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Godfrey v. Branstad

United States District Court, S.D. Iowa, Central Division

June 27, 2014

CHRISTOPHER J. GODFREY, Plaintiff,
v.
TERRY BRANSTAD, Governor of the State of Iowa, Individually and in his Official Capacity; KIMBERLY REYNOLDS, Lieutenant Governor of the State of Iowa, Individually and in her Official Capacity; JEFFREY BOEYINK, Chief of Staff to the Governor of the State of Iowa, Individually and in his Official Capacity; BRENNA FINDLEY, Legal Counsel to the Governor of the State of Iowa, Individually and in her Official Capacity; TIMOTHY ALBRECHT, Communications Director to the Governor of the State of Iowa, Individually and in his Official Capacity; and TERESA WAHLERT, Director, Iowa Workforce Development, Individually and in her Official Capacity, Defendants

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For Christopher J Godfrey, Plaintiff: Roxanne Barton Conlin, Roxanne Conlin & Associates, Des Moines, IA.

For Terry E Branstad, Governor of the State of Iowa, individually and in his official capacity, Kimberly Reynolds, Lieutenant Governor of the State of Iowa, individually and in her official capacity, Jeffrey Boeyink, Chief of Staff to the Governor of the State of Iowa, individually and in his official capacity, Brenna Findley, Legal Counsel to the Governor of the State of Iowa, individually and in her official capacity, Timothy Albrecht, Communications Director to the Governor of the State of Iowa, individually and in his official capacity, Teresa A. Wahlert, Director, Iowa Workforce Development, individually and in her official capacity, Defendants: Andrew H Doane, George A LaMarca, Philip J. De Koster, LAMARCA & LANDRY PC, DES MOINES, IA.

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ORDER

JAMES E. GRITZNER, Chief United States District Judge.

This matter comes before the Court on a Motion to Dismiss or Stay by Defendants Terry Branstad, Kimberly Reynolds, Jeffrey Boeyink, Brenna Findley, Timothy Albrecht, and Teresa Wahlert (collectively, Defendants). Plaintiff Christopher J. Godfrey (Godfrey) resists. A hearing on the

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Motion was conducted on July 30, 2013. Attorney Roxanne Conlin was present on behalf of Godfrey; and attorneys George LaMarca, Andrew Doane, and Philip De Koster were present on behalf of Defendants. The Motion is fully submitted and ready for disposition.[1]

I. BACKGROUND

A. Factual Background[2]

On January 3, 2006, Godfrey was appointed Interim Workers' Compensation Commissioner for the State of Iowa by Governor Tom Vilsack and was confirmed by the Iowa Senate on April 11, 2007. In 2009, Godfrey was appointed to a six-year term as Workers' Compensation Commissioner for the State of Iowa by Governor Chet Culver and was confirmed by the Iowa Senate on March 30, 2009. Godfrey's current six-year term will expire April 30, 2015.

The position of Iowa Workers' Compensation Director is statutory; and the duties, responsibilities, and salary are defined and governed by Iowa law. See Iowa Code § § 86.1 et seq.; 2008 Iowa Acts 1191 § 14(1)(d). Effective July 1, 2008, the Iowa legislature set a salary range for the Workers' Compensation Director of $73,250 to $112,070. 2008 Iowa Acts 1191 § 14(1)(d). On July 25, 2008, Godfrey's annual salary was increased to $112,068.84.

On November 2, 2010, Terry Branstad (Branstad) was elected Governor of the State of Iowa, with Kimberly Reynolds (Reynolds) as Lieutenant Governor. In a letter dated December 3, 2010, Branstad demanded tat Godfrey resign from his position as Workers' Compensation Director. Godfrey refused to resign and was subsequently summoned to a meeting on December 29, 2010, with Branstad, Reynolds, and Branstad's Chief of Staff, Jeffrey Boeyink (Boeyink), where Godfrey's resignation was again demanded. At the meeting, Godfrey described the improvements he had instituted in the office and agreed to support Branstad's goals.

On July 11, 2011, Godfrey met with Boeyink and Legal Counsel to the Governor, Brenna Findley (Findley), where his resignation was again demanded. Godfrey refused to resign, asserting his position to be non-partisan and quasi-judicial. Boeyink and Findley informed Godfrey that his pay would be decreased to the bottom of the salary range if he refused to resign. Godfrey again refused to resign, and his salary was subsequently reduced to $73,250 -- the statutory minimum. Godfrey has since continued to work as Workers' Compensation Commissioner at the lower salary with no reduction in duties.

In addition to a salary decrease, Godfrey alleges that Defendants have created other obstacles that have affected his performance as Workers' Compensation Director. Director of Iowa Workforce Development Teresa Wahlert (Wahlert) has refused to interact with Godfrey and withheld money set aside for the Workers' Compensation Commission's budget. Branstad limited the resources available to Godfrey by item-vetoing a chief deputy commissioner from the Workers' Compensation Commission's budget. Godfrey also has been excluded

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from meetings, retreats, and conferences relating to the performance of his duties when all other employees at the same level were included.

Godfrey further alleges that defamatory statements were made concerning his performance as Workers' Compensation Commissioner. On July 12, 2011, Communications Director to the Governor Timothy Albrecht (Albrecht) made a statement to news organizations that Godfrey's pay had been cut due to poor performance. Also on July 12, 2011, Boeyink made statements to news organizations regarding Godfrey's work performance, stating Branstad's office was displeased with both Godfrey's performance and the direction of the Workers' Compensation Commission office. On July 13, 2011, Albrecht made additional statements to news organizations about Godfrey's performance, stating Branstad had spoken with businesses concerned about Godfrey's performance. Branstad made statements to news organizations concerning Godfrey's performance on July 13, 2011, blaming Godfrey for the rising costs of workers' compensation and contradicting previous statements that he was pressured into the action by business and industry. At a press conference on July 18, 2011, Reynolds stated that Godfrey was not meeting his objectives as Workers' Compensation ...


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