An Iowa law enforcement agent who reported Governor Terry Branstad for speeding and complained about the governor’s state troopers has been fired after 25 years on the job.
Larry Hedlund, a 55-year-old agent of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI), believes he was unjustly terminated because he reported the governor’s vehicle for speeding. Hedlund’s dismissal papers say he was terminated due to “negative and disrespectful messages” he emailed to DCI employees, for being deceptive with supervisors and for misusing a state vehicle. But Hedlund has worked for the DCI for 25 years and has had no previous discipline issues, he told the Des Moines Register.
He believes the stated reasons are excuses to terminate him for reporting the governor’s vehicle.
“I’ve been treated like a criminal,” Hedlund told the Register. “The best analogy I can give you is that they investigated me like I was a murderer, and in the process they murdered my career.”
The 25-year-veteran of the DCI in April radioed dispatchers to report a vehicle that was driving at 90 miles per hour. Troopers clocked the SUV at 84 mph. But when they discovered that the vehicle was being driven by another trooper who was transporting the governor, the officers let the incident slide. Hedlund proceeded to file a complaint with his supervisor.
“I don’t believe the governor is above the law. I don’t believe anyone has the authority to order me to not do my job,” stated the complaint, which was obtained by WHO-TV.
Two days after Hedludg filed the formal complaint on April 29, his superiors filed a complaint against him and he was suspended from duty. The Department of Public Safety said Hedlund was under investigation for prior “work rule violations”.
Two and a have months later, the internal investigation was completed and Hedlund permanently lost his job. DCI Director Charis Paulson told the Register that Hedlund’s emails to subordinates show “a glaring and fundamental lack of understanding and appreciation of what the agents do in the field” and that he communicated in an unprofessional and disrespectful tone.
“After careful consideration, it is apparent that your employment with the Iowa Department of Public Safety has been counterproductive to the best interests of the department,” reads the notice signed by Paulson. “Your actions and deportment represent behavior that is unacceptable and warrants discharge.”
Although Hedlund admits that the tone in his emails may have been inappropriate at times, he does not agree that it would be grounds for termination.Tom Duff, the Iowa attorney representing Hedlund, told WHO-TV that the timing of his client’s suspension serves as evidence that it was related to reporting the governor’s vehicle.
“We think the incident with the governor was sort of the straw that broke the camel’s back,” he said.
Duff plans to file a lawsuit against the DCI claiming wrongful termination. He is seeking damages for lost wages and benefits and emotional distress.