Government

Gov. Kim Reynolds: State has 'strong case' in appeal of $1.5 million discrimination ruling against Gov. Branstad

Jury awarded Chris Godfrey $1.5 million when he sued former Gov. Terry Branstad

The Iowa Supreme Court hears cases at the Judicial Branch Building in Des Moines. Gov. Kim Reynolds on Tuesday said she is confident the state will succeed in its appeal of a $1.5 million judgment against the state and former Gov. Terry Branstad in a discrimination lawsuit. (Matthew Putney/Freelance)
The Iowa Supreme Court hears cases at the Judicial Branch Building in Des Moines. Gov. Kim Reynolds on Tuesday said she is confident the state will succeed in its appeal of a $1.5 million judgment against the state and former Gov. Terry Branstad in a discrimination lawsuit. (Matthew Putney/Freelance)

DES MOINES — Gov. Kim Reynolds said her legal advisers are confident their appeal of a $1.5 million judgment levied against her predecessor’s administration will be successful, and she disputed the suggestion the best her team can hope for is a retrial.

Reynolds’ administration has appealed to the Iowa Supreme Court a jury’s finding that former state workers’ compensation Commissioner Chris Godfrey, who is gay, was the victim of discrimination and retaliation in 2011 when former Gov. Terry Branstad tried to force him to quit and then cut his pay.

Speaking with reporters Tuesday at the governor’s mansion on Terrace Hill after the annual turkey pardoning ceremony, Reynolds said her legal team is confident in its appeal, and that the cost of pursuing the appeal is worthwhile, given the size of the $1.5 million judgment.

“They have a 182-page brief that outlines the issues that they saw with the case,” Reynolds said of her legal advisers. “I think it would be irresponsible for me not to, at this point, take it to the next step because the cost, at this point, is minimal.”

Reynolds, who was Branstad’s lieutenant governor in 2011, pushed back when asked if the best her administration could hope for is a retrial.

“No, it doesn’t necessarily mean that,” she said. “We feel that we have a very strong case, and one of the options is to be done with it, not to go to retrial. This is the right path to go.”

In September, after the verdict, the Iowa Executive Council approved a bill for more than $488,000 for the Des Moines law firm representing the state, Branstad and his former legal counsel Brenna Findley. That brought the cost to taxpayers to defend them to more than $2.4 million, according to the Associated Press.

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Reynolds soon will nominate her third Iowa Supreme Court justice following the death this month of Chief Justice Mark Cady.

Comments: (563) 383-2492; erin.murphy@lee.net

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