IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Gov. Terry Branstad on Friday appointed a former state Supreme Court justice to review the firing of a veteran criminal investigator who had complained about the governor’s speeding vehicle.
Branstad asked former Chief Justice Louis Lavarato to independently examine the firing of Larry Hedlund, a special agent with the Division of Criminal Investigation.
“Iowans may continue to have questions and doubts about the allegations made until they know the whole story. I want Iowans to know the truth,” Branstad said in a statement. “Former Chief Justice Louis A. Lavarato is a respected and impartial statesman, and will offer a fresh, independent review of this matter. He will share his findings with Iowans, and will bring to light the full truth.”
The move is a surprise since Branstad had defended Hedlund’s firing at a news conference last week as justified and heatedly denounced “false accusations” of retaliation. The governor had portrayed the Iowa Department of Public Safety’s investigation and firing of Hedlund as “fair and just.”
Hedlund pursued the governor’s speeding SUV on a highway April 26 and called troopers, who clocked it traveling 84 mph in a 65-mph zone.
Hedlund filed an internal complaint days later, warning his superiors that the pursuit endangered public safety and that the governor should not be considered above the law. Within days, the 25-year veteran was removed from duty and placed on administrative leave for a personnel investigation. He had no prior discipline.
The Department of Public Safety fired Hedlund last week for what it called unbecoming and discourteous conduct, which included sending emails to subordinates in which he criticized his superiors’ policies and leadership of the department. Hedlund has pledged to file a wrongful termination lawsuit.