The board of central Iowa elected officials who have authority over the job training program that’s come under intense scrutiny this past week voted Friday afternoon to fire the program’s three top managers.
Boone County Supervisor Dave Reed, vice chair of the Central Iowa Employment and Training Consortium, also signed a document that promised the board’s cooperation with state investigators. Moments later DCI agents were carrying computers and boxes of files from the building. After the meeting, Reed spoke with reporters. “I’m very sorry with what’s happened here. Everything is just devastating,” Reed says. “I’ve never been through anything like this in my life.”
The top three managers of the job training program earned excessive salaries and bonuses, and federal officials from the Department of Labor and the FBI as well as state agents are investigating. Des Moines City Councilman Archie Brooks, the chairman of the board that met Friday, is the person who approved the salary and bonus packages, but he resigned and did not show up for Friday’s meeting.
Reed, who acted as the board’s chairman for Friday’s meeting, says this controversy should be a learning experience for others, too. “It’s a thing that all boards are going to have to take a look at,” Reed says. “Pay more attention to what you’re doing.”
The board took great care to hold role call votes for nearly every action it took Friday and met in closed session for nearly three hours, tossing out the public over the objections of a reporter who cited state laws barring such action.
Governor Tom Vilsack says state officials are doing what they can to ensure the job training services the program provides continues. “I think it’s good that CIETC’s board finally met at the end of this week to deal with this issue which is at the end of the day their responsibility,” Vilsack says. “My hope is that we’ll continue to see progress.”
Vilsack’s new Iowa Workforce Development director told the board he had coordinated with the attorney general’s office to ensure that pay checks to out next Friday to workers who are left in the trenches, but not to the three individuals who’ve been fired. The three managers do have the opportunity to speak out at a public hearing on Wednesday before their termination is made final.
Legislators intend to bring more people before the Legislative Oversight Committee next week to extend their probe into the controversy. On their list is the job training program’s now-ousted director and the secretary who was tossing documents in a dumpster early one morning this week. On Friday, Governor Vilsack — a Democrat — warned Republicans against turning this into a partisan witchhunt. “We have had…significant action taken this week,” Vilsack said, referring to his decision to fire the top two officials in his Workforce Development agency for failing to act when they first learned of the exorbitant salaries. “I believe that we’ve stabilized the circumstance and condition there and that we’re going to put the spotlight where the spotlight needs to be placed which is on workers and individuals and families who need the help and assistance of job training and Promise Jobs.”
Promise Jobs is a federally-financed program which helps welfare recipients gain skills and get a job. CIETC — the Central Iowa Employment and Training Consortium — ran the Promise Jobs service for residents in the eight central Iowa counties — Boone, Dallas, Jasper, Madison, Marion, Polk, Story and Warren