Iowa corrections lawyer alleges racial bias in pay dispute

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — The longtime chief lawyer for the Iowa Department of Corrections is turning his legal skills against his agency.

General counsel Michael Savala filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the department and recently retired director Jerry Bartruff alleging he was treated worse than other employees because of his age and race.

Savala, who is Hispanic, has been with the department 20 years. He alleges that Bartruff inexplicably refused his requests for three years to conduct his required annual performance reviews, which denied him thousands of dollars in merit raises.

The lawsuit claims that Bartruff completed reviews for younger, white employees whom he supervised, and they were awarded pay increases. Savala says he complained to the office of Gov. Kim Reynolds, the Department of Administrative Services and others about his “disparate treatment” but his concerns weren’t addressed.

The lawsuit says Savala has developed stress, anxiety, insomnia and damaged his teeth from grinding.

A department spokesman declined comment Wednesday.