Iowa fires agent who pursued Branstad’s speeding SUV
IOWA CITY – One of Iowa’s most senior criminal investigators was fired Wednesday following a disciplinary review launched after he complained about the governor’s vehicle speeding through traffic.
Special Agent in Charge Larry Hedlund of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation learned the outcome of the 2 -month investigation during a meeting in Des Moines, he told The Associated Press.
Hedlund said he had no doubt that his firing was in retaliation for his April 29 complaint about the governor’s speeding SUV, and called the end of his decorated 25-year career with the department devastating. His attorney, Tom Duff, said he would soon file a lawsuit alleging that Hedlund was wrongly terminated and seeking compensation for lost wages and benefits, and emotional turmoil.
“This firing is a real loss for the people of the state of Iowa,” Duff said. “If your child turned up missing or your family member was the victim of a crime, you would want Larry on the case.”
A termination document obtained by AP said that Hedlund made “negative and disrespectful” comments in emails about DCI Director Chari Paulson, addressed Paulson “in a disrespectful tone” during a conference call, and drove his government vehicle on a vacation day. It noted he had no prior discipline.
“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,” the document states. “Your actions and deportment represent behavior that is unacceptable and warrants discharge.”
Hedlund, 55, initiated an April 26 pursuit of a black SUV that zipped past him at roughly 90 mph on Highway 20 in northern Iowa. He pursued the vehicle in his state-issued car and asked dispatchers to send a trooper to make a stop. A trooper eventually clocked the SUV at 84 mph and raced to catch up, but ultimately did not stop the vehicle after seeing it was another trooper who was driving Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds.
Hedlund complained to superiors April 29 that the pursuit endangered public safety, noting that it lasted for several miles and the vehicles involved had driven past a school bus. He said he believed speeding by the governor’s driver was common because of pressure to meet his busy schedule, and the state’s chief executive shouldn’t be above the law.
Paulson responded by asking Hedlund why he was driving his state-issued car during the pursuit when it had been a scheduled vacation day. Hedlund was placed on paid administrative leave May 1 pending a review of alleged rule violations.
In the interview, Hedlund said that most of the alleged rule violations happened before he complained about the governor’s speed, but the department had not spoken to him about them.
“I filed that complaint about the governor and everything changed,” he said. “I make this complaint involving the governor and now they are going to nickel and dime me about hours and my work ethic.”
Hedlund, who is based in Fort Dodge, was in charge of the zone for northeastern Iowa. In that role, he supervised several high-profile state investigations, including the search for the person who kidnapped and killed two young cousins who vanished while riding their bikes last year.
The Iowa Department of Public Safety, which includes DCI and the Iowa State Patrol, issued a statement Wednesday saying only that “disciplinary action” had been taken against Hedlund and that it was unrelated to his complaint. A spokesman said it could not comment further until Hedlund exhausts his time to appeal his discipline internally.
Duff, the attorney, said he would not take that step and would instead file suit in Polk County.
After the governor’s speeding incident became public this month, the department launched a review of the actions of the two troopers involved. Branstad has said his driver was going too fast, and his administration is reviewing its scheduling to ensure speeding isn’t a problem again.
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.