The two political parties have different priorities when it comes to their response to the scandalous salaries earned by managers of a central Iowa job training program. A whistleblower went to federal officials to call attention to the six-figure salaries earned by three managers at the Central Iowa Employment and Training Consortium.
Democrats in the legislature say they intend to enact new “whistleblower” protections that would apply to private sector firms and non-profit groups that get some form of state financing.
Senate Co-Leader Mike Gronstal, a Democrat from Council Bluffs, says people who see state grants, loans or payments being misspent should have legal protections that would prevent them from being fired for speaking out.”I think this is a real opportunity to make sure we restore the public trust by making sure that people involved in state and local governments and in private businesses and in non-profits are accountable for money that they get from the state,” Gronstal says.
The protection from firing would not extend to individuals who work in private businesses and blow the whistle on how the business spends its money, just when whistleblowers come forward to highlight misspent state grants, loans or other payments from government.
But Gronstal wants to extend whistleblower protections to health care workers who publicly reveal mistakes that harm patients. “We’ve been trying to get that passed for the last three or four years. It has been blocked,” Gronstal says. “That’s going to be part of what we pass this session.”
House Democratic Leader Pat Murphy of Dubuque says there are millions of dollars worth state payments made to private companies or non-profit groups that care for Iowans.”People want to make sure that what they’re spending money on they’re receiving the services for and there’s not abuses,” Murphy says.
While Republicans, too, want to strengthen protection for whistleblowers, the G-O-P also wants what it calls “accountability measures.” That could include more audits, according to Senate Co-President Jeff Lamberti, a Republican from Ankeny. “It’s not just about financial audits. I think we’re interested in performance audits as well, about whether or not the services that are supposed to be provided to Iowans are actually being delivered, that we’re doing it efficiently,” Lamberti says. “So in some cases (it) is about more than just money.”
Republicans are also talking about hiring more people for the State Ombudsman’s office, and giving the office more powers to investigate alleged wrongdoing.”So we continue to have those discussions,” Lamberti says. “We haven’t resolved that yet.” The Legislative Oversight Committee intends to meet again Tuesday to continue their review of the Central Iowa Employment and Training Consortium.