Gov. Terry Branstad remains in the corner of embattled Iowa Veterans Home Commandant David Worley. The governor also feels new Chief Operating Officer Jodi Tymeson has added a lot to the Marshalltown facility in her three months on the job.
The Times-Republican published a story last Sunday about Tymeson stepping into controversy that has surrounded the home much of this year. The governor was unavailable for an interview in time for that story but did speak with the T-R Wednesday.
Branstad, a Republican, appointed Tymeson, a retired brigadier general and former Republican member of the Iowa Legislature, in May to the newly created position of COO. He asked her to "work with Commandant Worley and help us make any changes we needed to."
Branstad said Tymeson oversees day-to-day operations while Worley remains the top executive responsible for the home's policies.
"She's got a great relationship with Commandant David Worley and I think she's well respected by the residents, the volunteers and the staff of the veterans home," Branstad said.
Last week, state Sen. Steve Sodders, D-State Center, called Tymeson a high-priced babysitter in charge of keeping an eye on Worley.
Sodders and others have asked that Worley be placed on leave, claiming Worley is abusive toward staff and residents and has sexually harassed female employees.
Branstad questions the allegations and said he has no intention of removing Worley.
"This is not the kind of stuff that would even be admissible in court," Branstad said. "It's second-hand information; you can't rely on stuff like that. You have people repeating accusations without facts."
Branstad described Worley as a distinguished veteran who is "on a first-name basis with virtually all the residents."
Mike Croskey, one of the roughly 600 veterans living at IVH and head of the resident council, would also like to see Worley removed. Croskey said many of his fellow residents feel imprisoned at IVH but won't speak out for fear Worley will discharge them, leaving them no place to go.
"I've had some of them tell me 'I wish I never would have went into the service if I knew I would get treated like this.' We are not people anymore," Croskey said.
Worley, appointed to the job three years ago by then-Gov. Chet Culver, a Democrat, was the subject of intense scrutiny during a May 6 Iowa Senate hearing during which numerous ex-employees testified that they were told by other employees and residents, all of whom were hesitant to come forward themselves, that Worley was a bully.
Bill Rakers, former IVH recreation director, said in the hearing that Worley was more concerned with cutting costs than employee morale.
Ken Briggs, a representative on the Iowa Mental Health Planning Council, said residents regularly told him that they were not bathed and did not receive meals on time.
Richard Schrad, former director of resident and family services, said Worley degraded residents and made sexually explicit comments to staff.
Tymeson told the T-R last week that she hasn't received a complaint about Worley that was credible enough to investigate.
In an interview last week with the T-R, Worley noted that the home has received clean audits from the state and various agencies that regulate nursing homes. He also questioned the validity of the claims made against him.
"Even the allegations at that hearing, there was no one saying that any of these things happened to them; they were saying these things happened to other people," Worley said. "That was on May 6, so it's been over three months and you would have thought someone would have stepped forward."