- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 17, 2014

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - Two Iowa Department of Transportation workers who a judge said were unfairly fired are back on the job after a two-year hiatus.

Steven Scott returned Monday and Ken Morrow has been back for about six weeks, The Des Moines Register reported (https://dmreg.co/1ARUa3i ). Their returns come after Administrative Law Judge Bob Wilson ruled earlier this year that Scott and Morrow should be reinstated to their jobs.

Wilson also ordered the state to pay back wages, legal fees and other compensation to the employees. The total could exceed $400,000.

State officials have declined to comment, citing confidentiality in a personnel matter.

Morrow and Scott were fired in August 2012 after being promoted to an Osceola-based maintenance garage from other assignments. They later claimed they were treated like outsiders by veteran employees at the garage because the employees resented the fact that they were hired as managers. The tension led to the men’s firing, they said.

The judge’s ruling in April determined that several state employees lied as part of an effort to end Scott’s and Morrow’s careers. That included claims that Scott and Morrow allowed workplace safety violations and failed to require work crews to live nearby.

Attorney Mark Sherinian, who represented Scott and Morrow, said the state has not punished the employees who lied. One remains a supervisor for Scott, and another has been promoted.

“What this really reflects is the cronyism we’ve seen from the Branstad administration,” Sherinian said in reference to Gov. Terry Branstad. “Not only do they effectively get away with kicking” employees out “but they promote the people who were instrumental in making that happen.”

Scott and Morrow have said they rejected settlement offers from the state that would have required confidentiality clauses. Such settlements have been scrutinized across several state departments. The state has spent about $700,000 on confidential settlement deals since 2011. The Senate Government Oversight Committee is investigating the matter.

Scott said many employees are forced into settlements because they can’t afford a court battle. He said a systematic breakdown within state government never will be fixed without public scrutiny.

“There is absolutely no accountability for anybody that did anything wrong. There’s no reason for them to deter what they’re doing,” he said. “There is no recourse for them. They’re safe and they know it.”

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Information from: The Des Moines Register, https://www.desmoinesregister.com

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