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State

Iowa rehired 33 employees who had been fired

DES MOINES (AP) — Iowa officials are re-examining state personnel rules after a newspaper investigation revealed that 33 state employees who were fired returned to work for the state in the past five years.

The Des Moines Register examined the records of 328 state employees fired for just cause in the past five years.

An Iowa conservation officer is still working even after being fired twice for alcohol-related offenses.

David Roederer, the head of Iowa’s Department of Management, said he’s troubled by the findings even though most of the cases where an employee is rehired involve the state’s grievance and arbitration process where the employee appealed the firing.

“I appreciate you bringing this to our attention because this as a policy should not be happening,” Roederer said.

One of the rehired workers, Paul Kay, has returned to his job as a state conservation officer twice after being fired.

In February 2008, Kay was fired after he drove drunk while off duty. But Kay was reinstated after he reached a settlement and agreed to serve a 30-day suspension.

Then in June 2009, Kay was fired for violating the substance abuse policy.

Records from Kay’s appeal show that he consumed some of the beer that a friend took from the Catfish Bend Casino in Burlington.

Kay declined to discuss why he was rehired after appealing.

In another instance, Michael Slife Jr. was fired from his job as a correctional officer in Fort Dodge in 2010 after his bosses found him watching videos or listening to music in the control room when he was supposed to be conducting rounds. He later returned to work.

Nurse Shannon Danielson returned to work at the state mental health institution in Clarinda despite being fired in 2010 for repeated tardiness. Danielson was again terminated last year.

Rep. Greg Forristall, R-Macedonia, said he thinks Iowa should revise laws that deal with public employment rules to help the state avoid rehiring fired workers, but he said those changes would likely face resistance.

“This is an area we’ll be taking a look at,” he said. “In the past when we’ve tried to make even minor changes we got embroiled in major debate in the Legislature.”

But some lawmakers, like state Sen. Pam Jochum, D-Dubuque, don’t see much reason for change. She said the number of firings is a relatively small portion of the state’s 18,700 employees. And Jochum said the arbitration process generally works well.

“I still think it’s a good process, but if there are parts of the process that need to be reviewed, I’m sure we will do that,” Jochum said.

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