116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Home / News / Government & Politics / State Government
Iowa department heads get over $220K in bonuses
Bonus letters don’t point out specific accomplishments, but note awards take leaders over state-mandated salary caps
Continuing a method of compensating state executives more than salary caps allowed by the Iowa Legislature, Gov. Kim Reynolds has given five state department directors more than $220,000 in bonuses this past year.
- Kelly Garcia, who is leading two state agencies — the Iowa Department of Public Health and the Iowa Department of Human Services — was awarded a $50,000 bonus on Oct. 6, 2020. The bonus boosts Garcia’s total pay to $204,300, despite a state-mandated salary cap of $154,300. Human Services is the state’s largest agency and Public Health has been extremely busy — and under public scrutiny — because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Stephan K. Bayens, appointed commissioner of the Iowa Department of Public Safety in January 2019, got a $50,000 bonus on Sept. 8, 2020, taking his compensation for fiscal 2021 to $178,890. Bayens’ state-mandated salary cap is $128,890.
- Kayla Lyon, who Reynolds hired in June 2019 to be the Department of Natural Resources director, received a bonus of $25,410 on July 1, 2020. The boost puts her at $154,300 annually, compared with her statutory pay range topping out at $128,890.
The Gazette reported earlier this month on bonuses awarded to two other directors — Paul Trombino, who leads the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, and Debi Durham, who leads the Iowa Economic Development Authority and the Iowa Finance Authority. Their bonuses combined were just over $96,000.
Bleeding Heartland first published news about the bonuses for Garcia, Bayens and Lyon.
In the bonus letters, which are virtually the same for each director, the governor’s office does not call out any specific accomplishments by the leaders or challenges they have faced, but thanks them for their “continued dedication and willingness to serve the people of Iowa.”
The bonuses are paid out in 26 installments over the year, with the caveat that if the director leaves the job before the year is out, the leader will be required to “repay the proportionate amount of the payment for the time remaining.”
Using bonuses to boost department directors above their state-mandated salary caps isn’t new in Iowa.
Reynolds’ predecessor and longtime boss, former Gov. Terry Branstad, said in 2012 he approved bonuses and housing allowances for state department directors because “once in a while, there is a situation where someone has done an extraordinarily good job that should be considered for a bonus.”
Branstad said he favored awarding bonuses over trying to raise state salary caps.
“The difference between bonus and pay is that a bonus is a one-time deal,” he said. “A pay-rate increase is permanent, so it actually costs the taxpayer more. If a state employee gets a pay raise, that is the base on which they are paid from there going forward.”
The Iowa Board of Regents in 2015 awarded then-Executive Director Robert Donley $184,166 above his base salary of $154,300. The surplus included a $5,000 bonus and $179,166 in payouts from two deferred compensation plans, The Gazette reported.
Comments: (319) 339-3157; firstname.lastname@example.org