State's costs in gay discrimination lawsuit reaches $1.2M

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DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - The state's bill for defending a lawsuit against a former official who claims he was discriminated against because he's gay has surpassed $1.27 million.

Iowa Solicitor General Jeffrey Thompson updated the Iowa Executive Council on Monday in response to a request by Auditor Rob Sand. The council, which includes the governor and other state elected officials, approves state litigation expenses.

Former Iowa Workers' Compensation Commissioner Chris Godfrey filed the case in 2012. It accuses former Gov. Terry Branstad, current Gov. Kim Reynolds and others of discrimination, retaliation and violation of Godfrey's constitutional right to due process.

Branstad, a Republican, pressured Godfrey, a Democratic appointee, to resign in 2010. When Godfrey refused, Branstad cut his salary by $39,000 a year. Godfrey says he was targeted because of his sexual orientation. Branstad asserts he didn't know Godfrey is gay.

Des Moines attorney George LaMarca quit the case last September, saying he was retiring. His law firm has billed the state just over $1 million. The case is now handled by the Nyemaster Goode law firm, also based in Des Moines, which has so far billed just over $272,000.

A trial is scheduled for June 3 in Des Moines.

If the state loses, taxpayers could be forced to pay any jury verdict in addition to the fees for civil rights attorney Roxanne Conlin, who is representing Godfrey.