Auditor details mismanagement by Matt Schultz and Mary Mosiman

If you thought nothing could surprise you anymore about Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz, I recommend reading the report Chief Deputy State Auditor Warren Jenkins released yesterday. Jenkins reviewed payments to Schultz’s former chief deputy Jim Gibbons after Gibbons stopped coming to work. You can download a pdf of the audit here. I’ve posted the full text after the jump.

Key points: Schultz told Gibbons in May 2012 that his position would be eliminated at the end of the calendar year. Gibbons stopped coming in to work regularly the following month. Normal procedure calls for at-will state employees to be paid “until the end of the pay period, up to a maximum of 2 weeks after being notified their position is to be eliminated.” After learning that state agencies are not allowed to make severance payments to at-will employees, Schultz decided to keep Gibbons on the payroll through December 2012. There are no timesheets or records of how often Gibbons came to work between June and December of that year. Former colleagues could not provide Jenkins with much information about anything Gibbons did for the Secretary of State’s Office. Gibbons reported directly to Schultz.

The audit concluded, “Based on the lack of documentation supporting work performed by Mr. Gibbons, we cannot determine the public benefit of the Secretary of State’s Office paying Mr. Gibbons $90,738.67 in salary, vacation, and benefits for the period June 8, 2012 through December 31, 2012.” Jenkins also questioned the public benefit of paying more than $21,000 to two other at-will employees whose positions were eliminated.

Schultz is now running for Madison County attorney. That election will be a good test of whether Madison County Republicans care more about partisan allegiance or basic competence. A statement from Schultz tried to pass off Gibbons’ work arrangement as something advised by the Department of Administrative Services. That spin is misleading, for reasons I explain after the jump.

Current State Auditor Mary Mosiman was one of Schultz’s deputies during the period examined, and to put it mildly, this report casts an unflattering light on her. She has claimed that she warned Schultz that keeping Gibbons on the payroll was damaging to morale in the agency. But the bottom line is, she never blew the whistle on a colleague getting tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars for doing no work.

In addition, Jenkins found that neither Mosiman nor Gibbons submitted timesheets or “leave slips” documenting approval of planned time off. As a result, Mosiman “was paid for one week of accumulated vacation she should not have received” when she left the Secretary of State’s Office for her current job. She has reportedly already returned to the state her excess payment of $2,500. No one knows whether that’s the full extent of overpayments to Schultz’s subordinates. Jenkins’ report states, “Because timesheets and leave slips were not required to be completed and were not submitted by the Deputies, we are unable to identify any additional vacation hours used but not properly recorded for the Deputies.”

The state auditor is supposed to make sure the public’s money is well spent. How can someone do that job without understanding the need to record essential information such as time spent working and time spent on vacation? Even if Mosiman was not aware that she received too much vacation pay, she should have recognized and taken steps to correct the lack of record-keeping at the Secretary of State’s Office. She should not have stood by and let Gibbons collect month after month of salary and benefits, long after he stopped coming to work.

After the jump I’ve posted comments from Schultz, Democratic State Senator Liz Mathis (who requested the audit), Democratic candidate for secretary of state Brad Anderson, and Democratic candidate for state auditor Jon Neiderbach.

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IA-03: Stick a fork in Matt Schultz--he's done

Be careful what you brag about in politics. Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz highlighted alleged cost savings to the state in his Congressional campaign’s first television commercial. As journalists looked more closely at staff reorganization in the Secretary of State’s Office, they discovered details that will likely derail Schultz’s aspirations in IA-03.

Ryan Foley of the Associated Press was the first to report that Schultz kept his political appointee Jim Gibbons on the payroll for seven months after deciding to eliminate Gibbons’ position. It’s not clear what work, if any, Gibbons was doing during his final months as a state employee.

Yesterday Foley reported for the Associated Press and Jason Clayworth reported for the Des Moines Register on more political appointees whom Schultz allowed to work from home after requesting their resignations in 2011 and 2012. I’ve posted excerpts from both stories after the jump, but you should click through to read them in full. In a statement to the Des Moines Register, Schultz defended his actions:

“What the liberals in the media are ignoring as they level their attacks against me, is that the Department of Administrative Services, the state’s personnel experts, advised my office that instead of severance an agency could keep an employee on payroll longer than they are required to come to the office, so long as the employee was available for phone calls and questions from home. […] If the media had real integrity they would be thanking me for protecting Iowa’s election integrity and finding ways to save Iowa taxpayers more than $200,000.”

