Scott County Appointments to Elected Offices Keep Records Secret and Not Transparent

Scott County Appointments to Elected Offices Keep Records Secret and Not Transparent

Relevant Timeline for Referral:

  • Scott County Auditor Roxanna Moritz announces retirement March 10, 2021, her last day was April 23 2021
  • Keri Tompkins was confirmed by BOS on May 25 2021, and appointed Auditor June 1, 2021
  • Keri Tompkins began poll book purchase as an appointed Auditor in June, 2022 (
  • Keri Tompkins was elected Auditor November 8, 2022
  • Supervisor Tony Knobbe was elected Treasurer November 8, 2022, vacating his Supervisor seat
  • Rita Rawson appointed as Scott County Board of Supervisor January 27, 2023

When public officers are appointed to positions by a bureaucracy or by fellow elected officials versus elected by the people, there is often a distinct lack of transparency that accompanies the process that can be antithesis to the public interest.

On April 23, 2021, then-Democratic Scott County Auditor Roxanna Moritz retired before her elected term expired. Her retirement came on the heels of controversy and outrage by many Scott County voters, especially Republicans, over the acceptance and partial misuse of $425,000 that Scott County received in private grant to augment running Scott County's 2020 elections. The County Board policy allows any county office holder from securing private funding for public functions with or without the Board's approval. But when Moritz gave the part-time paid election workers a raise without Board approval, which is required by law, a (Democratic) state auditor investigation was opened.

In Moritz's defense, it was at Iowa's Republican Secretary of State Paul Pate's invitation and encouragement that Iowa's 99 county auditors apply for “Zuckerbucks” grants to the Center for Technology and Civic Life (CTCL), the administrator of $450 million provided by Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg's foundation to augment election processes predominately in swing states for the 2020 presidential election (Biden v Trump) during COVID-19.

Because Moritz's retirement came after her own reelection, and at the beginning of her term, the position of Scott County Auditor was left vacant and required filling. Scott County accomplishes this in one of three ways: by Board appointment or by special election, or by citizens' calling for a special election that first requires signatures (10 percent of the last general election).

To this end, Republican Supervisors Tony Knobbe and Ken Beck recruited Kerri Tompkins, a former Davenport City Council member, for the Auditor position. On May 25, 2021, the Board voted 3-2 confirming Tompkins. Not having prior notice of Tompkin's candidacy, Democrat Supervisors Ken Krocken voted “Present” and Brinson Kinzer voted “Nay.” Knobbe and Beck appeared entitled to keep Tompkin's candidacy to themselves until the eleventh hour, unsurprisingly ruffling feathers. While Republican Supervisor John Maxwell appeared confused and miffed because he too was not apprised of Tompkins candidacy until the May meeting, he voted to confirm and expressed confidence in his support of her after the fact. Thus Kerri Tompkins was appointed Scott County Auditor on June 1, 2021.

Kerri Tompkins was subsequently elected Auditor on November 8, 2022, at the same time that Supervisor Tony Knobbe was elected County Treasurer, vacating his Supervisor's seat in the middle of his term and leaving a vacancy. County elections are a lot like musical chairs. These politicians hop from one elected position to another, or sometimes they migrate over to a bureaucrat position like Knobbe and Tompkins, and Moritz before her (Roxanna had been a Davenport City Alderwoman and a County Board Supervisor before becoming County Auditor).

To fill the vacancy Knobbe left on the County Board of Supervisors, either a special election can be held, or the majority (two) of three county managers – the county recorder, the county auditor, and the county treasurer – appoint a new Supervisor. Once again, Knobbe and Beck went to work ... recruiting Rita Rawson, former Davenport City Alderwoman serving with Tompkins. Rawson had recently lost her election bid for Davenport Mayor. No big surprise when Tompkins threw her support to Rawson.

From early November of 2022 until late January of 2023 when Rawson was appointed, the fix was in for her confirmation. However, during a January 5, 2024, meeting of the three county managers – Treasurer Knobbe, Auditor Tompkins, and Recorder Rita Vargus – Vargus, in good faith, suggested seeking résumés from parties interested in filling the Supervisor vacancy. A request for résumés was published in the paper that the County was accepting résumés, generating more than 20 responses, 13 of whom expressed their preference for keeping their names/submissions confidential when the option was presented to each by Auditor Tompkins. The public was not made aware of any of these résumé submissions.

