Reynolds dropped from suit filed over alleged discrimination
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds has been dropped from a lawsuit alleging that her predecessor and others in his administration singled out a former state official for a pay cut because of his political party or sexual orientation.
The long-running lawsuit filed by former Workers’ Compensation Commissioner Chris Godfrey against Republican former Gov. Terry Branstad is set for trial in state court on June 3 in Des Moines. The lawsuit also names the state, members of his 2010-2011 staff and former Iowa Workforce Development Director Teresa Wahlert. Reynolds, also a Republican, was Branstad’s lieutenant governor.
Godfrey’s attorney, Roxanne Conlin, told The Associated Press that dropping Reynolds from the suit was a strategic decision.
“She had very little to do with any issue on the case,” Conlin said.
Reynolds’ spokesman had no immediate comment, and attorneys representing the state didn’t immediately reply to a message.
Godfrey claims discrimination and retaliation and violation of his constitutional rights to due process and equal protection.
In court documents filed Wednesday, Conlin indicated hopes to seek $6 million to $10 million in damages for emotional distress and three times that amount in punitive damages. Godfrey also wants to recover his attorney’s fees and costs, which court documents indicate exceed $2.6 million.
Attorneys representing Branstad and the state have billed about $1 million to taxpayers so far.
Branstad slashed Godfrey’s pay by 35% after the commissioner refused the governor’s request to resign in 2011. Godfrey argues it was improperly motivated by his status as an openly gay man and a Democrat. But Branstad says he didn’t know Godfrey was gay and he simply wanted a more “pro-business” commissioner than Godfrey, who had been appointed and reappointed by prior Democratic governors.
The lawsuit was filed in January 2012 and has gone to the Iowa Supreme Court twice. It is among the first cases to seek monetary damages from the state based on allegations that a government official infringed on the rights of an individual. Godfrey overcame a legal hurdle in June 2017 when the state Supreme Court allowed him to seek damages for alleged political retaliation. The ruling made it easier for Iowa residents to sue government officials who violate their rights.
Godfrey is now the chief judge of the board that decides federal workers’ compensation disputes in Washington.
Branstad is now the U.S. ambassador to China.
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