I doubt that excuse will fly in a GOP primary where voters have several other credible candidates to choose from. Schultz has some powerful backers and donors, but so do a few rivals with less baggage. Even if Schultz surprises me by winning the Republican nomination in IA-03, the latest revelations provide plenty of ammunition for Staci Appel in the general election—not that we needed more proof that Schultz has been ineffective in his current position. He pursued the wrong priorities and spent federal funds on his own crusade rather than how they were intended to be used.  

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IA-03: Two windows onto Matt Schultz's management skills (updated)

Matt Schultz is touting his management of the Iowa Secretary of State’s office in a television commercial promoting his campaign in Iowa’s third Congressional district.

But new reports by Ryan Foley of the Associated Press indicate that when reorganizing the Secretary of State’s office, Schultz showed preference to a political appointee and allowed him to keep collecting a large salary despite doing little if any work for the government.

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Newt Gingrich slowly learning about fiscal responsibility

Good news has been in short supply lately for supporters of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s presidential candidacy. But Gingrich told Seema Mehta of the Los Angeles Times this week that he’s turning things around:

“The fact is a month of media barrage is painful, and it slowed a lot of things down,” [Gingrich] said, before marching in a Fourth of July parade in Clear Lake, Iowa. “Our numbers will not be as good as we would like, and candidly, the consultants left us in debt. But every single week since they left we’ve been cutting down the debt, and we raise more than we spend in a week.”

Way to blame on the media for your own big mouth and lazy approach to campaigning, Newt. If you’re asking people to elect you president, you should at least be able to keep your own organization’s spending in line with its revenues.

Gingrich hasn’t given up on competing in the Iowa caucuses. His new spokesman R.C. Hammond told the Des Moines Register’s Jason Clayworth that the campaign will rely on the kindness of strangers volunteers. One of the most important free laborers will be former Representative Greg Ganske. He was part of the giant Republican “Class of 1994” in the U.S. House, taking down legendary Democrat Neal Smith in what was then Iowa’s fourth district. Ganske stepped up to be Gingrich’s finance chair in Iowa and is giving the candidate some money tips:

Ganske has already advised Gingrich to stop chartering expensive private planes and to instead fly commercial airlines, preferably in coach.  He’s also advised Gingrich to skip the Ames straw poll, a major Republican presidential shindig that will be held Aug. 13th.

“It’s basically who can buy the most buses to transport people in and then throw the biggest party,” Ganske said. “Basically it’s a fundraiser for the party.”

When a campaign is flat broke, the candidate shouldn’t need to be told to stop chartering planes. Then again, Gingrich developed an expensive airplane habit in his years running the American Solutions 527 organization.

Gingrich has no choice but to skip the Ames straw poll because he couldn’t afford to put in a bid for a spot outside the venue.

Last time Ganske made Iowa campaign news, he was hosting a fundraiser for Jim Gibbons, the Congressional candidate who lost badly to State Senator Brad Zaun in the 2010 IA-03 Republican primary, despite support from power-brokers in Iowa and Washington. Ganske’s been out of office for a long time, and rightly or wrongly, many Republicans feel his flaws as a candidate cost the GOP the 2002 U.S. Senate race against Tom Harkin. But beggars can’t be choosers. Gingrich should be thankful that anyone with any clout in Iowa offered to assist his hopeless cause.

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Never mind the experts: Schultz keeps campaigning for voter ID law

In fewer than three months on the job, Secretary of State Matt Schultz has prompted the president of the Iowa county auditors association to express concern about being "dragged into a partisan fight." Jennifer Jacobs covered Butler County Auditor Holly Fokkena’s extraordinary comments in Sunday’s Des Moines Register. Not only is Fokkena a Republican like Schultz, she is from a county that tilts strongly to the GOP. Yet she is worried about Schultz’s push to require all voters to show photo ID.

Background and recent developments on the photo ID controversy are after the jump.

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