Judge dismisses official's lawsuit against Iowa governor

FILE - Ousted Iowa Department of Human Services Director Jerry Foxhoven sits at a news conference in West Des Moines, Iowa, Aug. 1, 2019. A state court judge has dismissed a wrongful discharge lawsuit filed by Foxhoven who accused Gov. Kim Reynolds of improperly diverting federal Medicaid money to pay a member of her staff. (AP Photo/David Pitt, File) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)
·2 min read

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — A state court judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by a former state agency director who claimed Gov. Kim Reynolds fired him after he objected to her diverting federal Medicaid money to pay a member of her staff.

Iowa Department of Human Services Director Jerry Foxhoven filed the lawsuit against Reynolds in June 2021, two years after she fired him. In his lawsuit, Foxhoven contended he was fired because he refused to engage in illegal Medicaid fraud.

Reynolds denied she did anything wrong, but she refused to say why she fired Foxhoven, apart from stating she chose to go in another direction. Later, she added that Foxhoven’s dismissal was partly related to patient deaths at the Glenwood Resource Center, where Iowans with severe disabilities are treated.

In August 2019 Foxhoven sought $2 million in damages from the State Appeal Board, which considers legal claims against the state. He filed the lawsuit after the board denied his claim.

On Wednesday, Judge Sarah Crane dismissed his lawsuit, concluding that as an appointed official he served at the pleasure of the governor who had the right to choose executive leadership.

“Foxhoven’s argument that the governor does not have discretion to terminate him in violation of public policy fails," she wrote.

Crane said even Foxhoven's allegations that the governor had committed a financial impropriety did not supersede her right to fire him.

“The remedy to the public, in such instances of abuse, is at the polls,” said Crane, who was appointed by Reynolds to her position in 2018.

Reynolds said in a statement that "the court has confirmed what I’ve known all along — that this case was baseless from the start.”

Foxhoven's firing received national attention when The Associated Press reported that his firing came a day after he sent an email to DHS employees with a quote from rapper Tupac Shakur he found inspirational.

Foxhoven has said he was a fan of the late rapper.

Foxhoven’s lawyer Tom Duff said they are disappointed in the decision and are considering an appeal.