Some county treasurers have flouted Iowa gift law for years

Enforcement of Iowa ethics law is a joke.

Dubuque County Treasurer Eric Stierman and Winneshiek County Treasurer Wayne Walter stayed for free in a vendor’s Florida condo a few months ago, Ryan Foley reported for the Associated Press on March 13. The condo’s owner is Marc Carr, whose company GovTech Services collects local taxes for most of the state’s counties. The officials “denied any wrongdoing, describing Carr as a friend with whom they had previously vacationed in Florida.”

Iowa gift law does not exempt friends or vacations. While Stierman and Walter committed a particularly outrageous violation, their disregard for the code is hardly surprising.

For years, the Iowa State County Treasurer’s Association and the Iowa State Association of Counties have enabled and encouraged gifts to county treasurers from GovTech and SRI Incorporated, which handles online tax auctions. Since 2014, the two companies have paid for scholarships available only to children and grandchildren of county treasurers or their employees.

The mission of the association of counties is “to promote effective and responsible county government.” Yet the group’s top attorney Kristi Harshbarger helped devise a scheme to offer the scholarships despite the apparent gift law problem. Later, Harshbarger pushed back hard against an ethics board opinion that the program did not comply with the statute.

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59 senators defended the constitution. Not Chuck Grassley or Joni Ernst

President Donald Trump will soon cast his first veto. The U.S. Senate approved on March 14 a resolution disapproving of Trump’s declaration of emergency powers. All 47 members of the Democratic caucus and twelve Republicans voted for the resolution (roll call). Iowa’s Senators Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst were among the 41 Republicans to oppose terminating Trump’s power grab.

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Iowa Senate broadens ethics code, but not transparency rules

Iowa state senators have amended their chamber’s ethics code following a high-profile complaint against Democratic Senator Nate Boulton, which was dismissed late last year.

The new language cover actions occurring outside the capitol building and allows citizens to file a complaint more than three years after an incident. However, the updated code would still lead to dismissal of a complaint like Sharon Wegner’s allegations against Boulton.

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