AG Miller ‘sets the record straight’10/16/2013
I am responding to the editorial from the Storm Lake Times reprinted in Cityview (Guest View, Sept. 26). The editorial misrepresents a number of situations. Let me set the record straight in two of them.
The editorial criticizes circumstances surrounding the University of Iowa’s settlement with a physician following an employment dispute. The Associated Press asked for documents involving settlements with six University employees. We concluded that they were all public documents, consistent with our “Sunshine Advisories” and also with how we handle all settlements involving state taxpayer dollars. The individual employee has a statutory right to challenge our decision. It is the policy of state government, as contained in uniform rules adopted by all agencies, that when we know that an employee may disagree with our decision to release documents about them and may desire to challenge our decision in court, we tell him or her of our decision. We also inform the person that unless he or she files a lawsuit in a certain number of days, the documents will be released. The professor was notified by the University and filed a lawsuit in five days. Our office and the AP argued and prevailed in the trial court and appellate court on this issue that it was a public document. As a result, the document was released. The disagreement with the AP, however, centered on the University’s decision to notify the physician that the document would be released. The AP believed that the University should have been silent, released the document and not given the physician the opportunity to go to court. I disagree and believe that the rights of every Iowan should be observed.
The editorial stated that we are impeding the ombudsman’s work with whistleblowers. That’s just false. The ombudsman’s office is trying to question members of the Pharmacy Board about their decision in a case to see if, in their opinion, the Board members made a good decision or bad decision on the merits. We have a duty to be present for the interview if the Board members want us to be present. All of the Board members, in fact, requested our representation. From this, the ombudsman extrapolated that we want to be present when all state employees, including whistleblowers, are interviewed by the ombudsman’s office. This is untrue and absurd. As it should be, the Office of Ombudsman routinely and confidentially interviews whistleblowers without our knowing about it or being present.
An editorial writer wrote that because I disagree with him on some media issues, I somehow lack the zeal to be attorney general. Nothing could be further from the truth. I have never been more excited about serving as attorney general. In the last few years, I believe that we have done more than ever to serve Iowans. We successfully sued Vertrue Inc., which sold buying club memberships, for violating consumer fraud laws and recovered nearly $40 million for Iowans, many of whom are elderly. We entered into a mortgage servicing settlement with the major banks, resulting in payment of more than $40 million to Iowa homeowners and the funding of Iowa Mortgage Help Hotline, which has helped thousands of Iowans with mortgage foreclosure issues. We just won an arbitration case against tobacco companies that, had we lost, could have cost the state up to $44 million. We have a new elderly fraud unit to increase prosecutions of financial exploitation of seniors. We have worked with the legislature to strengthen laws against child pornography and enticement of minors for sexual exploitation. We have revamped the way we provide victim assistance services to help more victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault.
I wake up and come to work every day excited about what we are doing, realizing there is much more work to do and figuring out how we can do even more. We are investigating abuses by for-profit colleges, we are looking at shoddy debt collection practices and we are looking at ways to strengthen human trafficking laws. The list goes on and on.
It is a great honor to be Attorney General of Iowa, and I will continue to be guided by serving all Iowans, respecting the rule of law and doing the right thing. CV
Tom Miller is serving in his eighth four-year term as Attorney General of Iowa.