The woman who served as C.E.O. of a state job training agency was sentenced to seven years in prison today. Ramona Cunningham was dubbed the "ringleader" of the corruption scandal that was revealed in a 2006 state audit of the now defunct Central Iowa Employment and Training Consortium (CIETC).
In April of 2006, Cunningham testified before a state legislative hearing and defended her salary. She was paid nearly $800,000 during her last two-and-a-half years with CIETC.
"I feel that I earned it," Cunningham told lawmakers in 2006. She originally faced 30 charges before pleading guilty in July of this year to eight counts of fraud, conspiracy and obstruction. Prosecutors said Cunningham, a high school dropout, was involved in a scam that misspent $1.5 million in public money on excessive salaries and bonuses.
Cunningham told legislators in 2006 that she earned her G-E-D, became a secretary at CIETC and worked her way up to C-E-O. "I feel that I’m very qualified for the job," Cunningham said. Entering today’s sentencing in federal court, Cunningham faced the possibility of up to 50 years in prison. At the legislative hearing in April of ’06, lawmakers repeatedly quized Cunningham about her salary at CIETC.
"I guess the problem that I have is that (my pay) hasn’t been a problem for several years, and now it is a problem," Cunningham said. "We have the same monitors, auditors, Department of Labor, Iowa Workforce Development…I guess I’m surprised at why, all the sudden, it became a problem."
Former CIETC accountant Karen Tesdell is scheduled to be sentenced Tuesday, while former Iowa Workforce Development executive Jane Barto faces sentencing next Monday. Sentencing dates have not yet been set for two others involved in the case.
Former CIETC Chief Operating Officer John Bargman and former CIETC Board Chairman Archie Brooks both accepted plea agreements in exchange for their testimony against the other defendents.