After a 105-day delay, Governor Kim Reynolds released some of the correspondence his office received from the chief of the Iowa Veterans Home before he was fired earlier this year.
Reynolds fired IVH Commander Timon Oujiri without explanation in early May after it was alleged he had received $ 105,413 in inappropriate excess compensation since 2019. Excess pay and benefits were paid due to the Oujiri’s timesheets incorrectly showing 112 hours, instead of 80. hours, worked in each two-week pay period, according to a report from the auditor’s office.
After the announcement of Oujiri’s dismissal, the Iowa Capital Dispatch filed a formal Open Records Law application with Reynolds’ office, requesting access to all written communications between Reynolds staff and Oujiri regarding any overpayment. Reynolds staff did not acknowledge receipt of the request.
On July 28, the Capital Dispatch sent another written copy of the request to Reynolds’ office and asked, “No response to this May 10 registration request?” Again, Reynolds staff did not acknowledge or respond to the request.
On August 2, after an Iowa State Auditor’s report revealed the reasons for Oujiri’s dismissal, the Capital Dispatch wrote to Reynolds staff again, this time requesting copies of a “Personal thank you note” Oujiri had sent the governor and an email he sent to Reynolds’ chief of staff. The request noted that the governor’s staff had never acknowledged the larger May 10 request for all overpayment-related correspondence with Oujiri.
On Monday, the governor’s legal adviser, Michael Boal, wrote to Capital Dispatch and provided three documents:
A handwritten August 2019 note sent by Oujiri to Reynolds shortly after the unauthorized pay rise took effect, in which he told the governor: “I am truly grateful for the increase in my base salary.”
An email Oujiri sent to Reynolds’ chief of staff around the same time, in which Oujiri said: “I really appreciate the confidence in my raise.”
An email Oujiri sent to the Chief of Staff hours before he was fired in May, saying: “I’m so sorry I didn’t question my raise. I am so sorry to embarrass you and the Governor. I hope and pray that you can find forgiveness in your heart.
Boal said the office was not withholding any documents regarding either of Oujiri’s overpayment registration requests.
However, he did not provide the Capital Dispatch with two other documents related to Oujiri’s payroll:
A handwritten note that Oujiri allegedly sent to Reynolds dated December 21, 2020, four months before his dismissal, saying: “I am deeply touched and honored when Sara called me to inquire about my pay raise.”
A second handwritten note was reportedly sent the same day to Reynolds’ chief of staff, which read: “Thank you for the phone call last Friday informing me of my pay raise.”
This latest note suggests that the salary increase referenced in the two 2020 posts is unrelated to the unauthorized salary increase, which was still in effect but was initiated in 2019.
When asked why it took 105 days for Reynolds’ office to hand over the three files he provided, Boal did not respond.
Reynolds’ office has yet to comply with two more document requests from Capital Dispatch:
Auction records: On April 8, the news agency asked the spokesperson for Reynolds for any legal opinions the office had obtained on the governor’s legality by auctioning a meal with herself in the governor’s mansion for the benefit of a private Christian school in Des Moines. Reynolds staff never responded to this request and never responded to an April 14 follow-up survey. After a follow-up on May 5, the governor’s spokesperson said the request had been channeled to Boal. On May 17, the Capital Dispatch inquired about the status of its request. The governor’s office did not respond.
Compensation Bonus: On July 22, the Capital Dispatch asked Reynolds staff for a copy of the state’s written agreement with former Iowa Department of Homeland Security director Paul Trombino regarding its retention bonus. Trombino had kept nearly $ 17,000 in retention bonuses after staying at work just 19 weeks. Before resigning, Reynolds’ chief of staff had informed Trombino in writing that he was “Required to sign an agreement to continue working for a specified period after receipt of payment.” “ But the governor’s office did not respond to the Capital Dispatch’s request for a copy of that agreement and did not respond when asked if such an agreement existed.