- Associated Press - Friday, September 12, 2014

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - Citing his busy schedule, Gov. Terry Branstad has put off the date for his deposition in a high-profile civil lawsuit until after the November election.

After his attorney objected to September and October dates, Branstad is scheduled to be questioned Nov. 26 in the lawsuit filed by former Workers’ Compensation Commissioner Christopher Godfrey, lawyers told The Associated Press.

“His schedule will not allow us to set a deposition between now and the middle of November,” Branstad attorney George LaMarca wrote to Godfrey’s attorney last month. Branstad is seeking a sixth term against Democrat Jack Hatch in the election Nov. 4.

LaMarca said five other defendants were available for September depositions - including Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds, who attends many of the same events as Branstad. But LaMarca said Branstad’s first availability was Nov. 26, a date difficult to get because it “is less than 90 days away, and there is an election in between.”

The attorney denied political motivation in the timing of Branstad’s deposition, in which the governor will be questioned under oath about a case that has led to criticism of his management as heavy-handed. LaMarca said scheduling is challenging in multiparty cases.

Godfrey sued Branstad, Reynolds and four aides in 2012 over what he claims were illegal tactics to try to force his resignation. Godfrey left his job last month after being appointed chairman of the Employees’ Compensation Appeals Board in Washington.

Godfrey, appointed by Democratic Gov. Chet Culver and confirmed by the Senate to a six-year term in 2009, declined requests to resign after Branstad won election in 2010. He said the commissioner must be free from political influence so injured workers and employers get fair hearings.

Branstad later cut Godfrey’s salary by $40,000, to the lowest amount allowed for the position, and vetoed some funding for Godfrey’s office. Administration officials painted Godfrey as a poor commissioner whose decisions hurt businesses - which he denies. Branstad and his aides say they acted lawfully.

The lawsuit by Godfrey, who is gay, alleges discrimination based on sexual orientation, extortion and defamation. Taxpayers have spent more than $530,000 on legal fees for Branstad’s defense.

“Terry Branstad is desperate to hide the terrible decisions he’s made,” Democratic Party spokeswoman Christina Freundlich said. “Iowans should be very concerned about what will come out in his court deposition.”

The Iowa Supreme Court ruled in June that Branstad and others could be held personally liable if a jury finds they were not acting within the scope of their official duties. The decision returned the case for trial, scheduled for next year.

Godfrey attorney Roxanne Conlin initially sought to depose Branstad in September, saying she needed to question him early because his answers would inform her questioning of others. She later scheduled Branstad’s deposition for Oct. 24. LaMarca objected.

A judge had set a Friday hearing on the dispute, but it was canceled after Conlin agreed to question Branstad Nov. 26 on the condition his deposition come before others.

Conlin, a Democrat who lost a governor’s race against Branstad in 1982, said her scheduling requests were strategic, not political.

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