State worker who slapped elderly, disabled woman wants his job back

By: - July 5, 2021 11:00 am

A former employee of the Woodward Resource Center for disabled individuals, fired for having assaulted an 85-year-old female resident of the home, is fighting to get his job back. (Photo by Getty Images)

A former employee of a state-run home for the disabled, fired for having assaulted an elderly, female resident, is fighting to get his job back.

State records indicate that on the evening of Oct. 20, 2018, residential treatment worker Derek Krogman was in the dining room of a Woodward building, dealing with an 85-year-old, nonverbal female resident who had a severe intellectual disability.

Treatment Program Manager Ruth Altman was in an office 10 to 15 feet away from the dining room where Krogman and the woman were when she heard a slap that was loud enough to draw her attention. She went to the dining room to see what was happening when she heard a second slap and saw Krogman standing near the woman.

“(His) right hand was up in the air, his arm was out at shoulder level, his hand was open, fingers pointing out. His left hand was to his side,” Altman later recalled, according to state records. Krogman allegedly told Altman, “Please don’t turn me in, I won’t hit her again,” and added, “I can get fired. Don’t turn me in.”

During a subsequent investigation, Krogman said he had only slapped the woman’s hand. When asked why, he reportedly said it was a mistake, adding, “I had a break down or something like that; I don’t typically do that.”

Woodward’s superintendent determined Krogman had abused the resident and fired him. Months later, the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals issued a finding that said the abuse was confirmed as unreasonable punishment and assault, but added that it was not so serious as to warrant Krogman’s placement on the Iowa Department of Human Services’ central abuse registry.

Krogman appealed his termination, but in March 2020 an administrative law judge ruled against him saying that while he had been “a long-term, model employee who treated persons within his care with respect and patience,” the violation was serious enough to warrant his dismissal. Eight weeks ago, the Iowa Public Employment Relations Board upheld the decision.

Krogman is now seeking judicial review of the matter, and is asking the court to reverse IPERB’s decision. In his lawsuit, he alleges only that he was fired as the result of “an incident” that took place in October 2018.

In its response, IPERB admits Krogman worked for the state for more than 23 years, but denies that he had no history of prior misconduct before he was fired. The board argues that its decision is justified.

A hearing on the matter is scheduled for Oct. 15.

The Iowa Department of Human Services, which runs Woodward, has intervened in the case, stating that the relief Krogman seeks from the court “would have an adverse impact upon the department.”

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Clark Kauffman
Clark Kauffman

Deputy Editor Clark Kauffman has worked during the past 30 years as both an investigative reporter and editorial writer at two of Iowa’s largest newspapers, the Des Moines Register and the Quad-City Times. He has won numerous state and national awards for reporting and editorial writing. His 2004 series on prosecutorial misconduct in Iowa was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting. From October 2018 through November 2019, Kauffman was an assistant ombudsman for the Iowa Office of Ombudsman, an agency that investigates citizens’ complaints of wrongdoing within state and local government agencies.