Staff Columnist

Kim Reynolds needs to come clean on Foxhoven

The Capitol Building in Des Moines on Wednesday, March 12, 2014. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette-KCRG TV9)
The Capitol Building in Des Moines on Wednesday, March 12, 2014. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette-KCRG TV9)

At an event at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame during the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, a few reporters asked Kim Reynolds what sort music she listened to growing up. She told us Bob Seger was among her favorites.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the late rapper Tupac Shakur did not come up. But I bet Tupac is on the governor’s mind now, if not her playlist, as she suddenly finds herself running against the wind.

Thanks to the Associated Press, we know, perhaps surprisingly, former Department of Human Services Director Jerry Foxhoven was a big Tupac fan. So big, he routinely sent inspirational Tupac lyrics to DHS employees and held “Tupac Fridays” in his office. His 65th birthday was celebrated with Tupac and “Thug Life” cookies.

Last month, just after Foxhoven sent out a staff email celebrating Tupac’s birthday, he was abruptly asked to resign by Reynolds.

Was he really kicked to the curb over Tupac? Nope, it turns out. But the quirky tale drew national attention. It led to other stories, and interviews.

“Her staff asked me to do something I thought was illegal, and so I wouldn’t do it,’ Foxhoven told the online music magazine Pitchfork last week. “And so they said, ‘OK, well then you need to go.’”

Wait, what?

Foxhoven’s ouster was a big story that had all but faded away. Iowans from Decorah all the way to east of Omaha had turned the page. And if it hadn’t been for the AP’s Ryan Foley, and Tupac, it might have stayed that way. It goes to show you never can tell.

Instead, by Monday, legislative Democrats were demanding hearings. “Iowans deserve to know the truth,” said state Rep. Ruth Ann Gaines, D-Des Moines, in a Monday news release.

Republicans who run the House and Senate said no dice. Truth, shmuth. GOP wagons swiftly were circled. After Pitchfork, they feared torches.

Reynolds’ staff insists they have no idea what Foxhoven is talking about. The governor is sticking with her vague “many factors” line on what led to Foxhoven’s departure.

But Foxhoven told The Gazette’s Michaela Ramm in an email that he’s also spoken with the Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and will sit down with state Auditor Rob Sand.

Those circled wagons may not be enough. The truth might just slip through.

Maybe it’s a big deal, and maybe not. Either way, knowing is better than speculation and cynical obstruction.

Reynolds was asked by KCRG recently whether Iowans have a right to know her rationale for making this kind of far-reaching decision. “I don’t think so,” the governor said.

And that’s what’s galling above all: Reynolds’ imperial insistence that it’s none of our damn business how she runs a department that spends hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars and delivers services to hundreds of thousands of Iowans. How dare we even ask?

“It’s none of your business” is an apt slogan for this administration. From Medicaid privatization to big personnel changes to where the governor stands on major bills being debated in the Legislature, it’s none of your business. What happened to promised weekly news conferences? None of your business.

Should Iowans stand for being kept in the dark, repeatedly? I don’t think so.

l Comments: (319) 398-8262; todd.dorman@thegazette.com

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