13 ways a top Branstad administration lawyer didn't comply with state policies

The Iowa Department of Administrative Services presents itself as "an organization of excellence, providing services and support to meet our stakeholder agencies’ needs and ever mindful of good stewardship in resource utilization." Among other responsibilities, DAS "handles personnel matters for all of state government."

Yet the agency’s former top attorney Ryan Lamb didn’t comply with various personnel rules during the nearly three years he worked for state government, State Auditor Mary Mosiman revealed yesterday in a detailed report (pdf). The headline news from the audit: Lamb was "overpaid" and "unqualified" for his job. Ryan Foley reported for the Associated Press,

A key lawyer in Gov. Terry Branstad’s administration wasn’t qualified for his position and was paid $22,600 that he shouldn’t have received while on military leave, according to a report released Thursday.

Department of Administrative Services chief legal counsel Ryan Lamb also failed to record vacation days and was promoted and given major raises even though he didn’t have a resume on file […].

That sounds bad. But wait! There’s more.

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More signs Bruce Harreld had inside track for University of Iowa presidency

As if the "fix was in" camp needed any more ammunition: weeks before the nine members of the Iowa Board of Regents interviewed finalists to lead the University of Iowa, Board President Bruce Rastetter arranged for Bruce Harreld to meet with four other regents at the Ames office of Summit Agricultural Group. Rastetter is the CEO of that company. Earlier in July, he and three search committee members had met Harreld for lunch in Iowa City after Harreld spoke to senior staff at the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics, at the invitation of the search committee chair.

Follow me after the jump for more on today’s explosive revelations, as well as yesterday’s decision by a University of Iowa’s faculty group to censure Harreld “for his failure of professional ethics.”  

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Weekend open thread: Brazen acts

What’s on your mind this weekend, Bleeding Heartland readers? This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

After the jump I’ve enclosed clips describing some brazen behavior. Many Iowans think of corruption in public procurement as a problem for other people, like our neighbors in Illinois. But a former Iowa Department of Public Safety employee’s involvement in state contracts awarded to Smith & Wesson raises red flags. I was surprised to learn on Friday that no ethics case will be pursued regarding the possible conflict of interest.

Todd Dorman’s latest column for the Cedar Rapids Gazette highlights comments by “America’s Longest Serving Ironist” (Governor Terry Branstad) about Syrian refugees possibly being resettled in Iowa. Dorman noted that “The master of blindside edicts” now wants “transparency” from the federal government.

His piece reminded me of Branstad’s hypocritical (or non-self-aware, if we’re being charitable) remarks to Clare McCarthy for her feature about refugees for IowaWatch.org. Speaking to McCarthy on July 7, the governor described how refugees from Burma need mentors from within their community to help them adjust to life in Iowa—perhaps forgetting that only days before, he had vetoed funding for a pilot program to train “leaders from the refugee community to help other refugees work through challenges.”

When it comes to political leaders shamelessly doing whatever they want, then failing to take responsibility, Branstad’s got nothing on Russian President Vladimir Putin. Mr. desmoinesdem directed my attention to a classic anecdote about Putin pocketing a Superbowl ring belonging to New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft. Karen Dawisha related the story in her 2014 book Putin’s Kleptocracy: Who Owns Russia? Scroll to the end of this post to read the tale.

UPDATE: A reader commented that former State Representative Renee Schulte also committed a brazen act by shifting gears in a matter of days from being a contractor for the Iowa Department of Human Services to a consultant for a company bidding on contracts to manage Medicaid.

SECOND UPDATE: Not Iowa-specific, but certainly brazen in an “evil genius” way: a “a start-up run by a former hedge fund manager” bought the rights to a life-saving drug last month and “immediately raised the price to $750 a tablet from $13.50, bringing the annual cost of treatment for some patients to hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Andrew Pollack reported for the New York Times.  

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A tip for Bruce Harreld as he adjusts to academic culture

The newly-appointed president of the University of Iowa, J. Bruce Harreld, said yesterday,

“I will be the first to admit that my unusual background requires a lot of help, a lot of coaching,” Harreld told reporters after the Iowa Board of Regents voted unanimously to give him the job. “And I’m going to turn to a whole lot of people that were highly critical and really tough on me the other day and ask them if they would be great mentors and teachers (to me). And I suspect and hope all of them will.”

Others are better-equipped to help Harreld adapt to a leadership role at a research university, a setting where he has never worked, aside from some adjunct teaching.

But having spent some time in academic culture, I offer Harreld this suggestion: stop passing yourself off as the sole author of published works to which others contributed.

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Des Moines Register editors still proud of a reprehensible call

Scrutinizing the work of government at all levels is one of the media’s most important functions. Access to public records is essential for journalists to do that job. The Des Moines Register was right to pursue and review e-mails from former Des Moines Public Schools Superintendent Nancy Sebring’s school district account.

What’s not right: the Register’s editors acting like their most reprehensible call in recent memory was some kind of muckraking triumph.  

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Branstad's commission on Central Iowa Expo work violated best fundraising practices

The latest "Civic Skinny" column in the Des Moines-based weekly Cityview explores an angle that hadn’t occurred to me when I read Jason Noble’s excellent recent reports about "ongoing financial struggles" for the Central Iowa Expo facility in Boone.

Noble documented “red flags” surrounding the initial business plan for the facility, which received substantial aid from Boone County and a $5 million federal loan guarantee. U.S. Department of Agriculture officials “felt pressure to approve” the loan guarantee and agreed thanks to “assurances by expo officials of substantial fundraising by two of the most powerful men in Iowa: once and future Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad and Republican super-lawyer Doug Gross.”

Civic Skinny took a closer look at Branstad’s fundraising for the Boone venue.  

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