A state audit raises questions about the former director of the Iowa Department for the Blind.
Karen Keninger resigned in March of last year to become director of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped in the Library of Congress. Before she left state government, though, Keninger applied for federal grant money that’s to help disabled individuals secure a job. Deputy State Auditor Andy Nielsen says auditors discovered one of Keninger’s subordinates in the Iowa Department for the Blind approved her application.
“The case worker approved a $2,000 clothing allowance to purchase clothing appropriate for a high-level government job,” Nielsen says, “and $19,000 of computer equipment as tools for use in her newly-acquired employment position.”
Keninger applied for the federal money in February of 2012 and Nielsen says that’s about the same time as she got the job in D.C.
“It was a high-level government job,” Nielsen says. “They typically pay fairly well, so it was unusual from a number of different circumstances.”
In an audit report issued Wednesday, auditors concluded it was a potential “conflict of interest” to have an employee approving grant money for their boss.
“Conflicts of interest can only be determined definitively by a court of law,” Nielsen says, “but it is something that, certainly, looks like a potential abuse and that’s why it’s been fowarded to the federal government for disposition.”
Keninger’s annual salary as director of the Iowa Department for the Blind was $94,500. According to yesterday’s audit report, tThe Iowa Department for the Blind has agreed to conduct “ethics training for employee” and change its conflict of interest policies.