The non-issuance of a speeding ticket to a vehicle Iowa’s governor was not driving is getting extended attention in a political atmosphere where even major transgressions are quickly forgotten.
There are reasons for that. One is named Larry Hedlund, a former Division of Criminal Investigation Special Agent.
Hedlund complained to supervisors in April that a vehicle carrying the governor and lieutenant governor was not ticketed even though it was clocked going 84 mph on U.S. Highway 20 between Fort Dodge and Cedar Rapids. Hedlund was suspended in May and fired last week for what officials at the department say are incidents unrelated to the speeding complaint.
Naturally, that has all kinds of rumors swirling. Hedlund’s attorney, Thomas Duff of Des Moines, says his client plans to sue the state for wrongful termination. Duff has admitted Hedlund had other issues with management, but the speeding complaint was, apparently, the last straw for the administration.
Meanwhile, Gov. Terry Branstad held a news conference last week, saying he reviewed a 500-page report related to Hedlund’s firing. He called on Hedlund and Duff to let the report — which is covered by a personnel exemption to the public records law — be made public.
"I would love to tell you everything, but the lawyers tell me I can’t," Branstad said. "I believe in openness, instead of making false accusations and only giving people a portion of the facts; let’s let the public see all the facts."
That volley was quickly returned.
"This was just an example of the governor playing more political games by calling attention to a report that then has to be kept private," said Matt Sinovic, executive director of the liberal Progress Iowa. "People are left to wonder if the governor thinks he is above the law."
Let’s first admit that political gamesmanship isn’t an activity cornered by the governor’s office. It’s the reason why groups from all political angles exist — including Progress Iowa.
Second, the report doesn’t have to be kept private. Hedlund and his attorney could make it public. Whether or not that assists in a lawsuit will probably be the determining factor there. Meanwhile, taxpayers who will be paying for the court costs will probably remain in the dark for the time being.
Rest assured, we’d love to hear everything, before this situation gets completely out of hand.
Perhaps its too late for that.