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Governor backs Iowa HR leader, says résumé error was minor

FILE - In this April 12, 2004 photo, then, State Rep. James Kurtenbach, R-Nevada, listens at the Statehouse in Des Moines, Iowa. Kurtenbach a top aide to Gov. Kim Reynolds is working as an expert witness in a private property lawsuit, backing a family that is seeking millions of dollars from neighbors in a zoning dispute. The outside work by Department of Administrative Services Director Kurtenbach is unusual for an agency leader. His testimony supporting a family seeking to develop an Ames campground over the objections of neighbors could give the appearance that the executive branch is taking sides in a local dispute.

CORALVILLE, Iowa (AP) — Gov. Kim Reynolds on Thursday backed the new leader of Iowa's human resources agency, saying he made an honest error when he misstated what his department does on his résumé.

Reynolds told reporters that "people make mistakes" on their résumés, and that Department of Administrative Services Director Jim Kurtenbach is human.

"It's not intentional, and I think we need to remember that sometimes," she said after an appearance at an education technology event in Coralville. "It happens. I'm fine with that. I don't think there's anything there."

Reynolds appointed Kurtenbach in June to lead the department, which manages human resources, buildings and several other functions for the executive branch. The Associated Press reported Wednesday that Kurtenbach is working on the side as a paid expert witness for an Ames family that is seeking millions of dollars from neighbors whose opposition they blame for delaying their plan to build a campground and events venue.

Kurtenbach submitted his résumé to the court last week, claiming the department he leads is the "primary entity charged in the Code of Iowa with representing the State in legal matters," among other duties. That's not true. The attorney general's office, not his department, represents the state in legal matters.

Kurtenbach, a former state representative and Iowa GOP chairman, hasn't responded to questions about how the error occurred. His department warns applicants for state jobs that intentionally misrepresenting their experience can result in disqualification.

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Reynolds said she was aware of Kurtenbach's work on the lawsuit before he was appointed and that she was comfortable with his decision to continue. She said Kurtenbach, a former Iowa State University administrator and accounting professor, was one of many people from outside of state government whom her administration has hired because of their expertise.

"It's legal, so it's perfectly fine, and we have to give him time to wind down some of the things he was participating in," Reynolds said. "I'm fine with that and we're going to continue to move forward."

Iowa law generally allows state officials to work outside jobs that do not conflict with their state duties or rely on government resources. Kurtenbach revealed in last week's filing that he is being paid $350 per hour for his work on the lawsuit, which is set for trial in February.

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