DES MOINES — Iowa will appeal a jury’s decision against former Gov. Terry Branstad in a discrimination suit by a former state employees.
In July, a jury ruled that the former governer had discriminated against former Iowa Workers’ Compensation Commissioner Chris Godfrey because of his sexual orientation and awarded Godfrey $1.5 million in damages.
The Associated Press reported that the state will appeal the verdict to the Iowa Supreme Court. Current Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds made the announcement on Friday.
Spokesperson Pat Garrett told the AP that Reynolds made the decision after consulting with lawyers.
“We believe the state’s arguments are strong and will succeed on appeal,” he said. “Additional legal costs will be minimal and winning the appeal will save taxpayers millions of dollars.”
From the Associated Press:
Attorneys for Branstad and the state have argued that the verdicts weren’t supported by substantial evidence and conflict with the law. Branstad testified that at the time he asked Godfrey to resign, he didn’t know that Godfrey was gay. His attorneys claim there was insufficient evidence to show that Branstad knew.
Those arguments and others were rejected last week by Judge Brad McCall, the judge who presided over the trial. He wrote that the jury clearly rejected Branstad’s contention that he didn’t know Godfrey was gay.
McCall said the jury was presented with substantial evidence from which to conclude that Branstad’s action against Godfrey was due to Godfrey’s sexual orientation.
The state is appealing those rulings.
Godfrey’s attorney Roxanne Conlin called the appeal “deeply dumb,” the AP reported. She said the best outcome for the state was for the Supreme Court to order a new trial. Conlin told the news service that fighting the lawsuit had already cost Iowa $8 million and a retrial could double the cost.
The AP said that the two Democratic members of the Iowa Executive Council, which authorizes state legal expenses, have already stated they will not vote to approve the expense.
“I am still waiting for anyone to explain to me why they believe this is in the best interest of taxpayers,” State Auditor Rob Sand said Friday. Republicans still have a majority of seats on the council and could vote to approve. Reynolds is one of those on the council.