The Iowa Workforce Development agency’s top two officials say they would have immediately moved to cut the huge salaries of the administrators of a central Iowa job training program if they’d known about it. A whistleblower says Jane Barto, deputy director of the Iowa Workforce Development agency, did know and tried to discourage him from reporting it.
Barto told the Legislative Oversight Committee differently. “I gave you the facts,” Barto says. “What I talked about today were the facts.” Barto told legislators today that she knew the whistleblower went to the U.S. Department of Labor with his concerns in early November, but she and her boss, Iowa Workforce Development director Richard Running, both insist they knew of no wrongdoing until last week.
“If we had had an indication, I assure you we would have reacted immediately…and done something to correct it,” Running says. “For anyone to have salaries over three-hundred-and-some thousand dollars is totally unacceptable.”
Barto, too, told the Legislature’s Oversight Committee that she did not know of the salaries until last Thursday. “I am outraged over these salaries. Clients desperately need those dollars,” Barto says. “If we had had any hint whatsoever that they were paying those kinds of salaries, we would have moved immediately to pull that contract.”
The whistleblower, Kelly Taylor, has shown senators some e-mail correspondence which disputes Barto’s statements. Reporters asked Barto about that today. “I really need to look at that document,” Barto says. “I’m not sure what he’s referring to.” The Central Iowa Employment and Training Consortium gets federal money to train workers in Boone, Dallas, Jasper, Madison, Polk, Story and Warren Counties and Iowa Workforce Development officials review independent audits of the agency.
Barto says those audits showed the amount of salary money in one chunk and did not show what individuals were paid, so she and her boss had no idea what was going on. Senator Mary Lundby, a Republican from Marion, has met with the whistleblower and believes Barto has a “credibility” problem. “That’s why I specifically asked her ‘Are you sure he never contacted you? Are you sure he never brought information to you?'” Lundby says.
Barto blames Des Moines City Councilman Archie Brooks, the chairman of the board of local elected officials who signed off on the salaries, and the board itself for the mess. Barto notes that Brooks and Ramona Cunningham, the C-E-O of the training program, were invited to testify before the Legislative Oversight Committee today (Wednesday), but did not. “I think that’s as outrageous as the salaries that he authorized and she received,” Barto says.
Barto and her boss maintain it’ll be up to the City of Des Moines and the counties involved in the job training program to repay any money if the feds seek repayment for misspent funds. “While we are here discussing he said/she said, the supervisors need to be reminded that they have a legal obligation that if any of these costs are determined to be unallowable, they are required to pay them back,” Barto says.
Senator Lundby says regardless of whether the state or Des Moines and the counties wind up having to pay, she’s concerned by Barto’s buck-passing. Lundby says while it is federal money spent by an independent group, it passed through the Iowa Workforce Development agency, and the agency has some oversight responsibilities. “Everything is somebody else’s fault,” Lundby says. “They have a responsibility to watch that money.”