Concerns at the Iowa Veterans Home have prompted members of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee to set up a meeting aimed at addressing what critics call a gross lack of leadership.
An open letter published in the Times-Republican and other Iowa newspapers Sunday called for action. Three former employees who each worked at IVH for more than 30 years-Richard Schrad, the retired director of Resident & Family Services and Resident Advocate, Dennis Mack, former H.R. Director and Interim IVH Administrator, and Charlene McGrew, the retired Director of Nursing-deplored the home's administration, in particular the leadership style of Commandant David Worley.
Bob Krause, long-time veterans' advocate, called on state legislators to step in with an investigation, believing that Gov. Terry Branstad was not doing enough to address the concerns at IVH. He said the sheer amount of people who have come forward with concerns is staggering.
"That is just darn near a revolution when you think about the culture shift," he said.
But Worley said the allegations are unfounded and that Krause and the others never came to him and addressed a specific issue, simply saying it was his "style" they object to. He said had never even met McGrew and was unaware who she was until the letter's publication.
When it comes to specific concerns, he said his staff always handles issues through the proper chain of command and in an appropriate manner. Since he took over as commandant in 2010, Worley said a vast majority of disciplinary issues stem from tardiness and attendance.
Worley said he and his staff work to ensure employees are accountable for their actions and do not aim to hand down draconian discipline.
"Are there always agreements? Absolutely not. There are challenges. We do the best to address those challenges," he said. "What about my style do (they) disagree with?"
But Krause said much of the outcry has to do with a culture of fear that Worley perpetuates. For example, he said, the names of those who signed a petition criticizing Worley were made available to him. Others were made to accept a change in their employment status, switching them from at-will employees to furlough employees. Those employees eventually ended unemployed after extended furlough.
Worley said he has nothing to do with employees' appeals when their jobs are jeopardy.
Many fear reprisal and are afraid to speak out, Krause added.
"They shut up," he said. "There was fear."
The governor defended Worley in a press release saying he is "confident that our veterans are being extremely well cared for at the Iowa Veterans Home."
Sen. Steve Sodders, D-State Center, also issued a press release Monday touching on the issue. In it, he said more needs to be done to address the problem, and the committee plans to hold a public session sometime next week.
"I have heard from many constituents in the district about the issues discussed in the open letter to the editor," Sodders wrote in the release. "I have expressed concerns at the legislature and hope we can get more information by conducting the public hearing."
Worley said he welcomes public input, and anyone can bring concerns he or she has directly to him so he can resolve the problem.
Schrad and Sodders were unavailable at press time for comment.