- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 19, 2015

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - The director of the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy will step down amid opposition to his appointment from state senators who questioned his personnel decisions, state officials said Tuesday.

Arlen Ciechanowski has informed Gov. Terry Branstad that he will retire effective June 30, after it became clear he didn’t have enough support to win confirmation to a four-year term.

Branstad in 2011 tapped Ciechanowski, a longtime assistant director and instructor, to lead the academy that teaches and certifies local police officers during training sessions at Camp Dodge in Johnston. He replaced the academy’s first female director, Penny Westfall, who retired after Branstad questioned her leadership style.

But Ciechanowski came under scrutiny over how he handled hiring and firing decisions detailed by The Associated Press, including a scandal involving his assistant director, Mike Quinn. Critics saw his management as an example of a “good old boy network” in which female cadets and employees faced hostility at times while misbehaving male subordinates got off easy. Groups representing victims of domestic violence and sexual assault were among those raising concerns about the academy’s culture.

Branstad all along stood by Ciechanowski, who thanked the governor for the support in his retirement letter. “We have made some great strides at the academy and I leave it a better place than when you took office,” wrote Ciechanowski, a former Ames patrolman and Story County deputy.

A 2012 state investigation found that Quinn asked female recruits about penis size and talked in the workplace about his sex life and vasectomy. The investigation found that he told Nancy Brady, a longtime female instructor who had complained about him, that he would “slit your throat” if he caught her talking to another worker.

Ciechanowski reprimanded Quinn but allowed him to continue in his position, which included serving as the academy’s Violence Against Women Act coordinator teaching cadets about interviewing victims. Quinn was only stripped of that role later after the Iowa Attorney General’s Office learned of his behavior. Meanwhile, Brady was fired from the academy after she was accused of threatening Ciechanowski, which she denies.

Ciechanowski also acknowledged that he hired an instructor, Curtis Pote, over 54 other candidates despite knowledge that Pote had been demoted from his previous job for sexually harassing a female cadet.

In response to concerns, the Legislature last year passed a law that made Quinn’s job at-will and Ciechanowski’s position subject to Senate confirmation. Ciechanowski promptly used the law to fire the 71-year-old Quinn, who was planning to retire weeks later anyway.

After Branstad put forward Ciechanowski’s appointment, senators grilled him during a March confirmation hearing. The Senate delayed a vote on Ciechanowski past a traditional April 15 deadline to give him more time to answer questions, but opposition remained. Ciechanowski did not have 34 of 50 votes needed for confirmation, with critics arguing the academy needed a culture change, senators said.

Brady, who had lobbied senators to reject the appointment, said she was thrilled by Tuesday’s news.

“So many people reached out to me and said they were contacting their senators” to oppose Ciechanowski, she said. “This is the work of people who are fed up with the mismanagement and unethical actions of the administration of the Iowa Law Enforcement Academy.”

Branstad appreciates Ciechanowski’s 40-year career in public safety and wishes him well, spokesman Jimmy Centers said. The governor will not consider potential replacements for Ciechanowski until this summer, he said. One obvious candidate is Judy Bradshaw, who was appointed assistant director last year after retiring as Des Moines police chief.

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