Gov. Reynolds still refuses to explain why she forced Jerry Foxhoven to resign

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Gov. Kim Reynolds and former Department of Human Services Director Jerry Foxhoven. — official portraits

Gov. Kim Reynolds is still refusing to explain why she forced Jerry Foxhoven to resign as director of the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) on June 17.

On Tuesday morning, Reynolds held her first press conference since Foxhoven publicly alleged he was forced out after declining to approve the use of DHS funds to pay the salary of a Reynolds’ staffer.

“I was concerned about the legality of what [Reynolds’ staff] asked. I was concerned and said I wouldn’t do it without a legal opinion,” Foxhoven told Pitchfork magazine earlier this month. Last week he confirmed to the Associated Press that his concerns were over a request to use DHS funds to pay the salary of Elizabeth Matney, a former DHS employee who joined Reynolds’ staff as an adviser on health policy in May.

Foxhoven said he was told to resign before he could request a legal opinion.

“I want to be clear,” Reynolds said during her Tuesday morning press conference. “He never raised any concerns to me or my office about anything.”

Two days after Foxhoven was forced out in June, Reynolds told reporters, “There are a lot of factors that went into that decision. I’m not going to get into them.”

On Tuesday, she said almost the same thing.

“I don’t believe that the agency is where it should be and I think that we can do better and because of that, I’ve made the decision to go in a different direction and that’s what we’re doing,” Reynolds said at her press conference.

The governor declined to explain what her plans are for DHS.

In response to an open records request from the Des Moines Register, the governor’s office said there are no written records — not even emails — related to Foxhoven’s resignation. Asked by KCRG whether the public has a right to know why she forced out the head of the state’s largest agency, Reynolds replied, “I don’t think so.”

Previous governors have tapped state agency funds to pay staffers, and Foxhoven had approved such arrangements on two previous occasions. The former director has not explained what made the request in Matney’s case different.

Foxhoven has said that he presented his concerns to the Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), but has not explained why he did so. HHS provides 66 percent of the funding for Medicaid, which DHS administers in the state of Iowa.

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State Auditor Rob Sand has said he will open an investigations into Foxhoven’s forced resignation.

Gerd Clabaugh, the director of the Iowa Department of Public Health, was appointed interim DHS director by Reynolds after Foxhoven resigned. According to the governor’s office, Clabaugh will run both agencies until a permanent replacement for Foxhoven is selected.

Claubaugh approved the use of DHS funds to pay Matney on June 19, two days after Foxhoven’s resignation.

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