According to Treasurer Knobbe, he contacted every person who submitted a résumé. Tompkins claimed the same, except for people like former Supervisor Brinson Kinzer, whom she claimed were already known to her. Apparently none were so well-qualified as Ms. Rawson, or as lucky, because she was confirmed on January 26, 2024, in a blind 2-1 vote using numbers in place of all submitting candidates' names. Treasurer Knobbe had Rawson as one of his three picks, while Auditor Tompkins only had a single pick: Ms. Rawson. Curiously, Vargus and Knobbe also had matching picks, but these were ignored in favor of Rawson.

Meanwhile, learning of the various résumés submitted thanks to Recorder Vargus' magnanimous suggestion, former Scott County Supervisor Diane Holst filed a FOIA request for a names-only list of those who submitted résumés for the Supervisor position, and was given all but the 13 names who had requested confidentiality. The county denied her FOIA request for the names being kept secret citing “Open Records” Iowa Code 22.7(18) as a matter of personnel privacy. Because elected positions are not classified as county employees, and because it is in the public interest of county residents to know who is seeking public office, Holst filed a lawsuit for the 13 names withheld.

Holst's FOIA requests yielded the release of text messages between Supervisor/Treasurer-elect Tony Knobbe and BOS Chairman Ken Beck, and text messages between Board Chairman Ken Beck and Auditor Kerri Tompkins that revealed Chairman Beck acting as a middleman between Knobbe and Tompkins to secure Rita Rawson's appointment well before other candidates had submitted résumés to be considered.

Download the Freedom of Information Act responses provided to former Scott County Supervisor Diane Holst at this link here as a .zip folder

Holst is currently a co-plaintiff in a court action attempting to compel the Auditor to disclose the names of all candidates who submitted resumes for consideraion as an appointeee. 

Listen to the event in January 2023 when Knobbe, Tompkins and Vargas discuss how they will vote for a numerically identified candidate to be appointed to the Supervisor office at this link here.

This is arguably a violation of Iowa's Open Meetings Law, which may expressly prohibit Knobbe and Tompkins, as office holders responsible for appointing a new Supervisor, from discussing potential appointees apart from one another to avoid the absence of a quorum. Throughout November of 2022 through January of 2023, Chairman Beck appeared to act as an agent, coordinating Rawson's presumptive appointment via texting and personal e-mail accounts with Knobbe and Tompkins.

And why does all this matter?

Because favored appointments too often cause conflicts or an inability to act objectively or independently. Since Rawson's appointment as a Scott County Board Supervisor, she has voted in lockstep with Chairman Beck on at least two occasions where doing so was in direct defiance of the public interest.

This surfaced when the Board fast-tracked its rubber-stamping of Auditor Tompkin's request to purchase 220 Tenex election poll books and election management software six months prior to the most controversial general election in decades, summarily ignoring the public's concerns and questions. In addition, this purchase is costing taxpayers more than one hundred thousand dollars more than the lowest alternative bid that the law would otherwise require Tompkins to accept.

Rawson again voted with Chairman Beck, upon legal advice from the county attorney's office, to certify a Pleasant Valley School Board election recount that was conducted unlawfully, even though the other three supervisors (Dickson, Maxwell, Paustian) recognized the inappropriateness and voted against certification. The Board's denial of certification was upheld by the District Court when it denied a mandamus filing asking the court to override the Board's denial.

The moral of the story is that appointments, whether above board and transparent or not, leave the public out of the process, contributing to a political climate of exclusivity. This is further exacerbated by an increasing lack of transparency in government business that is undermining public trust.

Fortunately, this year is a general election year and there is a crowded primary race for both Democrats and Republicans for County Supervisor, County Sheriff, and County Auditor. It is noteworthy that neither Auditor Tompkins nor Supervisor Beck have ever faced a primary challenger for their offices. And Ms. Rawson, having been recently appointed, is facing her first county election contest ever.

In keeping with the Reader's tradition during primary season, we are publishing a candidate questionnaire for each of the three Scott County offices on the ballot, found at "2024 Scott County Primary Candidate Questionnaires." The deadline for response for answers to these candidate questions is May 8, 2024, when the answers will be published at the Reader's Web site and then again in print on May 23, 2024, when the June print edition hits the streets.

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