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Lawsuit seeks to block Toledo Juvenile Home closing

January 8, 2014
By John Speer - Editor (jsp) , Toledo Chronicle, Tama News-Herald

With the closing of the Iowa Juvenile Home / State Training School for Girls in Toledo looming, a lawsuit has been filed in Polk County District Court on Jan. 2 to block the action.

American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Iowa Council 61 President Danny Homan, and four Democratic legislators filed the suit naming Governor Terry Branstad and Charles Palmer, director of the Iowa Department of Human Services.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Homan and Senators Steve Sodders (D-State Center) and Jack Hatch (D-Des Moines) and Representative Mark Smith (D-Marshalltown) and Representative Pat Murphy (D-Dubuque) by Des Moines attorney Mark Terry Hedberg.

Article Photos

Iowa Juvenile Home / State Training School for Girls sits on 27 acre campus in Toledo.
Chronicle/John Speer

Media reports said there would be an effort to speed up action in court due to the closing date. Hedberg did not respond to Chronicle inquiries about this possibility by press deadline.

Jimmy Centers, communications director for the Governor's Office told The Chronicle on Friday the Governor's Office had not seen the lawsuit and therefore could not comment. He added, "Gov. Branstad remains committed to doing what is best for these vulnerable children."

An announcement of the closing of the facility came in something of a surprise announcement on Dec. 9. It came following a reported meeting on the previous Friday night between Branstad and Palmer.

Alternative placements for the 21 girls still on the campus were to be sought and the 93 IJH employees are to be laid off on Jan. 16 the statement on the closing said.

There were three girls left on the campus as of Friday, Jan. 3, Amy Lorentzen McCoy, DHS public information officer told The Chronicle. McCoy said in an email, "There have been no out-of-state placements since the DHS announcement on Dec. 9 that the department would find appropriate alternative placements in licensed and/or accredited settings."

Area Legislators Comment

In a statement released Thursday, Senator Sodders said about the lawsuit, "I joined this effort because Governor Branstad is abandoning Iowa children in need of serious help. I hope it will provide an objective, public review of Governor Branstad's mismanagement of the Iowa Juvenile Home. For many years, the state of Iowa has invested in providing care for children who can't be helped elsewhere. The goal of this lawsuit is to stop Governor Branstad's shameful attempt to abandon that responsibility."

State Representative Dean Fisher (R-Garwin) who has been a leader in the effort to keep IJH open told The Chronicle, in an email "I appreciate and support all the efforts to keep the Iowa Juvenile Home (IJH) open, and I'll be very interested in the findings of the lawsuit filed on January 2nd by several legislators. Iowan's respect and expect the separation of powers of Iowa's Constitution. I disagree greatly with the governors' decision to close the IJH.

"The Iowa Juvenile Home in Toledo exists specifically as a matter of law in the Iowa Code, a decision made many years ago by the legislature and the governor at the time, and reaffirmed when the current budget for the home was passed in the 2013 legislative session. IJH was founded by the legislative process and its survival deserves the same Constitutional process."

AFSCME Iowa Council 61 President Homan said an a statement released Thursday, "The legislature passed and the governor signed into law legislation that provides funding for the operation of the Iowa Juvenile Home in Toledo in both Fiscal Year 2014 and Fiscal Year 2015. We believe it is unconstitutional and unlawful for the governor to close the Juvenile Home and disregard legislation that was passed by the Iowa House and Iowa Senate and signed into law by him."



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