Governor Branstad’s appointee to head the Iowa Workforce Development Agency was questioned by a panel of State Senators. They are charged with confirming or denying the appointment.
The governor chose former Iowa Civil Rights Director Beth Townsend to replace the retiring Teresa Wahlert who was the subject of a lengthy Iowa Senate investigation last year.
The U.S. Department of Labor looked into whether the former director was favoring Iowa businesses over workers in unemployment cases. Townsend says the DOL cleared Wahlert of complaints she was directing law judges to favor employers over laid-off workers. “They indicated they had found no evidence to support that allegation,” Townsend says.
But Senate Democrats say one judge who testified before the Senate Oversight Committee was fired, in violation of federal law. The DOL says an employee who supervises the judges should not be able to be fired at will.
Waterloo Democrat Bill Dotzler tells Townsend the agency should be free from political pressure. “I hope you're up to that challenge,” Dotzler says.
Townsend admits some middle managers may have to go. “If I were confirmed there would be some changes I would make,” Townsend says.
“I appreciate your honesty,” replies Des Moines Democrat Tony Bisignano.
Townsend’s nomination cleared a Labor Committee panel. Dotzler predicts the full Senate will confirm her.