DES MOINES (AP) — The president of Iowa's largest union and several Democratic lawmakers filed a lawsuit Thursday to halt the closure of the Iowa Juvenile Home.
The suit was filed in Iowa District Court for Polk County. Danny Homan, president of Iowa Council 61 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, filed the suit, along with state senators Jack Hatch and Steve Sodders and state representatives Mark Smith and Pat Murphy.
According to the filing, Homan filed the lawsuit as a private citizen, not as a union official.
Gov. Terry Branstad announced last month that state officials will close the troubled facility by Jan. 16, relocate the children and lay off the staff of 93 employees. But the lawsuit argues that Branstad lacks the authority to shut down the home in Toledo because the Legislature appropriated money for the facility. The Democrats are seeking an injunction to prevent the closure.
"Terry Branstad is deciding on this home without input from the Legislature and he's moving these girls into private facilities where the care they receive may not be as good as the care they are receiving," said Homan. His union represents 77 of the workers getting layoff notices, though Homan said the jobs were not his focus.
"This isn't about the jobs. This is about the kids," he said.
A Branstad spokesman declined to comment, saying the governor's office had not seen the lawsuit. Jimmy Centers said Branstad's priority was protecting "vulnerable children."
An investigation by the Des Moines Register led to changes at the facility, which has housed some of Iowa's most troubled boys and girls. Branstad ordered the home to limit its once-widespread use of prisonlike seclusion rooms. In October, a task force recommended making the home a girls-only facility, improving its educational services and closing its seclusion rooms.
Some of the 21 girls living in the home when the closure was announced already have been moved to new placements in public and private facilities in Iowa. As of Thursday, five remained at the home, according to Amy Lorentzen McCoy, a spokeswoman for the Iowa Department of Human Services.
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