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State Approves Another Payment For Branstad Lawyers In Discrimination Case

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Iowa has paid about $1.9 million to defend former Gov. Terry Branstad against a suit brought by former Workers' Compensation Commissioner Chris Godfrey, and that doesn't include work performed during or after the six-week trial this summer.

Top Iowa officials Monday approved another large payment to a private law firm defending former Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad in a discrimination case that’s been going on for seven years.

The state is paying law firm Nyemaster Goode $609,354 for pre-trial work through the end of May. That brings the total cost to the state for Branstad’s lawyers to about $1.9 million, but that amount does not include work during or after the six-week trial that ended in July.

A jury last month awarded former Iowa Workers’ Compensation Commissioner Chris Godfrey $1.5 million, finding Branstad and a staffer discriminated against him in 2011 because he’s gay and then retaliated by slashing his salary.

Branstad’s lawyers are trying to get the verdict thrown out. If they don’t succeed, the state will also have to pay fees for Godfrey’s lawyers, led by Roxanne Conlin. She’s requesting $4.1 million for her team.

Branstad is now U.S. Ambassador to China. He returned to Des Moines in June to testify for one day during the trial.

Gov. Kim Reynolds said the payments to private law firms are "part of the litigation process."

"We want to make sure we have the best representation we can because these cases set precedent for future policies," Reynolds said. "So we have to make sure we're doing it right." 

The attorney general's office typically represents the state in legal matters.