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Ousted Iowa director: Reynolds’ aides lying about his firing

By DAVID PITTAugust 1, 2019
Ousted Iowa Department of Human Services director Jerry Foxhoven sits at a news conference Thursday, Aug. 1, 2019, in West Des Moines, Iowa, where he said aides to Gov. Kim Reynolds are lying when they say he never objected to paying the salary of a governor's staffer out of his budget. Foxhoven, a 67-year-old legal scholar known for his frequent workplace praise of the late rapper Tupac Shakur, said he raised the issue more than once and declined to agree to pay most of the salary of the governor's deputy chief of staff, Paige Thorson, without legal advice. (AP Photo/David Pitt)
Ousted Iowa Department of Human Services director Jerry Foxhoven sits at a news conference Thursday, Aug. 1, 2019, in West Des Moines, Iowa, where he said aides to Gov. Kim Reynolds are lying when they say he never objected to paying the salary of a governor's staffer out of his budget. Foxhoven, a 67-year-old legal scholar known for his frequent workplace praise of the late rapper Tupac Shakur, said he raised the issue more than once and declined to agree to pay most of the salary of the governor's deputy chief of staff, Paige Thorson, without legal advice. (AP Photo/David Pitt)

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Ousted Iowa Department of Human Services Director Jerry Foxhoven said Thursday aides to Gov. Kim Reynolds are lying when they say he never objected to paying the salary of a governor’s staffer out of his budget.

Jerry Foxhoven, a 67-year-old legal scholar known for his frequent workplace praise of the late rapper Tupac Shakur, said Thursday he raised the issue more than once and declined to agree to pay most of the salary of the governor’s deputy chief of staff, Paige Thorson, without legal advice.

He said he thought paying Thorson from DHS funds might be illegal because she was moving from DHS to become the governor’s deputy chief of staff and would no longer be doing significant Medicaid work.

He said he raised the concern to Sara Craig Gongol, Reynolds’ chief of staff more than once.

“My question was whether it was even legal to do it now under that arrangement and she said I just needed to do it,” Foxhoven said.

He said he was worried an audit might later conclude he improperly diverted funds.

Before he could seek advice from the attorney general the governor’s staff lawyer Sam Langholz and Gongol called him to the Capitol, told him he must resign, took his state cell phone and badge and told him not to return to his office.

“It took a while just to kind of accept this is really what happened because everything the governor has ever said publicly or even privately to me was supportive and so I was pretty shocked by it really,” he said.

He said he never talked directly to Reynolds about it, but several months before he was asked to leave he had sent her a text message asking for a private meeting about the issue and never received a response. He said the governor has not met with him personally since she was elected in November.

Foxhoven said initially he wanted to just move on but Reynolds and her staff began to make it appear as if he’d done something wrong .

Foxhoven spoke at length for the first time on Thursday and said to clear his name he will file a legal claim of wrongful termination with the Iowa Appeal Board next week, the first step in suing the state. He’s alleging he was the victim of whistleblower retaliation. Foxhoven was asked to step down June 17.

His attorney, Tom Duff, said he’ll seek damages for lost pay and emotional distress. The complaint will name the state, Reynolds, Gongol and Langholz.

Reynolds denies Foxhoven raised concerns about the pay issue.

“Foxhoven never raised concerns with me or my staff about the salary agreements in question, and he never asked my staff for a legal opinion or said he would be reaching out to the Attorney General’s office for one,” she said in a statement Thursday.

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