Iowa campaign regulator searching for new executive director

The Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board will soon hire a new executive director. Megan Tooker, who has held the position since December 2010, is leaving to pursue unspecified new opportunities, she told Bleeding Heartland on November 4.

The ethics board is one of the smallest state agencies and enforces Iowa law on campaign finance disclosures, government ethics and lobbying the executive branch, and gifts to public officials.

Since the executive director also serves as legal counsel to the board, applicants must be attorneys admitted to the Iowa bar. A job listing on a government website shows applications are being accepted through November 12. The annual salary range is from $63,689.60 to $97,468.80; state records show Tooker’s base pay was $97,460 for the last three years records are publicly available.

The posting mentions the following duties and responsibilities:

  • Providing legal advice to the Board and staff
  • Managing the Board’s staff
  • Investigating complaints filed with the Board and recommending disposition
  • Drafting advisory opinions and Board orders
  • Representing the Board in judicial proceedings
  • Prosecuting contested cases before the Board
  • Drafting administrative rules and proposed legislation
  • Preparing the Board’s meeting agendas and meeting packets
  • Preparing and executing the Board’s annual budget
  • Advising executive branch agencies, officials and employees on government ethics and lobbying
  • Answering inquiries from candidates, political committees and political parties concerning Iowa’s campaign finance laws
  • Answering inquiries from the public and press concerning campaign finance and government ethics
  • Preparing and making presentations regarding campaign finance and government ethics to groups of various sizes
  • Responding to public records requests filed with the Board
  • Overseeing the Board’s web reporting system, which is used by thousands of people to electronically file campaign disclosure reports and executive branch ethics reports
  • Serving as the Board’s lobbyist before the Governor and General Assembly concerning legislation affecting the Board
  • I was pleasantly surprised to see this job listing. The last time there was turnover at the top of this agency, longtime board chair James Albert recruited Tooker, one of his former Drake Law School students, without advertising the opening. The Des Moines Register editors gave the ethics board a “thistle” for the “rush job in secret” to make that hire. Albert has served on the ethics board since 1997 and had also recruited Tooker’s predecessor, Charlie Smithson. (He left shortly after the 2010 election to become the Iowa House chief clerk. Smithson later worked in the Iowa Secretary of State’s office and is now the secretary of the Iowa Senate.)

    Please spread the word to qualified attorneys, because it’s important to have a capable person in this enforcement role. The board typically meets only four times a year and relies largely on advice and information presented by the executive director.

    UPDATE: Documents provided on November 5 in response to Bleeding Heartland’s records request indicate that Tooker is going to work in some capacity for the Iowa Lottery, and the Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board is requesting permission to hire a second attorney. The agency combined the roles of counsel and executive director in 2001.

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