The following editorial was published in the Quad City Times on July 24:
It may be that the logjam is beginning to break.
Ousted Iowa Department of Human Services Director Jerry Foxhoven said he’s been talking to state and federal authorities about the circumstances of his abrupt departure last month.
That’s a good thing. It’s not right that the head of such an important agency as DHS can be pushed out the door and the public not get an explanation.
Yet, that’s the position Gov. Kim Reynolds and legislative Republicans are taking.
For more than a month, the governor’s office has been peddling the line that Foxhoven had to go because she wanted the department to go in a “new direction.” Which is about as truthful and informative as when a baseball manager or corporate executive leaves a job to “spend more time with his family.”
It’s a dodge, and everybody knows it.
We did get a small glimpse behind the curtain last week.
Foxhoven said he’d been asked to do something he considered illegal, he refused and then was asked to resign.
At the time, the former director was getting blitzed with questions about his affinity for the rapper Tupac Shakur, an oddity that was revealed in hundreds of emails sought by the Associated Press.
The AP, like other news organizations, has been seeking reasons for Foxhoven’s resignation. Instead, it got a quirky story that drew national attention. Which led to Foxhoven having a conversation with the national music publication Pitchfork. “Her staff asked me to do something I thought was illegal, and so I wouldn’t do it,” Foxhoven said. “And so they said, ‘OK, well, then you need to go.’”
Foxhoven wouldn’t elaborate. Meanwhile, the governor’s office said it had no idea what Foxhoven was referring to and that he “never raised a concern like that to us.”
Legislative Democrats have asked for hearings on the matter, but Republican leaders rejected the idea.
“The former director’s vague comment to a music publication has not come with any other details,” House Speaker Linda Upmeyer said Monday.
It seems to us that Foxhoven’s comments might be less vague if somebody asked him to clarify.
Still, Foxhoven appears to be talking — to state and federal authorities, so perhaps he isn’t being as vague as Upmeyer thinks.
Foxhoven told The Gazette in Cedar Rapids on Monday that he’d spoken with an agent from the inspector general’s office at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and has agreed to speak with State Auditor Rob Sand. He also said he’d talked with two Republican lawmakers, one in the House and one in the Senate. They were not identified.
We’re not sure where all this will lead, and we don’t know whether Foxhoven was asked to do anything improper.
What we do know is the governor’s office has gone to great lengths to keep secret the reason(s) he was asked to resign.
In fact, they were so careful that they didn’t put anything on paper, which allowed them to skirt a 2017 law that was passed to require disclosure in instances just like this.
Some have speculated this has to do with the Medicaid program, which just recently had to boost payments to the private insurers who run the program by more than 8 percent. They had to boost their pay in 2018, too.
Others have speculated it may have to do with problems at a state facility for the disabled, where there has been an increase in deaths. (Foxhoven has said he doesn’t believe poor care led to the deaths.)
We shouldn’t have to guess about this. Iowans deserve to know why the governor wanted one of the most important figures in state government gone.
The governor may be the chief executive, but she still works for the public.
She should have been upfront about this the day she asked him to resign. Iowans appreciate honesty.
It’s not too late.