- Associated Press - Monday, May 5, 2014

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad is not concerned that the Senate Government Oversight Committee, now armed with subpoena power, plans to continue its investigation into his administration into the summer.

Branstad said Monday state agencies have been open and willing to provide the committee with information including thousands of pages of documents. He said staff members from the Department of Administrative Services have spent more than 20 hours talking to the committee in hearings.

“We have nothing to hide and we’re not concerned,” Branstad said at his weekly news conference.

The investigation began in March when several former state workers said they had signed agreements with the state that included confidentiality clauses. Some said they were paid additional money to keep quiet. Chairwoman Janet Petersen said it’s the oversight committee’s goal to find out who in the Branstad administration authorized the money and the source of the funds.

As its last action Friday before adjournment for the year, the Senate authorized the oversight committee to subpoena witnesses, put them under oath, and levy fines or jail time for anyone found in contempt. The subpoena power is granted through the end of the calendar year.

Branstad criticized the Democratic-led Senate for introducing the resolution authorizing the continued investigation early Thursday as the last action of the 2014 session after the Senate had debated all night Wednesday in an attempt to adjourn.

The resolution was first brought up at a 5 a.m. at Rules Committee meeting after the Senate completed work on the state budget and other policy bills and prepared to end the session.

Senate Republicans resisted bringing the resolution for a vote, which meant it had to remain on the debate calendar another day. The Senate returned Friday morning, quickly passed the resolution and adjourned. The House had adjourned Thursday at about 6 a.m.

“It’s pretty curious that Senate Democrats waited until the House adjourned in the middle of the night to bring this up,” Branstad said. “That looks pretty bizarre in and of itself.”

He also criticized committee members for declining to open their emails to public review.

The committee members include Petersen and Matt McCoy, both Des Moines Democrats. They have said opening their emails would discourage state employees and other citizens from communicating with them about problems in state government.

Petersen said she continues to get messages from state workers and some have made disturbing claims including working in a hostile environment, hiring practices that are questionable, and misallocation of funds.

“I can tell you we’re still receiving emails on a daily basis from people who have worked for state government with some fairly serious concerns about issues going on not just at the Department of Administrative Services but other agencies that have been impacted,” Petersen said.

Branstad accused the committee of coordinating efforts with Sen. Jack Hatch, a Des Moines Democrat running against him for governor.

“We’re very cognizant of the fact that the governor has said for months he thinks there is coordination, but there is none,” Hatch said. “He’s deflecting the facts and trying to make this a partisan issue and it should not be, and I’ve said that all along.”

Branstad insists that once Iowa residents learn all the facts they will conclude “that what we’ve done is cut the size and cost of government and made it more open and transparent.”

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