Iowa executive was not sacked for loving Tupac Shakur, says governor

Guardian staff
Photograph: Zach Boyden-Holmes/AP

The governor of Iowa has denied firing a senior executive because he sent emails to staff praising Tupac Shakur and exhorting them to listen to the late rapper’s lyrics.

Kim Reynolds’s decision to sack Jerry Foxhoven after he sent the email to more than 4,000 staff in June set off an explosion of national and interntional interest in Iowa’s usually unremarkable state administration.

But on Thursday Reynolds’s spokesman said the sacking of her 66-year-old human services director had nothing to do with Tupac and that there were a “number of factors” that prompted the move.

Tupac Shakur Photograph: Pat Johnson/REX/Shutterstock

Her spokesman, Pat Garrett, said: “As the governor has said, a lot of factors contributed to the resignation of Jerry Foxhoven. Of course, Tupac was not one of them.

“Governor Reynolds is looking forward to taking [the human services department] in a new direction.”

Related: 'Don't blame me': 10 Tupac quotes to get you through the working day

Foxhoven’s practice of listening to the rapper’s music in his office on “Tupac Fridays”, marking the artist’s birthday and quoting lyrics had won him praise from some employees. But at least one had also previously complained to lawmakers.

However, Foxhoven also said he did not think that Tupac was a factor in his dismissal.

“I think it’s a coincidence,” Foxhoven told the New York Times.

The state’s leading newspaper, the Des Moines Register, published internal state emails on Thursday that appeared to show Foxhoven was due to have a showdown with Reynolds, a Republican, before he had sent the email.

Email exchanges released to the Register in response to a records request show that on 13 June – four days before Foxhoven’s dismissal – Sara Craig Gongol, Reynolds’ chief of staff, emailed the director asking for a meeting. They finally agreed to meet on 17 June.

“Okay, I will see you at your office at 11am on Monday,” Foxhoven wrote to Gongol on 13 June, one day before he sent the controversial email referencing Shakur’s birthday.

Two hours after the meeting, Reynolds announced that Foxhoven had been sacked.