Hedlund firing isn’t going away quietly

A 25-year veteran of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation is fired after a disciplinary review.

Prior to the review, he complained about Gov. Terry Branstad’s vehicle speeding through traffic.

The Iowa Department of Public Safety has said Special Agent in Charge Larry Hedlund “did not receive discipline as a result of his complaint of the speeding state vehicle.”

Well, the world is full of coincidences, isn’t it?

Hedlund, who’s based in Fort Dodge, said he has no doubt his firing was in retaliation for his complaint, which has attracted national media coverage as well as continuing state coverage – including the revelation that more than 3,200 state vehicles carry plates that are not on file in Iowa police databases. Those vehicles, therefore, are able to avoid tickets from Iowa’s traffic cameras that ordinary citizens must face.

The governor, in addressing the situation Thursday, contended Hedlund’s firing is unrelated to his complaint. Branstad said DPS officials felt the action was necessary, in part for “morale and for safety and the well-being of the department.”

It might seem less hypocritical if the governor or DPS officials had, at any point previously, made a statement regarding the safety of the public when a non-emergency vehicle is allowed to zip down the highway at 84 miles per hour with impunity.

The DPS termination document indicates Hedlund had made “negative and disrespectful” comments in emails about DCI Director Chari Paulson and addressed her in a “disrespectful tone” during a conference call.

The document, which noted that Hedlund had not previously been the subject of any disciplinary action, said his “actions and deportment represent behavior that is unacceptable and warrants discharge.”

It’s hard to imagine what Hedlund said to or about Director Paulson that would warrant his firing after years of dedicated service to the people of Iowa and the DPS.

In the document, comments by Hedlund show disagreement with proposed changes within the department. He may have expressed himself bluntly, but it might have been more useful for the DPS leadership team to take more rehabilitative and less punitive action, perhaps taking into consideration concerns of an experienced DCI agent.

Hedlund’s attorney, Tom Duff, has said his client plans to sue alleging wrongful termination, seeking compensation for lost wages and benefits, and for emotional turmoil.

Duff said Thursday he and Hedlund have not been given a copy of the 500-page investigative report that allegedly justifies Hedlund’s firing. Duff said he might consider releasing it to the public, if he can review it first.

At this point, unless that happens, it’s unlikely the public is going to believe the “official” side of the story.