Jim Kurtenbach will resign as director of the Iowa Department of Administrative Services, before he’s had a confirmation hearing before the Iowa Senate.
“I am proud that we have improved the culture of this department in a manner that is customer-focused and outcome driven,” Kurtenbach wrote in a resignation letter dated Feb. 19 and released Monday by the state. “With these achievements in place, now is an appropriate time for me to return to life as a private citizen and to new professional challenges.”
Kurtenbach’s resignation is effective March 6.
Gov. Kim Reynolds appointed Kurtenbach to lead Iowa’s human resources agency June 20. His DAS salary was $154,300.
There was no further explanation for his departure after a little more than eight months on the job. Reynolds said Monday she has started a nationwide search for his replacement.
Kurtenbach, an Iowa State University accounting professor since 1991, served as a Republican state representative from 2002 to 2006. He was named an ISU vice president and chief information officer in 2016 without a search, The Gazette reported.
Democratic leadership in the Senate indicated last year Kurtenbach would be facing major challenges, including restoring faith after a sexual harassment scandal at the Iowa Finance Authority and after secret settlements to outgoing state employees.
Senate Minority Leader Janet Petersen, D-Des Moines, said Monday that her caucus had not discussed whether there was enough support in the Senate to confirm Kurtenbach. Gubernatorial appointees must receive a two-thirds affirmative vote, or 34 votes, of the 50-member Iowa Senate to win confirmation. There are 32 Republicans and 18 Democrats in the Iowa Senate.
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“I heard rumblings that his name might not be coming before the Senate,” Petersen told reporters.
“I had concerns about his appointment just with the number of dollars that our state has charged taxpayers for on workplace-related issues, sexual-harassment issues — wanting to make sure that the person that we put in charge of DAS is highly qualified so that we’re not going to continue to write check after check for employment issues that we should have a better handle on.
“I had not expressed those concerns to the governor’s office, so I’m not sure where this is coming from,” Petersen added.
Sen. Dennis Guth, R-Klemme, co-chair of the House-Senate joint budget subcommittee on administration and regulation, said he had not heard anything and had not been given any notice from the governor’s office that Kurtenbach would be leaving his post next month.
Kurtenbach succeeded Jane Phipps Burkhead, who was appointed interim director in 2014 and went on to become director. Reynolds reappointed her in 2019, but the legislative session ended without the Senate taking up the confirmation. She left the post in May.
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