (politics/state
reporting),” and Julia Thompson is “senior news
director (digital and multimedia).” ...
Nancy Sebring may have been head over heels
in love with the guy who was sending her pictures
of his penis and otherwise entertaining her,
but those emails indicate she wasn’t head over
heels in love with Des Moines. Cityview asked
for the same bunch of emails that the Omaha
World-Herald asked for last month (the Register
asked for a bigger batch a few days later),
and while they show her telling pals she surely
will miss Des Moines when she goes to Omaha
— well, that didn’t exactly work out — they
also have another tidbit:
Besides applying for the job in Boulder, Colo.,
a year ago and the job in Omaha this spring,
she also threw her name into the mix for the
top job at the Eden Prairie, Minn., school system.
She withdrew only when she discovered the names
of the candidates were going to be made public.
And another e-mail, apparently to a recruiter,
says “Yes, I am interested” in the South Washington
County schools job, which apparently is in Minnesota.
The salacious emails are available
Now that you’ve read those and returned to
Skinny, here’s a bit more:
Two top Republican House staffers are leaving,
which is odd given that the GOP has a strong
majority and is likely to stay in control of
the House after November. As Cityview reported
a couple of weeks ago, Matt Hinch, the chief
of staff to Speaker Kraig Paulsen, is joining
the Greater Des Moines Partnership as senior
vice president for government relations. Now,
Lon Anderson, the longtime top staffer on the
budget committee, is moving over to become second
in command at the Department of Administrative
Services. “Anderson will really be missed,”
says a top GOP legislator who has worked with
him for years. “He knows more about the budget
than anyone, including Dave Roderer,” the guy
who runs the Department of Management.
One guy says the two moves signal unrest in
the party. Another says don’t read anything
Monthly job watch: Terry Branstad promised to
add 200,000 jobs in five years. When he made
the promise, state nonfarm employment was 1,488,100.
In a report issued Friday, the Legislative Services
Agency put the current number at 1,501,600.
That works out to a gain of about 1,000 a month.
At that rate, he’ll reach his goal in 2026.