- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 13, 2014

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - Nearly 100 former University of Iowa employees are disqualified from returning to work because of previous firings, but only a handful of ex-workers at the state’s two other public universities face similar restrictions, according to records released Tuesday.

Spreadsheets released by the Iowa Board of Regents show that the universities have fewer disqualified former workers than Iowa’s executive branch, which last month released a list of 975 individuals with that status but acknowledged Tuesday the document was deeply flawed.

The records raise new questions about the state’s practice of barring some former workers, which has created a headache for Gov. Terry Branstad’s administration. They show that each university has a different way of tracking and excluding fired workers and that those methods are different than state agencies’ procedures, adding to critics’ claims that there is no consistency for how those decisions are carried out.

The University of Northern Iowa, for instance, says it identified no former workers who have been disqualified from re-employment since 2005. Iowa State University named only six terminated employees who are ineligible to return to work.

No academic staff or faculty members, even those who have been fired for misconduct, were named in the documents released to The Associated Press. University of Iowa spokesman Joseph Brennan said that their firings are tracked separately from a centralized database of nonacademic employees, and that departments would be expected to check references and personnel files when deciding on whether to rehire them.

Brennan said the university makes a recommendation not to rehire individuals in their personnel files when they are dismissed for cause.

“It’s done for really good management reasons, and it’s consistent and appropriate under the law,” he said.

Then-Department of Administrative Services Director Michael Carroll told lawmakers last month that his agency didn’t keep a list of disqualified former workers. Days later, his department released a spreadsheet showing that 975 employees had been disqualified due to firings and resignations dating to 1990. Democratic lawmakers said they were misled. Union leaders accused the governor of keeping a secret blacklist. Some workers - including a few currently employed by the state - complained that they were erroneously listed.

Attorneys Tom Duff and Roxanne Conlin filed a proposed class-action lawsuit last month, contending the department didn’t have the authority to ban the workers from the state’s 42 executive branch agencies. They argue the practice violates workers’ constitutional rights to due process since many of them were never notified of their bans and given a chance to appeal.

After completing a review, the department acknowledged Tuesday that its initial list included dozens of people it should not have. They include 25 individuals whose terminations didn’t meet the criteria, 35 who were appealing their firings, 21 who voluntarily agreed not to reapply, eight who were probationary employees and one who was deceased.

Duff said that he is glad the state is correcting its mistakes but that problems were obvious.

“There is no uniformity in terms of who gets put on the list and for what reason, which I think is dangerous,” he said. “That opens up the possibility that people are put on the list for inappropriate reasons like retaliation for filing claims, asserting their rights under the Iowa Civil Rights Act or getting crossways with someone.”

The Democratic-controlled Senate approved a bill last month that would’ve required agencies to document why individuals were disqualified and give them appeal rights. But it died in the Republican-controlled House.

The universities have the authority under state code to disqualify applicants who have “been dismissed from private or public service for a cause that would be detrimental” to the institution.

The University of Iowa released two lists. The first included 62 former employees - including medical assistants, custodians and cooks - who were notified that they were disqualified when they applied for jobs since 2006. The majority were disqualified indefinitely, while others were told they could reapply if they successfully worked elsewhere for periods ranging from six months to three years.

The second included 32 employees fired between 2000 and 2009 who were identified as disqualified at that time. Koppin said that their eligibility would be considered if they reapply.

A union representing the workers declined comment.

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