Statehouse Democrats are starting to grumble about the money the legislature’s spending investigating the CIETC scandal. After spending three hours questioning CIETC’s interim financial director Tuesday, Senator Tom Courtney, a Democrat from Burlington, joked about the committee costing more money than the agency’s charged with misspending.
“With the lawyers’ fees and the mileage back and forth, every time I come up it’s $134 just for gas,” he said. Add in a night in a hotel and a couple days of expense pay for legislators, Courtney estimated that for the whole committee, “I bet you’re out over $100,000.”
According to Courtney, the central Iowa job-training program received less than that from the state since most of its funding came from the federal government. Courtney said it doesn’t mean he wants to quit looking into the issue, though he thinks legislators should consider the “whole situation.”
There are 13 legislators on the committee, paid $86 a day to attend the hearings, in addition to meals, mileage and up to $45 a night if they stay in a hotel. There are also three lawyers on retainer, earning $150 an hour or more to sit through the meetings and read stacks of documents that have been subpoenaed.
Still, Republican Representative Dwayne Alons of Hull says it’s the committee’s job to make sure government gets cleaned up. Alons says they don’t really put a dollar value on resolving issues and “seeing to it that justice is really served and things are made right.” Alons says it wouldn’t be right to say: “We don’t have that much skin in the game, we’re just going to back off and not do much about it — I think that’s wrong.”
Alons says before the committee finishes its work he’d like to hear again from former CIETC board members Archie Brooks and Ako Abdul Samad, a Democrat who’s running for the Iowa House. Brooks approved the salaries and bonuses at CIETC while Abdul Samad’s “Creative Visions” agency received funding for job training.
Another Democrat on the committee, Representative Roger Thomas of Elkader, charged that Republicans are just drawing out the hearings, hoping for a surprise on the eve of the November election, but one of the Republicans on the panel, Senator Ron Weick of Sioux City, says ending the hearings now would be like pulling out of Iraq.