Senate oversight committee learns of issues with IVH facility projects

DES MOINES – A Senate Oversight Committee learned of millions of dollars being spent on design plans for work at the Iowa Veterans Home that were never used as part of an original plan to add residential facilities at the Marshalltown campus.

The meeting was held Monday at the statehouse and featured former state workers, project personnel and a former IVH employee.

Mark Higgins, of the architectural firm Schemmer and Associates, said his firm was paid $5 million for project design costs for the IVH Master Plan, of which only $2.8 million was for actual work that was done from the designs. That work was the Fox and Ulery buildings as part of phase one, which has been completed. Schemmer did design work for future phases but didn’t see it through as the state terminated the contract with the firm.

Greg Wright, former business manager at IVH, said he brought up concerns about a second architect, OPN, being hired for a phase two project who “popped out of nowhere,” instead of going through the legal approval process.

This architect was hired after the previous architect, Schemmer, completed two plans for phase two of a new 60-bed facility.

Wright said this issue, as well as other questionable actions from former IVH Commandant David Worley and Department of Administrative Services personnel, were passed along to the office of Gov. Terry Branstad, but were not addressed.

“The governor’s office did not want to hear about anything going awry at the Iowa Veterans Home,” Wright said.

Wright expressed his concerns on signing federal documents on a project to Worley.

Wright said Worley “used special language” with him and signed the documents himself, which was typical of the threatening environment at IVH under Worley.

“This sounds like chaos,” said Sen. Matt McCoy, D-Des Moines, a member of the oversight committee.

Wright said his pay was decreased more than $33,000 by Worley and the DAS in retaliation for trying to contact Branstad’s office about his concerns.

Wright said he was “ex-communicated” from project discussions. Phase two was eventually changed in scope.

Wright said complaints he made to the state were then told to Worley directly, which resulted in more stress at IVH.

“It’s quite a rat’s nest you are describing for us,” McCoy said.

The committee also learned that future phases to add more facility work at IVH as part of the Master Plan were scrapped and the state missed out on millions in federal funds designated for the projects.

Contact Andrew Potter at 641-753-6611 or apotter@timesrepublican.com