Health

Former Iowa DHS Director Foxhoven to file wrongful termination claim

Department of Human Services Director Jerry Foxhoven at a news conference on April 1, 2019. (Rod Boshart/The Gazette)
Department of Human Services Director Jerry Foxhoven at a news conference on April 1, 2019. (Rod Boshart/The Gazette)

The ousted Iowa Department of Human Services director is filing a legal claim against the state over his resignation, his lawyer said.

Attorney Thomas Duff announced a news conference in West Des Moines for Thursday in connection with the resignation of Jerry Foxhoven, who was asked to step down by Gov. Kim Reynolds last month from his post overseeing one of the state’s largest agencies.

The legal claim will be filed with the State Appeals Board before moving forward with a suit against the state and any individuals, Duff told The Gazette.

Duff said Foxhoven objected to a request by the Governor’s Office for the department to continue funding the salary of the governor’s deputy chief of staff, Paige Thorson, according to a report by the Associated Press Wednesday. Foxhoven had approved the arrangement in 2018, believing it made sense at the time.

However, by June, Foxhoven believed Thorson was no longer working in the department’s best interests, according to Duff.

Duff said Foxhoven contends he was asked to resign because of whistleblower retaliation, according to the AP article.

Pat Garrett, spokesman for the Governor’s Office, declined to comment, citing the potential litigation.

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However, Garrett has said in the past Foxhoven never raised concerns regarding pay agreements before offering his resignation.

Foxhoven — who oversaw a department with a federally supported annual budget of $6.5 billion and a workforce of about 4,600 for two years — was asked to step down on June 17.

Reynolds told reporters at the time she asked for his resignation because she wanted to take the Department of Human Services “in a new direction.”

She defended the decision at a news conference this week, saying she has charted a new direction aimed at “taking this agency to the next level.”

“This is an at-will, political appointment that serves at the pleasure of the governor and I have indicated that there were several factors that went into this decision and I made the decision to go in a different direction,” Reynolds said at her weekly news conference Tuesday.

• Comments: (319) 368-8536; michaela.ramm@thegazette.com

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