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Iowa DHS Director Retires as Lawmakers Investigate Teen Deaths

chuck palmer
Office of the Governor
Department of Human Services Director Chuck Palmer will retire June 16.

Iowa Department of Human Services Director Charles (Chuck) Palmer announced Wednesday he will retire June 16.

His retirement comes as the House and Senate Government Oversight Committees prepare to investigate the department. DHS and its handling of child abuse complaints has been drawing increased scrutiny after two teen girls died. They were adopted out of the state foster care system and were severely malnourished.

Republican Rep. Bobby Kaufmann chairs the House Government Oversight Committee. He said Palmer will still testify at a June 5 hearing to investigate the deaths. 

"And so I appreciate his cooperation, and I think it's crucial to have his input in all of this as we transition toward new leadership and possibly changes," Kaufmann said. 

Some Democratic lawmakers were calling on Palmer to resign because of the deaths.

In a statement, Palmer said it was an honor to serve as DHS director and he believes it’s the right time for him to retire.

"In response to the tragic deaths of two children, I immediately called for a comprehensive review of our system to see where we can make changes that will strengthen that system," Palmer said. "A new director will be able to use this expertise to identify any areas that should be further reviewed or improved." 

Palmer was DHS director from 1989 to 1999 and was appointed again in 2011. He oversaw the expansion of Medicaid, its transfer to for-profit management companies, and a reorganization of mental health services.

"Chuck has been a dedicated public servant who has spent his life trying to improve the lives of Iowans," Gov. Kim Reynolds said in a statement. "I want to wish him well as he enjoys his retirement with his wife and family." 

No replacement has been announced for the top job at DHS.