Branstad fills boards facing high-profile decisions

Women appointed to health facilities council and public information board

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Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad on Thursday filled openings on two state boards facing high-profile decisions in coming months.

He named Brenda Perrin, of Cherokee, to a fulfill a partial term on the state Health Facilities Council, a five-person board that decides whether Iowa hospitals, nursing homes and other health care facilities may expand.

The board will consider Oct. 11 whether to allow a Tennessee company to open a 72-bed psychiatric hospital in Bettendorf. The group deadlocked on the proposal in February, when it only had four members, blocking a facility some mental health advocates said was sorely needed.

Branstad told The Gazette last month he was frustrated by the vote and planned to appoint someone to the board without ties to the health care industry.

Robert Lundin II, a LeClaire Republican on the board, served much of his career as a hospital administrator for UnityPoint Health — a group that opposed the new psychiatric hospital.

Perrin is a Republican and president of Screenbuilders, a family-owned business in Cherokee that builds custom patio rooms. She fills the council seat vacated in May by Amy Skinner, who moved to South Dakota. Perrin’s term expires in April, but she could be reappointed to a six-year term.

Other board members are Roberta Chambers, a Corydon Independent; Connie Schmett, a Clive Republican; and Roger Thomas, an Elkader Democrat.

The group will hear Oct. 12 a proposal from Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids to start a cardiovascular surgical program that would allow the hospital to perform open-heart surgeries.

Public Information Board

Branstad appointed two women to four-year terms on the Iowa Public Information Board, a nine-person group that enforces Iowa’s open records and open meetings laws. Story County Treasurer Renee Twedt will join the board as one of three government representatives. She is a Republican.

Branstad also named Mary Ungs-Sogaard, publisher of Iowa newspapers that include the Dyersville Commercial and Cascade Pioneer, to the board. The Dyersville Democrat is one of three media representatives.

The public information board now has five Republicans, three Democrats and one Independent.

Two of the Republicans, Gary Mohr, of Bettendorf, and Andy McKean, of Anamosa, are running for the Iowa House in November. If elected, they will likely resign their seats on the board, Branstad Spokesman Ben Hammes said in July.

On Oct. 21, the board is slated to hold a contested hearing over whether the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation and the Burlington Police Department broke public records law by refusing to release body camera video and other records about a 2015 officer-involved shooting.

Former Iowa Supreme Court Justice Mark McCormick, working as prosecutor for the board, charged the law enforcement agencies May 27 with failure to provide open records to the Burlington Hawk Eye and the family of Autumn Steele, who was accidentally shot and killed Jan. 6, 2015, by Burlington Police Officer Jesse Hill.

Administrative Law Judge Karen Doland will hear the case and render an opinion to the board, which can accept or reject it. The board has authority to force the agencies to turn over the records and impose fines.

Appointments to both boards are unpaid and subject to Iowa Senate confirmation.

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