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.

First, let’s look at the narrative Schultz started building on April 10, when his office announced,

Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz plans to return more than $200,000 to the state in unspent money from his budget. He says his ongoing efforts to reduce costs in his office resulted in less spending than his predecessors.

Schultz says finding efficiencies in technology, reducing staff, and consolidating management positions, allows him to return the money in July.

The Congressional candidate’s debut television commercial, “Done It,” hit local screens on April 14.

My transcript:

Schultz: I’m Matt Schultz. Washington politicians talk about change. I’ve actually done it. As Secretary of State, I spent a million dollars less than my predecessor, and I’m returning more than $200,000 to Iowa taxpayers.

When I stood up for voter ID, the Democrats and the media said I was wrong. But I fought them every step of the way.

Now I’m running for Congress to stop Obama and Pelosi from bankrupting America.

I’m Matt Schultz, and I approved this message because I’ll fight for Iowa taxpayers.

Incidentally, Iowa’s county auditors also disagreed with Schultz on voter ID. Few people are more acquainted with how elections work in this state.

Anyway, as an introductory piece to a Republican audience, Schultz’s ad hit a lot of strong points. A conservative would come away thinking Schultz was a good manager of taxpayer resources.

Longtime observers of Schultz’s actions as Iowa Secretary of State could shoot a few holes in this narrative. For instance, he spent federal Help America Vote Act funds on hiring a criminal investigator to root out alleged voter fraud–a crusade that produced a few arrests and guilty pleas, plus one trial that ended in a rapid acquittal. The Iowa State Auditor’s office warned Schultz late last year that the HAVA funds may need to be returned.

Meanwhile, Schultz’s office failed to institute a policy that could have prevented at least a dozen eligible voters from having their votes wrongly thrown out in 2012.

Other skeptics might point to Schultz’s attempt to use emergency rulemaking to bump suspected non-citizens off Iowa voter rolls, which a Polk County District Court rejected shortly before the 2012 presidential election. Schultz then enacted similar rules through the normal process, but a different Polk County District Court ruled this year that he had overstepped his authority. (Schultz has appealed that decision to the Iowa Supreme Court.)

Ryan Foley’s latest reporting should destroy any myth about Schultz being a careful steward of public funds. In 2012, the secretary of state decided to eliminate the chief deputy position held by Jim Gibbons, a failed candidate for the 2010 Republican nomination in IA-03. According to Foley’s article, which you should read in full,

But rather than dismiss Gibbons quickly as he did to four career workers laid off that summer, Schultz took unusual steps that kept his political appointee on the payroll through the end of the year.

Schultz said in an interview that he looked into whether he could give Gibbons severance pay, but the Department of Administrative Services advised that wasn’t permitted. He was told that he could instead let Gibbons work from home until his resignation date, and Schultz said he allowed him to do so through June as the office’s elections deputy Mary Mosiman took over Gibbons’ duties.

But Schultz said the work-from-home practice struck him as wasteful and he directed Gibbons to return to the office in July and serve as “a resource” during the management transition until he either found a new job or December 31, whichever came first. He said that he didn’t want to fire Gibbons sooner because his wife was recovering from a serious illness and he believed it could take months to combine the two deputy positions.

“Jim was no longer managing projects,” Schultz said. “But it was very clear he had to be there on a daily basis and be available for support.”

Schultz said he didn’t think about cutting the salary tied to Gibbons’ Public Service Executive 6 rank, which is for supervisors involved in “decisions at the highest management level in the agency.” He said he was focused more on achieving long-term savings.

Mosiman said she consulted with Gibbons occasionally, but that she didn’t know what else he did. He wasn’t required to complete timesheets.

By the time Gibbons resigned on December 31, 2012, he had “collected roughly $80,000 in pay during his final seven months, including $4,056 for cashing out unused vacation.”

Meanwhile, longtime employees of the Secretary of State’s Office were given only about a month’s notice that their jobs would disappear. Mosiman, who is now Iowa State Auditor, told Foley that “the decision to lay off career employees while keeping Gibbons hurt office morale and that she shared concerns with Schultz.” Seriously, click through to read the whole Associated Press article.

In a follow-up piece posted today, Foley confirmed that Gibbons did little if any work while collecting his salary during the second half of 2012.

Schultz’s office released records Thursday showing that Gibbons sent roughly a dozen emails from his state account during the seven-month period, but many either didn’t relate to state business or involved forwarding emails to other employees without comment. Emails show he had lunch with Iowa State’s chief of staff, met with a state benefits specialist, and indicated he would attend an Iowa Insurance Committee meeting.

The final email he sent was in October 2012, as the office was administering the presidential election. It was to a partner in a West Des Moines accounting firm seeking a meeting to discuss “an opportunity.”

The secretary of state office’s legal counsel, Charlie Smithson, said Thursday he was still searching for any other work produced by Gibbons.

Gibbons, who is now president of a bank in Ames, hasn’t returned repeated phone and email messages seeking comment over the last three weeks, including one left Thursday. […]

When pressed on what Gibbons’ duties were, Schultz said that he didn’t micromanage him and Gibbons was expected to be available by phone when he wasn’t in the office. Gibbons was allowed to stay until he either found a job or Dec. 31, whichever came first.

Foley’s latest article quotes an enraged Democratic State Senator Dick Dearden, whose daughter Schultz fired a few months after she had been widowed in 2011. Schultz didn’t show the same concern to her that he showed to Gibbons following his wife’s illness.

Any relevant comments are welcome in this thread.

P.S.- Bonus Iowa political trivia: Republican heavyweights Nick Ryan and Bruce Rastetter supported Gibbons for Congress and maxed out to Schultz this year.

UPDATE: I forgot to mention a couple of other hack-like moves by Schultz: using the Secretary of State’s official website to bash then presidential candidate Jon Huntsman, and allowing a pro-gun group to send a mass mailing that appeared to come from “The Honorable Matt Schultz”  in his capacity as Secretary of State.

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  • A disaster

    Matt Schultz’s approach to… everything… is a disaster.  I’m a conservative and I support voter ID but Schultz is a crooked, deceitful amateur and we don’t need him in Washington DC or the State Capitol.  Go home Mr Schultz (and pay back the $80,000 you stole from taxpayers).

    • I don't think he will win the nomination

      too many people who would otherwise agree with his ideology recognize he’s an amateur.

      • no nomination

        I hope and pray that you are right.  It’s hard to think of anyone in such a high profile elected position who is such an amateur. I actually can’t think of anyone….