Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller says lawmakers and others should avoid “overreacting” to alleged abuse and mismanagement of a state tax credit program until all of the facts in the case are fully reviewed. Three state employees have resigned or been fired after an audit found several irregularities with the program that’s designed to lure movie makers to Iowa.
The program was suspended last Friday and Governor Culver has asked Miller to investigate what went wrong. “We think it is imperative that we find out exactly what happened, what our existing obligations are and what we can learn from this as to the facts and the judgments that were made,” Miller said.
The state auditor has also launched a probe into the case. Miller says it’s too soon to say if they might file criminal charges. “When you get started in something like this, you don’t rule anything in and you don’t rule anything out,” Miller said. The Iowa Film Office, which is part of the Iowa Department of Economic Development, had oversight of the tax credit program.
Culver fired the film office director, Tom Wheeler. Miller says Wheeler’s management of the program is only one facet of the investigation.
“A very important question for us and for the state is what liability has been incurred in the process of dealing with these film makers and any commitment that has been made to them…to look at the legal issues there,” Miller said.
Members of the Iowa Motion Picture Association (IMPA) say the state could miss out on landing future projects without the tax credits. Miller says he’ll work as fast as he can to resolve the matter, possibly opening the way for the governor to reinstate the program.
“We consider this a serious, complicated problem that has significant risk for the state of many kinds,” Miller said. “There is certainly some urgency here, but not an urgency that would require us to not spend the time to do it right.”
The head of the IMPA says seven films were in production in Iowa last week when problems with the program were discovered. Film crews were also preparing to begin work on projects in Algona, Cedar Rapids and near West Branch.