Two former board members of a job-training agency on Monday told lawmakers that board got complacent, but said it’s unfair to blame them for the salary scandal that came to light this spring at the Central Iowa Employment and Training Consortium.
Des Moines City Councilman Tom Vlassis said “My understanding of my job was to basically be a rubber stamp.” Vlassis says there are two kinds of boards — those that are small and hands-on, and ones that are large and hands-off, and he says the board of CIETC was the latter kind.
Vlassis says from time to time, the board did ask questions, mainly about things like service contracts and how many people would be served, or the cost per client. Vlassis says he wasn’t on the board to micro-manage. “It becomes a matter of trust,” Vlassis says, “and I trusted the people… running the organization. Apparently that trust may have been misplaced.”
Polk County Supervisor John Mauro (morrow), another CIETC board member, says they didn’t know about big bonuses or they would have put a stop to them. “If you’re askin’ me to be responsible for what happened here, it’s not fair, and it’s not fair to the CIETC board. Where was the Workforce Development?” he asked.
Mauro says pointing a finger at the board isn’t fair, since after two private audits the state still didn’t give the board so much as “a wink” to indicate there was something wrong. He says even the federal government didn’t want to talk about it, so he doesn’t know how the board could be expected to see there was something wrong. Mauro says nobody realized there were such generous bonuses being paid out, and if the board had, they would have been halted immediately.
Mauro has a nephew who works for CIETC but says he wasn’t on the board when his relative was hired. “Did I ask some of these people to go apply? No,” Mauro declared. He says if they called and asked if they could use his name, he said yes. The CIETC board has resigned and members replaced by new ones.
Lawmakers probing the lack of oversight that allowed three program heads to claim 1-point-8-million dollars in 30 months say there should have been more oversight. Mauro says he had a responsibility as a board member and elected official. “Did I do the job I should have did?” he asks, answering “Evidently I wasn’t paying attention because it happened. That’s hard for me to say, and I’m not proud about it at all.”
Mauro and Vlassis testified Monday before the legislature’s Government Oversight Committee, which continues to hold hearings on the scandal.