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Audit report says Iowa ethics board had $9,040 in unpaid penalties in 2022

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(The Center Square) – The Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board had $9,040 in unpaid penalties at the end of 2022 but did not try to collect those payments, according to an audit.

The failure to collect the penalties is because the board has no instructions on how to pay the penalties and within what time frame, according to the report from State Auditor Rob Sand.

“During the 2023 legislative session, the Board began an effort to reform how they handle unpaid penalties,” the audit said. “A bill was drafted to codify a deadline for payment and provide consequences if a person or committee refused to pay; however, this bill was never passed.”

House File 2168 was the second attempt to address collections, but it never made it out of committee, according to Iowa Legislature records.

The audit looked at files through June 20, 2022.

Zachary Goodrich, executive director of the board, did not immediately respond to a question from The Center Square seeking comment about whether any penalties are still outstanding.

The audit also criticized the board for not segregating duties among staff to prevent error or loss. Auditors said one issue facing the board is the small number of staff.

“We will continue to explore options for segregating duties and for independent reviews, though the limited resources of the Board make most options impractical,” the IECDB board said in its response to the audit.

The report comes as the IECDB Board fined two for campaign violations this week.

Melissa Vine, a Democrat running for the 3rd district congressional seat held by U.S. Rep. Zach Nunn, and her campaign manager were fined $500 each for failing to disclose a list of donors.

Goodrich said during the board’s meeting that Lou McDonald used his credit card to try to make about 100 contributions, with about 49 of those succeeding. Vine and McDonald said they were unaware they were violating campaign finance laws. The combined $1,000 fine is the maximum. McDonald no longer works for Vine’s campaign, according to Goodrich.

The IECDB Board also fined Cerro Gordo County Auditor Adam Wedmore for using the county’s postal meter to mail campaign letters. The cost of sending the 1,000 letters is $640.

Wedmore offered the county $650 to cover the cost. He was fined $500.

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