Iowa agent opposed restructuring idea
IOWA CITY (AP) — The Iowa investigator placed on leave after complaining about Gov. Terry Branstad’s speeding SUV had clashed with superiors about other policy matters, including a possible restructuring that could have affected his job, according to emails obtained by The Associated Press.
Special Agent in Charge Larry Hedlund noted in an April 30 email to Division of Criminal Investigation Director Chari Paulson that he was opposed to reducing DCI’s geographic zones from four to three. Hedlund was in charge of the northeastern Iowa zone.
Hedlund has been at the center of a firestorm after records released last week showed he was placed on paid administrative leave after an internal complaint about an April 26 speeding incident involving Branstad’s state vehicle. The April 30 email indicates that tension with his bosses had started before that complaint.
Hedlund wrote that he and the other zone supervisors accepted new assignments in exchange for Paulson’s willingness to recommend to Public Safety Commissioner Brian London that DCI keep four zones. For Hedlund, that meant agreeing to supervise a cold case unit dedicated to unsolved homicides, he wrote.
Hedlund, a 25-year veteran based in Fort Dodge, said the new assignments came during an April meeting with Paulson and DCI Assistant Director Gerard Meyers.
“AD Meyers made it very clear, repeatedly, in the meeting last week that he expected to see ‘immediate’ action on these assignments,” Hedlund wrote in an email provided to the AP by his attorney. “In fact, he said it so many times you might recall me asking him not to hold the four zones to three zones issue like a hammer over our heads and give us time to do something.”
A day earlier, Hedlund had sent superiors a complaint recounting the April 26 speeding incident involving a state SUV transporting Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds. Hedlund called a dispatcher to report a vehicle traveling 90 mph on westbound Highway 20 in northern Iowa.
A three-vehicle pursuit ensued involving the SUV, Hedlund’s state vehicle and a trooper, who clocked the SUV at 84 mph and eventually caught up to it. After realizing it was a fellow trooper driving the governor, the vehicle wasn’t stopped.
Hedlund wrote that the pursuit put the public in danger and the governor should not be given a pass. He was placed on administrative leave May 1 and told he was under investigation for alleged insubordination and rules violations.
Meyers and Paulson didn’t return messages seeking comment.
Reynolds said Monday that the Department of Public Safety is reviewing the governor’s scheduling to make sure enough time is provided between events, saying she and Branstad want to obey speed limits. But she declined to blame tight scheduling for any prior speeding and said she was unaware the vehicle was speeding April 26.
Hedlund’s attorney, Tom Duff, contends Hedlund’s removal from duty was retaliation for filing the complaint, and his client is seeking to return to work. Branstad’s spokesman has denied retaliation.
Hedlund had vaguely referred to other problems with superiors when joking with dispatchers after the speeding incident, telling one: “I guess my career doesn’t have enough problems the way it is.”
The Department of Public Safety, which includes DCI and the state patrol, had refused to release the emails under Iowa’s public records law, saying they were part of a personnel investigation.
The morning after Hedlund sent his speeding complaint, Paulson responded by asking why Hedlund was driving his state vehicle on a scheduled vacation day.
Hedlund explained that he had driven to Cedar Rapids to meet with retired DCI Special Agent Wade Kisner, now an official with the U.S. Attorney’s Office. He said Kisner was “one of the most experienced and successful homicide investigators in the history of the DCI” and Hedlund sought his advice about the cold case unit. Kisner didn’t return a message from the AP.
“I had hoped by sacrificing part of my planned and approved vacation day off that I could also meet the additional high priority assignment that I had enthusiastically accepted in your presence last week,” Hedlund wrote to Paulson.
Hedlund in an email took exception to Paulson informing him April 29 that it hadn’t been decided who would lead the cold case unit, saying it “was so clearly decided that it was my assignment” that he had informed his staff and started looking into training options.
Hedlund said that he had been blunt in offering opinions during the earlier meeting with Paulson and Meyers, who commented about “how much he appreciated my ‘passion’.”