Former Department of Human Services Director Jerry Foxhoven believes his objection to using DHS funds to pay the salary of a member of Gov. Kim Reynolds’ staff is what led to his forced resignation, the Associated Press reported on Wednesday.
Foxhoven told Pitchfork magazine last week, “[Reynolds’] staff asked me to do something that I thought was illegal and I wouldn’t do it and so they said, ‘O.K., well then you need to go.”
He didn’t tell the magazine what he’d been asked to do, but said, “I was concerned about the legality of what they asked. I was concerned and said I wouldn’t do it without a legal opinion.”
Foxhoven said he was told to resign before he could request a legal opinion.
According to the AP, immediately before his resignation, Foxhoven was asked to approve using DHS funds to pay the salary of Elizabeth Matney, a former DHS employee who joined Reynolds’ staff as an advisor on health policy in May.
“I can confirm that I was concerned about the legality of using DHS funds to pay the salaries of the governor’s staff,” Foxhoven told the AP. “I wanted an opinion about the legality of this from the attorney general’s office before I would act on the governor’s office request. I was asked to step down before I could ask for that legal opinion.”
Reynolds has refused to explain why Foxhoven was forced to resign on June 17. Two days after Foxhoven’s resignation, Reynolds told reporters, “There are a lot of factors that went into that decision. I’m not going to get into them.”
When she was asked last week by KCRG to explain why Foxhoven was forced out, Reynolds said, “No, I’m just not going to get into that. I just don’t think that that’s healthy and there’s no reason to do that.”
The reporter also asked the governor if the public has the right to know why she effectively fired the head of a state agency with a budget of $6.5 billion and almost 5,000 employees. Reynolds replied, “I don’t think so.”
In response to questions from the AP about Foxhoven’s belief that he was forced out over his concerns about using DHS funds to pay Matney, a Reynolds spokesperson pointed out that Iowa governors of both parties have used funds from various state agencies to pay the salaries of staffers. The former DHS director, in fact, had approved the use of agency funds to pay members of the governor’s staff on three previous occasions.
Foxhoven has not explained what made the request for funds in Matney’s case different. He has also not explained why he brought the matter to the attention of the Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. That office “is responsible for protecting the integrity of DHHS programs including Medicaid,” the AP noted.
The federal government provides 66 percent of the money for the Medicaid program in Iowa. As DHS director, Foxhoven was in charge of administrating the program in the state.
Reynolds appointed Gerd Clabaugh interim DHS director after Foxhoven resigned. Claubaugh approved the use of DHS funds to pay Matney on June 19, two days after Foxhoven’s resignation.