Key senators are calling for state officials to take over a federally-funded program in central Iowa that’s come under fire for the steep wages paid to its managers.
The Central Iowa Employment and Training Consortium gets federal money to train workers in Boone, Dallas, Jasper, Madison, Polk, Story and Warren Counties. A state audit found its top two administrators each were paid 360-thousand dollars last year.
Senator Pat Ward, a Republican from West Des Moines, met with Kelly Taylor, the Iowa Workforce Development employee who blew the whistle on the excesses, and the Senator is putting Taylor’s bosses on notice. “We’re concerned and we want to do everything in our power to protect him,” Ward says. “He did a very courageous thing in going to the auditor.”
Ward says Taylor first went to Jane Barto, the deputy director of the Iowa Workforce Development agency, with his concerns. “He was told to drop it. In fact, he was told not to contact the U.S. Department of Labor about the issue,” Ward says. “It was very clear on our minds that Jane Barto has very definitely overstepped her bounds and interfered with a process that Kelly was responsible for and that’s checking to make sure this (federal) taxpayer money is being appropriately expended.”
Barto says Taylor will not be fired. “I don’t think that’s a problem at all,” Barto says. “That’s not our intent.” Barto says her agency is prepared to take over the administration of the job training program. “We want to ensure that number one: jobs aren’t lost and client services aren’t disrupted,” Barto says.
Senator Ward says Barto committed a “breach of the public trust” and should be immediately placed on unpaid leave. “I am very concerned about the use of taxpayer money in this state. This was federal money, but the same people are making decisions about using state money,” Ward says.
“We will very closely monitor this.” Barto says her boss will respond sometime today to the senators’ demand that she be placed on leave, without pay. “That’s not really my decision to make,” Barto says. Legislative Oversight Committee co-chair
Mary Lundby says at noon today (Wednesday), the panel will revive its discussion of the controversy and discuss documents presented by Taylor, the whistleblower. “We will be providing an e-mail that will corroborate his testimony,” Lundby says. “Ms. Barto called another auditor and said ‘Get off this case and move on.'”
Lundby says the Oversight Committee will continue its investigation of the situation beyond the day the 2005 legislature adjourns. “And we expect (the investigation) to last a long time,” Lundby says. The governor is out-of-state and has not issued a written statement on the controversy, or calls for removal of the deputy director of his Workforce Development agency.