116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
DES MOINES — Jerry Foxhoven, the former head of the Iowa Department of Human Services, filed an appeal this week with the Iowa Supreme Court to reconsider his wrongful termination lawsuit against Gov. Kim Reynolds and the state of Iowa.
A Polk County District Court judge appointed by Reynolds in 2018 dismissed Foxhoven’s suit last month. Foxhoven alleges he was fired by Reynolds in June 2019, after two years on the job, because he refused to engage in Medicaid fraud.
According to the suit, Foxhoven objected to paying a portion of the salary of a former DHS employee who transferred to the governor’s office, which he believe was “a false claim for payment of Medicaid funds,” as the employee no longer performed duties related to Iowa Medicaid.
Foxhoven alleges he told Reynolds’ staff he planned to report the issue to the Iowa Attorney General’s Office, but was terminated before he had the chance.
In her Aug. 31 ruling, District Court Judge Sarah Crane wrote that as an officer of the state in “one of the highest positions in state government,” Foxhoven served “’at the pleasure of the governor.”
Foxhoven, in his suit, claimed protection as a whistleblower under both state and federal law. Crane, however, ruled that Foxhoven could not bring a claim under the False Claims Act. The statute allows whistleblowers to sue people or entities that are defrauding the government and recover damages and penalties on the government's behalf.
Crane, though, wrote that federal courts have held the statute “was intended to ensure independent contractors could sue and was not intended to allow suits against a state” and state officials acting in their official capacity.
Des Moines attorney Thomas Duff, who is representing Foxhoven, argues the district court determined Reynolds was entitled to “discretionary function immunity,” but never commented on the factual merits of the lawsuit.
“These are all purely legally defenses having nothing to do with the merits of the case,” Duff told The Gazette. “No one has ever said that what the governor’s and her staff’s conduct on firing him was in any way legitimate or correct. We just haven’t gotten that far.”
Reynolds’ office declined to comment on Foxhoven’s appeal.
FEDERAL GRANT AWARDED: Iowa’s Vocational Rehabilitation Services will receive a federal grant of $13.8 million over the next five years to support increasing access to well-paid jobs for people with disabilities.
Iowa is one of 14 states receiving a combined $177 million in grants from the federal Department of Education to provide employment opportunities at industry-standard wages to people with disabilities.
Federal labor law allows employers in some cases to pay people with disabilities less than minimum wage or below the prevailing wage for the job, if the disability affects the person’s productivity in the job.
According to a news release, the grants will help decrease the use of subminimum wages and increase access to more competitive employment for workers with disabilities, where they will work alongside non-disabled workers. Job opportunities afforded by the grants include green jobs, essential industries, transportation and the arts.
“Our Real Pay for Real Jobs Initiative is about Building a more equitable, inclusive workforce that thrives on the talents of Americans of all abilities. These grants will support innovative efforts underway across the country to provide educational opportunities to youth and adults with disabilities so they can secure better-paying jobs, build economic security, and lead more fulfilling, independent lives,” U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in the news release.
JUDICIAL APPOINTMENT: Erik Howe, assistant Polk County Attorney from Polk City, has been appointed a district associate judge by Gov. Kim Reynolds. Howe will serve as an associate judge in Judicial Election District 5C, which is in Polk County.
Howe fills a vacancy created by the addition of new district associate judge positions created this year by state lawmakers and Reynolds.
WEBSITE FOR VOTERS: The state website with information for Iowa voters has been given a makeover just in time for this fall’s general election.
Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate announced that voterreadyiowa.iowa.gov has been updated and has all the information Iowa voters need, including how to register to vote, download an absentee ballot request form, track the status of an absentee ballot request, find where to vote, and learn important dates and deadlines for the November 8 election.
Pate said his office is promoting the website on myriad media platforms with the goal of informing Iowa voters about the upcoming election.
“The Nov. 8 general election is less than six weeks away and voters are already requesting their absentee ballots. Let’s keep Iowa’s great track record of being one of the best states in the nation for voter participation,” Pate said in a news release.
IAB HEARING: The Iowa Utilities Board has scheduled an oral argument to clarify the scope of a petition for a proposed underground electric transmission line filed by SOO Green HVDC Link ProjectCo, LLC. The hearing will be 9 a.m. Dec. 15 at 1375 E. Court Ave. in Des Moines.
SOO Green has proposed a 174-mile electric transmission line that would cross through Allamakee, Cerro Gordo, Chickasaw, Clayton, Dubuque, Floyd, Jackson, and Winneshiek counties in Iowa.
Gazette-Lee Des Moines Bureau