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Iowa Politics Roundup: Legislators Slam School-Board Association as Hearings Begin PDF Print E-mail
Commentary/Politics - Iowa Politics
Written by Lynn Campbell   
Friday, 19 March 2010 12:22

The Iowa Association of School Boards (IASB) this past week became synonymous with corruption and scandal and was even compared with the Central Iowa Employment & Training Consortium (CIETC) amid allegations of wrongdoing.

"It's outrageous that these people that are no more than common thieves don't even have the guts to come here and face us today. They will come here before this is over; they'll be here," said Senator Thomas Courtney (D-Burlington). "We spend over $3 billion a year in this state on education and these people found a way to steal some of it."

Courtney compared the situation to the 2006 CIETC scandal involving executive bonuses and salaries paid with federal money.

"It's the same deal. They stole money. Plain and simple, they raised their salary, they thought they were worth more," Courtney said. "This is outrageous. I hope the FBI gets involved. I hope they all wind up in prison. I hope they're there for 100 years."

IASB Executive Director Maxine Kilcrease was placed on administrative leave after the board learned that she raised her salary from $210,000 to $367,000 without board approval last September, and that taxpayer money was used for former Chief Financial Officer Kevin Schick's vacation to Bora Bora.

The FBI launched an investigation because of federal money involved in alleged wrongdoing, while an outside auditor described to lawmakers how he was repeatedly stonewalled by IASB executives and threatened with a lawsuit when he tried to alert the IASB board about serious financial concerns and problems.

"This is the strangest thing that I've ever been through in my entire career," said Ted Lodden, managing partner of Brooks Lodden, a West Des Moines public-accounting firm that works with not-for-profit organizations and was hired by the IASB board to do an audit. "This is very, very strange. I've never run into this before, and I hope I never do again."

Lodden painted a bleak picture of the financial situation of the troubled organization accused of misspending taxpayer dollars.

"Things are not great," Lodden said. "It's a situation where they can survive, but they'll have to take a serious look at all the programs and all of the staff and all of the expenses and make some serious adjustments to it."

IASB legal counsel Nolden Gentry told lawmakers that at a time when Kilcrease was terminating long-term employees due to lack of funds, she substantially increased the salary of three employees: Mary Delagardelle, deputy executive director and foundation executive director, from $127,079 to $165,000; LeGrande Smith, inside legal counsel, from $145,400 to $165,000; and Mary Gannon, attorney and lobbyist, from $96,705 to $125,000.

Lawmakers with the Government Oversight Committee heard that $8,680.21 was incorrectly charged to the IASB credit card, but that $7,500 has been paid back. Included was the taxpayer money allegedly used for Schick's vacation.

In response to the barrage of news, the Iowa Senate voted 49-0 this week to subject the IASB to the state's open-meetings and public-records laws.

The proposal came from Sen. Pat Ward (R-West Des Moines), who offered the amendment to the education budget bill. She touted the need for transparency and openness.

Culver's Potential Primary Challenger Opts to Run as an Independent

It looks like first-term Democratic Governor Chet Culver won't face a primary fight in his bid for re-election.

Jonathan Narcisse, an outspoken community activist, newspaper publisher, and former Des Moines School Board member, said three weeks ago that he would seek the Democratic nomination to challenge Culver. But on Thursday he changed his mind and said he will instead run as an independent in November.

Narcisse's decision came just one day before Friday's 5 p.m. deadline to file nomination papers to get on the June 8 primary-election ballot. He told reporters that he had collected the necessary signatures, but because he didn't file, that's impossible to verify.

Democratic candidates for governor and U.S. Senate are required to collect the highest number of signatures of any candidate -- 4,145, which is half of 1 percent of the 828,940 votes cast for President Barack Obama in 2008. Signatures must come from at least 10 counties, representing at least 1 percent of votes in each of those counties.

Narcisse would have been the first Iowan to challenge a sitting governor in a primary since 1994.