Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Non-profit fraud gives me a mental pretzel.

"When I found out about it, I was shocked, dumbfounded. I could not believe this would happen with a non-profit entity in the state of Iowa," said Richard Running, of Iowa Workforce Development. (KCCI link)
I'm on a board of directors for a regional non-profit, well sort of. They want me to resign. And why do they want me to resign?

I wouldn't rubber stamp a $20,000 pay increase for an executive director on the job less than a year (the ED started at $45,000 nine months prior to this 20 grand pay raise). I wouldn't rubber stamp a $95,000 check dispersed to a secondary organization without a contract. I wouldn’t approve paying a local advertising firm $25,000 for ‘donated’ services. I wouldn't sign off on a $5,000 performance bonus doled out to this ED. No, I thought we should be spending the money on services, well at least more than the $25,000 budgeted for services. I kept talking about philanthropic stewardship and they all kept looking at me as if I needed to be committed. That point's arguable, but on this occasion, I was completely lucid and spot on.

That's what makes this workforce development scandal oddly satisfying; a spiteful thought, yes, but I can't help it. If we have to put up with self-serving non-profit types, then we should be allowed to celebrate their cliff dives into the mouth of public outrage when they get caught.

I'm looking forward to tomorrow's Legislative Oversight Committee meeting featuring Mr. Brooks and Ms. Cunningham. I can't wait to hear Archie Brooks utter his "I had a stroke eight months ago" -- political speak translation: "don't hold me accountable, I'm incompetent". And listening to Ramona juking around the questions about Archie’s varied handwriting samples on those pay stubs and bonuses. Then wrapping up with Senator Mary Lundby and a version of her deadpan analysis: “Ramona, dear, you ripped off everybody sitting in this room, and we’re all going to have to pay for your greed.”

It should make for some great public theater.

The real theater, however, is taking place outside of public view. I can't help but wonder how this scandal is affecting the budget negotiations. Vilsack is asking for a boatload of new money to hand out to local government entities, quasi-governmental groups and non-profits all over Iowa, and yet the state doesn't have a tracking system to ensure taxpayer financed program accountability -- yeah, we have Auditor David Vaudt, but he's not a real caped crusader...or is he.

The CIETC/workforce development case is not unique. Last summer, Auditor Vaudt passed along to local law enforcement his audit of a non-profit group providing child-care services in the Spirit Lake and Okoboji school districts. Margaret Waltz was charged with first-degree theft and on going criminal conduct for ripping off early childhood funds administered by the Iowa Department of Human Services, just one of the many funds Vilsack and the Senate Democrats want to put millions more into.

Obviously, I get completely bent about this sort of fraud, but it gets worse. I have a mental pretzel every time I think about all the additional tax dollars Vilsack wants to send out the door without any mechanism for transparent program accountability.

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