State agency director who quit after 19 weeks kept retention bonus

By: - July 16, 2021 11:51 am

Former Iowa Department of Homeland Security Director Paul Trombino was allowed to keep almost $17,000 of retention-bonus pay after quitting the job 19 weeks into his appointment. (Photo by Getty Images)

Former Iowa Department of Homeland Security Director Paul Trombino kept almost $17,000 in retention-bonus pay after remaining on the job just 19 weeks.

Gov. Kim Reynolds appointed Trombino director of the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management in January and awarded him a $40,000 retention bonus for what her office called his “continued dedication and willingness to serve the people of Iowa.”

The bonus, first reported in April by the Cedar Rapids Gazette, was increased in February to $46,176, raising Trombino’s annual pay to $158,246, well above the legally mandated salary cap of $112,070. His hiring took effect Jan. 22.

In her Feb. 9 letter notifying Trombino of the increased bonus, Reynolds’s chief of staff, Sara Craig Gongol, wrote that in accordance with Iowa’s administrative rules, he was “required to sign an agreement to continue employment for a specified period of time following receipt of payment. A 12-month period of time has been deemed commensurate with the amount of payment you will receive.”

She wrote that if Trombino was fired or quit “before completing the time requirement, you will be required to repay the proportionate amount of the payment for the time remaining.”’

However, Craig Gongol also pointed out in her letter that the bonus would be paid out in 26 bi-weekly installments, which meant that if Trombino quit before the year was up, he would not be in a position to have to repay any of it.

Over the first four months of his employment, Trombino collected nine full payments of $1,776, and one partial installment of $888, for a total of $16,872, according to the Iowa Department of Administrative Services. His resignation was announced in May by Reynolds, who thanked Trombino for working “around the clock” in coordinating Iowa’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Trombino’s last day on the job was June 3, roughly 19 weeks after he was hired.

DAS spokeswoman Tami Wiencek said that “only in the case of a lump sum payment would bonus money be paid back,” adding that “this is not such a case.”

Trombino worked as the director of the Iowa Department of Transportation from 2011 to 2016. In January 2019, he returned to state government as Reynolds’ chief operating officer. From March 2020 to January 2021, he also served as DAS’ interim director.

Reynolds’ office did not respond to questions about the bonus, saying those would be better answered by DAS.

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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.