Gov. Kim Reynolds’s office said former Department of Human Services Director Jerry Foxhoven’s emails to staff about the late rapper Tupac Shakur were not a factor in Reynolds asking for Foxhoven’s resignation last month.
The Associated Press reported Foxhoven sent his employees an email about celebrating Tupac’s birthday the Friday before the governor asked him to resign, which fueled national speculation that it was related to his departure.
Reynolds on Wednesday again declined to provide details about why she asked Foxhoven to resign.
“My answer to this is going to be consistent. There were multiple factors that went into—I didn’t even know who Tupac was, so let’s just start with that,” Reynolds said. “Honestly, I had no idea who it even was. There were multiple factors that went into that decision, and we’re just going to leave it at that.”
In an interview with a Pitchfork reporter Thursday, Foxhoven said Tupac didn’t factor into Reynolds asking him to leave.
“Her staff asked me to do something I thought was illegal, and so I wouldn’t do it,” Foxhoven said. “And so they said, ‘Okay well then you need to go.’”
He said he wanted a legal opinion on the matter, but he was asked to leave before he got it. Foxhoven declined to elaborate on what he was asked to do, but said he thinks “at some point” he will explain more.
“We have no idea what former Director Foxhoven is referring to,” said Reynolds spokesman Pat Garrett. “He never raised a concern like that to us.”
Foxhoven did not respond to interview requests from IPR.
Reynolds has repeatedly declined to say what factors led to her asking for Foxhoven’s resignation, even though Iowa law says the state must release the “documented reasons and rationale” for employees resigning in lieu of termination.
The governor's office has said they don't have documents related to his resignation.
Foxhoven told NPR Wednesday he doesn’t know exactly why Reynolds wanted him to leave so abruptly.
“The governor didn’t even meet with me,” Foxhoven said. “She had her chief of staff meet with me. Her chief of staff just said, ‘The governor’s going in a different direction, we’d like your resignation,’ and then she said, ‘Give me your cell phone and your ID card and don’t go back to your office.’”
Foxhoven told NPR he believes Reynolds does want to go in a new direction and appoint someone more conservative to head the social services agency. He said he’s had some “philosophical disagreements” with the governor’s office, but the abruptness of his dismissal was “a little shocking.”
Reynolds ousted Foxhoven two weeks before a big transition in Iowa’s privately managed Medicaid system, which is overseen by DHS.
And state officials were still working to negotiate contracts with the private insurance companies that manage Medicaid when Foxhoven left, ultimately resulting in an 8.6 percent increase in funding to the companies. The agency was also dealing with a spike in deaths at a state-run institution for Iowans with severe disabilities, and was at the center of a federal class-action lawsuit over disciplinary practices at the state training school for boys.
DHS now has an interim director, Gerd Clabaugh. He’s continuing to also serve as director of the Iowa Department of Public Health.