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News Brief

Sept. 25, 2014DES MOINES, Ia. |  By: AP

Government Administrators Fighting Back on Job Classification

Four state government administrators responsible for regulating hospitals, nursing homes, and other health care facilities claim their jobs were illegally turned into political appointments last year by Governor Terry Branstad's administration and they're fighting back, one of the administrators said.

The top two administrators in the Health Facilities Division and the Investigations Division of the Department of Inspections and Appeals said in appeals documents filed with the Public Employment Relations Board the administration stripped their long-standing status as merit employees and reclassified them to at-will jobs. Merit workers can only be fired for job performance issues while at-will workers can be fired for almost any reason.

Wendy Dishman, head of the investigations division said she and three other top administrators are appealing for reinstatement of merit coverage saying a state law specifically includes DIA division administrators in the merit system. A two-day administrative law judge hearing is set to begin Thursday.

The administrators oversee the state's fraud investigations in public assistance programs including Medicaid and the inspections and licensing of more than 4,000 health care facilities in the state.

It's the latest example of how Branstad, when he returned as governor in 2011, began reshaping state government by converting more than 350 state jobs from merit to at-will status.

Critics say the move has politicized state jobs that should be insulated from political pressures.