“The Most Transparent Governor in Iowa History”

Or, with news of the ouster of a longtime IDPH spokesperson over her openness about COVID-19, and the state's demand for nearly $10,000 for emails explaining why it declined the CDC's help with deadly meatpacking plant outbreaks, is Pat Garrett the worst spokesperson in Iowa history?


On May 21, Pat Garrett, the spokesperson for Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds, called her “the most transparent governor in Iowa history” in response to criticism that she was unresponsive to reporters’ questions at daily COVID-19 press conferences that she decided to stop holding a month later. Less than a month after that, on July 14, the Iowa Capital Dispatch reported that the Iowa Department of Public Health requested nearly $10,000, costs included, for emails explaining why the state’s medical director, Caitlin Pedati, rejected an offer in April from the Centers for Disease Control for support in responding to deadly outbreaks at meatpacking plants. Associated Press reporter Ryan Foley responded to this by tweeting, “The same agency told me it would cost $1,690 to release a figure that many states have shared with the public and the CDC: how many Iowa meatpacking workers have died of the coronavirus.” On Tuesday, State Auditor Rob Sand released a report alleging that the TestIowa COVID-19 testing program, which the governor awarded a $26 million, no-bid contract for on the advice of actor Ashton Kutcher, was violating state law by failing to immediately report test results to the IDPH (read more about that here).

The next day, Des Moines Register reporter Tony Leys reported that longtime IDPH spokesperson Polly Carver-Kimm had been forced out of her job, apparently because she was too transparent with reporters about the impacts of COVID-19 in Iowa — this after she was removed from her role in March on the department’s team responding to the pandemic.

WHO-TV reporter Melody Mercado reacted to the Register‘s report.

As did Register reporter Tyler Davis.

Another Register reporter, Tyler Jett, noted spokesperson Pat Garrett’s apparent reaction.

The advocacy organization Progress Iowa offered Garrett some advice.

Luppe B. Luppen, a New York attorney and popular writer, shared the news with his more than 200,000 Twitter followers.

Back in Iowa, Ty Rushing, managing editor of the N’West Iowa Review, reacted.

As did Allison Gibson, the news director of eastern Iowa TV station KWWL.

As did Siouxland News government and politics reporter Caroline Cummings, who also said the state attempted to charge her $9,800 for a records request.

And Iowa City Press-Citizen reporter Zachary Oren Smith.

And Iowa Public Radio’s Clay Masters.

And Lyle Muller, the former director of the Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism.

The progressive reporter Laura Belin added some additional historical perspective.

Randy Evans, executive director of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council, also weighed in.

As did Erin Murphy, Des Moines bureau chief for the newspaper chain Lee Enterprises.

And retired Register reporter Bill Petroski.

And many others.

Gavin Aronsen
Gavin Aronsen is an editor and reporter for and founding member of the Iowa Informer. He previously worked as a city reporter for the Ames Tribune, research assistant to investigative journalist Wayne Barrett at the Village Voice, and in various roles at Mother Jones, where his work contributed to a National Magazine Award nomination for the magazine's digital media coverage of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Email: garonsen [at] iowainformer [dot] com.