Jerry Foxhoven files $2 million wrongful termination claim against state

Former Iowa DHS director: Gov. Kim Reynolds, her staff prevented his legal right

Former DHS director Jerry Foxhoven holds a news conference with Attorney Thomas Duff at Duff Law Firm in West Des Moines
Former DHS director Jerry Foxhoven holds a news conference with Attorney Thomas Duff at Duff Law Firm in West Des Moines on Aug. 1. (KC McGinnis/Freelance)

The former director of the Iowa Department of Human Services has filed a complaint against the state seeking $2 million for wrongful dismissal.

In documents filed Thursday with the State Appeals Board, Jerry Foxhoven stated he was dismissed by Gov. Kim Reynolds and members of her staff to prevent him from disclosing information he believed was illegal, “a gross abuse of funds or abuse of authority under and pursuant to Iowa Code.”

Foxhoven and his West Des Moines attorney, Thomas Duff, filed the complaint against Reynolds and her chief of staff and her legal counsel, Sara Craig Gongol and Sam Langholz, respectively.

“As I have consistently shared with Iowans, many factors went into my decision to ask for Jerry Foxhoven’s resignation. My focus remains on the many Iowans that DHS serves, and I am committed to selecting a new director who will take this agency to the next level,” Reynolds said in a statement Friday.

Foxhoven was asked to resign by Reynolds on June 17. The governor has not offered a detailed explanation for the sudden firing for Foxhoven, who held the job for two years, other than she wanted to take the Department of Human Services “in a new direction.”

According to Foxhoven’s version of events laid out in State Appeal Board documents, Reynolds had requested the Department of Human Services to continue funding a staff position within the governor’s office. The staffer previously had worked within the agency, but had since taken a role as deputy chief of staff.

Foxhoven said he questioned the legality of this agreement, and stated he wanted an opinion from the Iowa Attorney General’s Office. Reynolds’ staff requested his resignation before he could ask for that legal advice.

Reynolds has said Foxhoven never raised such concerns over this request.


Foxhoven oversaw a department with a federally-supported annual budget of $6.5 billion and a workforce of about 4,600, one of the state’s largest.

Foxhoven was paid $154,300 in fiscal 2018, state records show.

The director of the Iowa Department of Public Health, Gerd Clabaugh, is currently serving as interim director of the human services department.

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