Ex-Iowa DHS director Jerry Foxhoven is suing Governor Kim Reynolds for firing


Former Iowa Department of Human Services director Jerry Foxhoven is suing Governor Kim Reynolds, alleging that she and her staff fired him for questioning the legality of paying one of her employees with federal Medicaid funds.

The lawsuit states that Reynolds and her aides “resigned from Foxhoven for refusing to engage in illegal activities, that is, to commit Medicaid fraud.”

The governor overthrew Foxhoven in June 2019. At the time, the governor only stated that she “wanted to take a new direction in the Department of Human Services”.

Reynolds later said that Foxhoven’s layoff was partly related to a patient death scandal at the Glenwood Resource Center, a government agency that cares for Iower with severe disabilities.

More: Human Services Director Jerry Foxhoven is stepping down at the Governor’s request

Foxoven’s impeachment attracted national attention through speculation that it had something to do with his professed love for the music of the late rapper Tupac Shakur. But the governor denied this theory.

Foxoven’s lawsuit, filed in Polk County District Court this week, makes no mention of the rapper or the Glenwood Resource Center. Instead, Foxhoven says he was fired after two years as director of the state’s largest agency over a dispute over the pay of Reynolds employee Paige Thorson.

Thorson was a former Department of Human Services employee who moved to the governor’s office as a health advisor to Reynolds.

First, the lawsuit states, Thorson continued to advise DHS on overseeing the Medicaid program, a joint federal and state program that provides health insurance to hundreds of thousands of poor or disabled workers. Because of this, the department agreed to pay 69% of their salary in 2018, the lawsuit said. But the lawsuit says Thorson no longer supported the department over time, and Foxhoven asked if it was legal to continue using federal funds from Medicaid to pay her salary at the governor’s office.

More: DHS director partially deposed because of deaths at the state center for Iower with severe disabilities, the governor admits

The lawsuit states that in June 2019, Foxhoven told Reynolds’ Chief of Staff Sara Craig Gongol that he would seek an opinion from his agency’s assistant attorneys-general on the matter. Before he could do so, he was fired by Gongol and Sam Langholz, the governor’s senior legal advisor, the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit states that Reynolds, Gongol and Langholz “quit Foxhoven to prevent him from disclosing information he reasonably and in good faith believed to be a violation of the law, mismanagement, gross misuse of funds or constituted an abuse of office “.

Governor’s spokeswoman Pat Garrett said Friday that she had no comment on the lawsuit.

The lawsuit’s allegations are similar to those brought forward by Foxhoven in a 2019 lawsuit before the Iowa Appeal Board asking for $ 2 million from the state and governor. The appellate body can reach out-of-court settlements, but did not comply with Foxhoven’s request.

More: Overthrown DHS leader Jerry Foxhoven files a $ 2 million dismissal petition against Iowa

Foxhagen’s new lawsuit does not ask for a specific amount of money, but calls for “exemplary and punitive damages” for the “willful and willful” actions of the defendants against him.

Foxhoven, a former law professor at Drake University, is represented by Des Moines attorney Thomas Duff.

Duff is also representing Polly Carver-Kimm, a former Iowa Department of Health spokeswoman who is suing the governor and state for her 2020 dismissal.

Carver-Kimm claims she was ousted because she was viewed as too open to reporters, including by fulfilling a request from the Des Moines Registry for data on abortion. The data showed that the abortion rate in Iowa rose 25% in 2019 after the state banned Planned Parenthood from a program that offers birth control to residents with moderate incomes.

The trial against Carver-Kimm is to be negotiated in July 2022.

Tony Leys covers health care for the registry. Reach him at [email protected] or 515-284-8449.

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