Scandal Plagues Iowa Employment Consortium
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
April 24, 2006
DES MOINES, IOWA--An Iowa employment services program has become the focus of investigations by state and federal officials, along with the state Legislature, after an audit revealed that administrators took home more than $1.8 million in salaries and bonuses in the last 30 months.
The auditor's report showed that last year Central Iowa Employment and Job Training Consortium, or CIETC, paid chief executive officer Ramona Cunningham and chief operating officer John Bargman a salary package totaling $360,000 each.
"I feel that I earned it," Cunningham told a legislative panel on April 11, during the first week of hearings into the scandal.
"I worked my way up into these job duties and responsibilities," Bargman said.
State Representative Clel Baudler told Bargman he didn't believe his efforts justified such a high amount of compensation.
"I represent rural Iowa," Baudler said. "We've got more cows in my district than we do people, so we know what B.S. smells like."
The nonprofit agency provides job training and placement services, in part through federal contracts, to people with disabilities and other disadvantaged groups. The Quad City Times noted that, in contrast to Cunningham and Bargman's salaries, one CIETC employee with a master's degree earned between $35,000 and $40,000 a year helping workers with disabilities.
Cunningham said she did not see any problems with the high salaries, which she said were not set by her or her staff but by the organization's board of directors.
The board has since fired both Cunningham and Bagman.
Last week, board chairman Archie Brooks admitted that he made mistakes in not keeping a tally on the salaries and bonuses that were going out to CIETC executives.
"In the voluntary position I was in, I did not do the due diligence that I should have. I have admitted that and I'm, you know, ashamed of that," Brooks told Radio Iowa. "But that happened. You have trust in staff. You proceed on that."
The probe has spilled over to the Iowa Workforce Development, which was supposed to monitor the federal contracts. Last week, Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack accepted the resignations of IWD Director Richard Running and Deputy Director Jane Barto.
The Des Moines Register reported Friday that Barto's secretary was also being investigated after police found her dumping boxes of her bosses records in the trash about 4:30 a.m. the day after Barto resigned.
Secretary Laurie Rieck explained that she just had a restless night and decided to start cleaning out and organizing her cubicle. She said Barto never told her to destroy documents related to CIETC.
"Fired job training CEO says she earned big salary" (Sioux City Journal)
"Job training official says service never suffered" (Quad City Times)
"CIETC exec admits pay was exorbitant" (Quad City Times)
"Official denies knowledge of big salaries in job training scandal" (Radio Iowa)
"Secretary claims she didn't toss any CIETC documents" (Des Moines Register)