Secretary of State Michael Mauro announced on December 29 that his office and the U.S. Election Assistance Commission have resolved all outstanding issues related to Iowa's use of federal Help America Vote Act funds when Chet Culver was secretary of state. A federal audit originally questioned the use of about $2.5 million of the $30 million in HAVA funds Iowa received. By June of this year, federal officials reduced to $576,000 the amount Iowa would have to pay back. The final agreement reached won't cost Iowa anything.
For three years, state elections staff have worked to correct a long list of problems in an effort to avoid a large repayment, but federal officials concluded $221,000 in "disallowed costs" couldn't be fixed or whittled down further.
However, the state won't have to write a check to repay that money, said Secretary of State Michael Mauro said today.
Mauro asked federal officials to give the state a credit for expenses that were eligible for federal voting funds, but that Mauro chose to cover with state money knowing that questionable spending would likely need to be repaid.
Click here to view final correspondence from the EAC to the Secretary of State's office. Governor Chet Culver's general counsel Jim Larew emphasized in a statement that "no federal rules were broken," and "Most of the federal rules that were interpreted to evaluate the Iowa HAVA program had not even been published by the time Iowa HAVA was completed."
This settlement wraps up four years of outstanding work by Mauro as secretary of state. He never should have lost his re-election bid.
Last month, Governor-elect Terry Branstad praised Mauro's work and said he would consider hiring him in his administration. On December 30, the Branstad/Reynolds transition announced that Branstad will nominate Mauro to head the Iowa Labor Commission. Before that term starts on May 1, 2011, Mauro will serve as deputy director at Iowa Workforce Development, beginning January 3.
I'll post a more extensive update on Branstad's personnel choices and policy statements in the next few days. After the jump I've posted Mauro's press release and Larew's statement on the HAVA audit resolution, as well as the Branstad statement on Mauro's new position, which praised "the fair and even way [Mauro] administered election laws and how he effectively managed the Iowa secretary of state's office." No wonder Branstad never did much to help Mauro's opponent Matt Schultz, in stark contrast to his longstanding and highly visible advocacy for attorney general candidate Brenna Findley.
Statement from Secretary of State Michael Mauro's office:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
December 29, 2010
SECRETARY OF STATE MAURO REACHES FINAL HAVA AUDIT RESOLUTION WITH U.S. ELECTION ASSISTANCE COMMISSION
DES MOINES - Secretary of State Michael A. Mauro today announced that the U.S. Election Assistance Commission (EAC) has accepted all of the corrective actions taken by the Secretary of State's Office to finally resolve the findings of the audit conducted in 2008. The audit focused on federal funds received by the previous Secretary of State's administration beginning in April 2003.
Secretary Mauro cooperated with the EAC to come to a resolution that did not require any state appropriation or transfer of state funds.
"Our office worked with the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, the U.S. Inspector General, the Iowa Attorney General's Office, and the Governor's Office every step of the way during this three-year-long process. We are happy to come to a resolution that will not cost taxpayers any money and is in the best interest for all Iowans," Secretary Mauro said.
Final correspondence from the EAC can be found by visiting www.sos.state.ia.us/pdfs/elections/EACaudit2010.pdf
Statement from Governor Chet Culver's office:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE December 29, 2010
DES MOINES - Below is a statement by Jim Larew, Chief of Staff and General Counsel to Governor Culver, on the final management decision of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission:
It is important to reiterate no federal rules were broken. The contracts at issue, with SPPG and others, were not required to be subject to competitive bidding. The Iowa Attorney General's office addressed the matter and advised the Election Assistance Commission that competitive bidding was not required. The report also does not include a finding that $2.5 million in voting funds were misspent. When documentation was provided to the EAC, most of the initial challenges were withdrawn-leaving only $220,995 (about 7/10th of 1 percent of the program budget) in dispute.
Most of the federal rules that were interpreted to evaluate the Iowa HAVA program had not even been published by the time Iowa HAVA was completed. It is challenging to follow a rule no one has ever seen. The best judgment of the Secretary of State's office was the guide used to operate the program. After the fact, there were a number of good-faith disagreements between the Secretary of State's office and auditors about how implementation funds were to be spent pursuant to the rules.
The remaining disputed amounts were made subject to a resolution under which terms: a. No admission of wrongdoing or illegality or failure to follow rules was required nor offered. b. No expenditure of state or federal taxpayer funds will be required; c. There will be no loss or diminishment of HAVA funds at the Secretary of State's office, by even one cent; and d. The Election Assistance Commission has acknowledged the fact that SPPG provided "extensive effort and support" in implementing HAVA in Iowa and that quality work was produced in the course of implementing the HAVA program. We appreciate their role in implementing HAVA in Iowa. The Iowa HAVA program has been acknowledged as one of the nation's best programs. As a result of the program, Iowa's voters are assured of voting on machines that function properly and in accordance with best practices. Iowa's voting places are accessible to all citizens, including those with disabilities. Iowans have confidence in their voting system and vote in record numbers.
Statement from Branstad/Reynolds transition team:
December 30, 2010
Branstad names Michael Mauro as Iowa's next Labor Commissioner
Service will begin May 1, 2011 at the expiration of the current Labor Commissioner's term
(URBANDALE) - Iowa Governor-elect Terry Branstad today announced that he intends to nominate Secretary of State Michael Mauro as Iowa Labor Commissioner for a term beginning May 1, 2011.
"Michael Mauro has been a dedicated and effective public servant for many years," said Branstad. "As Labor Commissioner Michael will be responsible for programs designed to protect the safety, health, and security of Iowa's workforce. I am proud to nominate him for this important role and he has my full confidence. I was impressed with the fair and even way he administered election laws and how he effectively managed the Iowa secretary of state's office."
"I am excited about the opportunity to work for the Branstad Administration and appreciate the confidence he has shown in me," said Mauro. "This new challenge is a great opportunity to further serve Iowans and I look forward to beginning that work."
Branstad further announced that Mauro will begin employment on January 3, 2011, as deputy director at Iowa Workforce Development, where he will manage special projects and also work with current Iowa Labor Commissioner David Neil, to ensure a smooth and seamless transition when his term begins on May 1.