Iowa prison official was fired for disclosing inmate phone calls and emails

By: - January 8, 2022 9:00 am

An Iowa caregiver accused of physically abusing dependent adults was fired from his job this year after state officials offered him a deal to keep his name of the registry of known abusers. (Photo by Getty Images)

An Iowa prison official who was fired for disclosing an inmate’s telephone calls and emails is entitled to collect unemployment benefits, a state judge has ruled.

State records shows that David Hiedeman was employed by the Iowa Department of Corrections as a senior corrections officer from May 2007 until he was fired in August of last year.

According to Iowa Workforce Development records, the DOC has a policy that says confidential information about an inmate’s communications can only be released to others with the inmate’s written consent – unless that information is shared with prosecuting attorneys for use in connection with their official duties, in which case the inmate’s consent is not necessary.

The DOC alleges that between January 2021 and May 2021, Hiedeman “released an inmate’s telephone calls and emails” to a private attorney who he incorrectly believed was a prosecutor. The records indicate the attorney did not identify herself as a prosecutor, but also did not correct Hiedeman when he referred to her as a prosecutor.

The department became aware of the situation in late July and fired Hiedeman on Aug. 3 for releasing information without proper authorization.

Hiedeman subsequently applied for unemployment benefits and was denied. He appealed that decision and a hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge Adrienne C. Williamson, who ruled last month that Hiedeman was entitled to benefits.

She said that while Hiedeman had violated DOC policy, there was no evidence to suggest the violation was intentional, and she noted the DOC had not instructed Hiedeman as what actions, if any, he should take to verify that a licensed attorney was actively employed as a prosecutor.

Other Iowans whose unemployment cases were recently decided include:

Chad Creach, a semi-trailer truck driver from Des Moines who was fired by Contract Transport in July after crashing his rig on Interstate 80.

Court records indicate police arrived at the scene of the accident, detected an odor of alcohol on Creach’s breath and noted his eyes were bloodshot and his speech was slurred. Field sobriety tests all indicated signs of impairment, though his blood alcohol was measured at .059 – below the legal limit for driving, the police reported.

A search of his backpack allegedly uncovered two vape pens with marijuana inside them. He also had a Hot Hands warming pouch taped to the side of a plastic bottle, and when asked what it was for, he indicated he used it in connection with the drug testing of his urine samples. A second plastic container was then found inside his underwear and had what appeared to be urine inside. Creach allegedly told police he had passed “multiple urine drug tests” by using this method of storing pre-filled containers in his pants after having kept the samples at body temperature.

Creach was convicted of operating a vehicle while intoxicated and possession of marijuana. He was sentenced to two days in jail and one year of probation and was fined $1,250.

He later collected $3,694 in unemployment benefits, which triggered an appeal by his former employer. Last month, an administrative law judge reversed the earlier decision and ruled Creach was ineligible for jobless benefits, although Creach will not be required to repay the benefits already collected.

Artema Gray, who in April was forced to resign from her job as city clerk for Silver City. According to state records, the state conducted “a periodic examination” of the city’s finances in the fall of 2020 and an auditor then raised questions about apparent discrepancies between Gray’s timesheets and payroll records, and about charges made to the city’s credit card that did not appear to be work related.

In April, the city asked Gray to turn in her laptop and keys, and then told her she could either resign or she would be fired. She chose to resign. She was initially awarded unemployment benefits, with the judge in the case noting she was effectively fired for issues that occurred prior to October 2020, which her employer became aware of in February 2021. The misconduct that led to Gray’s discharge “was no longer a current act” when she was forced to resign in April, the judge found.

Last month, the Iowa Employment Appeal Board reversed the judge’s decision, ruling that the city had acted within five days of completing its investigation into the matter.

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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.