The retired accountant who helped blow the whistle on excessive salaries at a central Iowa job training agency spoke Monday night at the city council meeting. James Quinn, the retired chief financial officer at Iowa Workforce Development, tipped federal officials off to questionable operations at the Central Iowa Employment and Training Consortium.
During the council meeting, Quinn complained about a memo allegedly written by Des Moines City Councilman Archie Brooks. According to Quinn, the memo attacked both him and fellow whistleblower Kelly Taylor. “The thrust of this memo seems to be to cast Kelly and I as troublemakers and rationalize the salary business that was going on at CIETC,” Quinn said.
Their work environment was “extremely stressful” according to Quinn, who said his two bosses were “actively” trying to cover-up the excessive salaries. Quinn said the memo “belittled” his efforts to publicly reveal the truth about the executive pay at CIETC. “I would like to make sure that this memo is being disavowed by the city council and that you’re appreciative of the efforts that we’ve had not only on the part of the beneficiaries of those services rendered by CIETC but on the part of taxpayers whose money was being misspent,” Quinn said.
Brooks immediately responded. “Mr. Quinn, I want to thank you for coming down. You were supposed to ask me a question. I’m going to answer you even though you didn’t ask it,” Brooks said. “That memo was a request that I made to the staff to notify all board members that an audit was coming. I did not author that…so I’m sorry about that, but I did not do that…and you did not see my signature on that and I never did I ever receive a copy of it.”
The city council directed the city manager to review protections for city employees who might blow the whistle on wrong-doing. Des Moines City Councilman Michael Kiernan says it appears the “checks and balances” of all levels of government are working in regards to the CIETC scandal. “The one thing I don’t want people to lose sight of is the process is working,” Kiernan says. “I do believe that anybody that was wrong in their actions will be held accountable.”
The memo Quinn cited is dated March 27, 2006 and calls the complaints about excessive salaries “baseless” and refers to past attempts by Quinn and Taylor — the whistleblowers in this case — to create “problems” in the state agency that oversees CIETC. The two-page memo maintains that “the amount of wages paid to (CIETC) staff is not in question; what may be in question is whether or not it is an allowable federal cost.” You can listen to last night’s Des Moines City Council discussion of the memo by clicking on the link below.