Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad announced Monday he will give the state's civil rights commission director a $5,000 bonus for reducing an investigative backlog.
The bonus pushes Beth Townsend past the $79,000 annual salary limit set for her position.
“Beth’s impressive leadership and management has resulted in more efficient case work, reduced backlog, streamlined intake and increased quality," Branstad said in a prepared statement.
Three Iowa Civil Rights Commission employees were fired in June 2011 after an investigation showed they were sending hundreds of emails to each other on personal accounts calling their peers derogatory nicknames during business hours, Branstad reported. The emails resulted in slower case investigation.
Under Townsend's leadership, the commission reduced the non-housing investigative backlog from 260 cases to 118 cases in fiscal 2012. Instead of taking an average 535 days to resolve a case, the department now just takes a year, Branstad reported. The commission is on track to eliminate the backlog entirely by June, he said.
The commission now starts processing complaints within 24 to 48 hours as opposed to the historical average of eight to 10 days, the news release said.
Branstad has been criticized by legislators and labor officials for providing bonuses to agency heads that push the leaders over state salary caps.
He gave Debi Durham, Iowa Economic Development Authority director, a $30,000 retention bonus in each of the last three fiscal years. He awarded Revenue Director Courtney Kay-Decker a $20,800 housing allowance in fiscal 2012 and Public Safety Commissioner K. Brian London a $16,000 recruitment bonus in October.
While earlier bonuses were not announced, Branstad acknowledged his philosophy on bonuses in Monday's news release."The governor’s practice is to utilize bonuses to provide a recognition and reward for exemplary performance," he said in the statement.