Monday, April 03, 2006

Budget Offal at its Finest

Like I said on Friday, needed to soak my toes for a few days, but my god, after reading this in Saturday’s DMR I either had to soak my head or just pull it together and get back in the fight. Okay, if I was “in the fight” I would have posted on Saturday and be hammering away at this in some umpteenth seperate post, but I do have a life outside of typing random thoughts on a blog. Anyway, read this:

…A report issued Friday by Iowa Auditor David Vaudt indicates that the publicly funded Central Iowa Employment and Training Consortium 's top executives are each collecting more than $350,000 in pay this year. By comparison, Gov. Tom Vilsack was paid $107,482 last year.

Auditors said that the three executives' salaries were excessive and that the bonuses they received were not a proper use of public money.

The three consortium executives and their total pay from June 2003 through December 2005 are:

• Chief Executive Officer Ramona Cunningham — $795,384. Cunningham's contract allows her to take three months of paid time off each year.

• Chief Operating Officer John Bargman — $767,575. Bargman's contract allows him to take 21/2 months of paid time off each year.

• Chief Accountant Karen Tesdell — $292,226. The report didn't specify the amount of annual paid time off Tesdell received.

The consortium has 72 employees and is a governmental agency run by a board made up of publicly elected officials from the city of Des Moines and eight central Iowa counties. One of its primary functions is to provide services for the unemployed and the under-employed. …

It goes on with the obligatory quotes of shock and dismay from a careless board member, Polk County Supervisor John Mauro, and the indifferent brush off from the guilty, in this case Cunningham and Board CEO & Des Moines City Council member Archie Brooks. The only saving grace is our clear thinking State Auditor David Vaudt and his matter of fact reaction to this scandal – figure out the scam and pass on the goods to the appropriate authorities, in this case, the AGs office and the Polk County Attorney. Today's DMR pulls out a few more details on the Central Iowa Employment and Training Consortium's spending habits.

Please don’t even begin to question your gut reaction; this is white-collar crime at its worst. These public service hacks -- god love ya’ if you can find a conservative among this crowd -- have been ripping off federal, state and local governments for years. No apologies needed they say, we’re just pulling down fair compensation for the work product we produce. A peculiar irony, as part of their charge, so to speak, is to promote employment opportunities for the under-employed.

Just for fun, ‘cause I’m out of practice, I checked out Vaudt’s report on line (PDF). Good stuff: Ramona Cunningham takes 60 paid days off a year; the consortium bills staff cell phones to the tune of over $10,000 a month; the state department of Health and Human Services FY05 budget doled out approximately $1, 838,573 + $300,000 in contract amendments, some of which went to cost of living increases for staff…and it goes on & on. Just skim the report, it’ll make you wonder what the #$%& we’re spending taxpayer dollars on and how the &#*% can Vilsack remotely justify an extra 120 million in budget expenditures in the FY07 budget.

Aside -- the big time national bloggers are doggedly working to out all the offal stuffed into the federal budget. It’d be great if we could do a little of that with Iowa's budget; perhaps a little tougher to pull off, but no one said reading an appropriations bill is a walk in the park. The Porkbusters crowd is also following the lobby reform efforts, Tapscott’s Copy Desk has a great update on the Coburn/Obama pork tracking amendment, and its subsequent demise via a Trent Lott procedural move (gotta love those procedural moves).

We could take a shot at outing Iowa pork (this has absolutely nothing to do with factory farms and wigged out enviro-terrorists), and if we’re lucky our own legislators will offer up an Iowa version of a pork tracking amendment. It might be something a guy like Pat Toomey will notice…wink, wink…Bill. Besides, when considering all the money legislators have been spending over the years, they're going to have to figure out an acceptable mea culpa strategy when discussing the past few budget fights – and I don’t think the “government employees are Republicans, too” argument is a sell.


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