DES MOINES, Iowa — Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate is confirming the recent and abrupt departure of his chief of staff.

The secretary of state’s office tells The Associated Press that Mark Snell’s employment ended Jan. 3. The AP had asked about Snell’s departure three weeks earlier but spokesman Kevin Hall didn’t provide information until Tuesday.

Hall says Snell was an at-will employee, which means he could be fired for any reason. He said no documents exist that would explain the reason for Snell’s departure, and Snell didn’t submit a resignation letter.

Snell had a $132,000-annual salary and had served as the top administrator since Pate took office in 2015. He hasn’t returned a phone message seeking comment.

Pate, a Republican, is gearing up to run for re-election this year.

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