The Legislative Oversight Committee meets Thursday and the co-chair of the panel says it’s likely they’ll have an initial discussion of a legislative branch investigation of the state Film Office debacle.
The governor fired the Film Office manager after an outside audit found serious “irregularities” in state tax credits being awarded to film makers. Senator Rich Olive, a Democrat from Story City who is co-chair of the Legislative Oversight Committee, says the committee may have to throw a “wider net” and examine all state tax credits to ensure they’re being awarded properly.
“The worst case scenario is exactly what happened and we need to make sure that does not occur any further with any of the tax credits that we give out,” Olive says.
Key questions need to be asked, according to Olive, such as whether the job creation promises made by those getting state tax credits are being met.
“Then, of course, the second step is to make sure that we’re not spending those dollars on Land Rovers or Mercedes — that we’re actually doing this the way the legislation is set up and the way the rules are set up,” Olive says.
The outside audit of the Film Office found state tax credits had been granted for the purchase of a Land Rover and a Mercedes, but the cars were never used in production of the movie. Representative Kent Sorenson, a Republican from Indianola who is a member of the Legislative Oversight Committee, says an investigation of the Film Office should be on the committee’s agenda.
“I am a big supporter of the tax credits, personally. I just believe that it needs to be used properly. I know that our intentions were not for it to be used to buy luxury cars,” Sorenson says. “I think it’s just a good example of the mismanagement from the executive branch.”
Sorenson hopes this episode doesn’t bring an end to the tax credits for film makers.
“My goal is that we right the wrong and we support the film industry,” Sorenson says. “I think it’s definitely brought jobs to Iowa. I think it’s brought business to Iowa.”
Scenes in a psychological thriller that’s set in a Nebraska town were filmed in the Indianola area. In addition, the highway that runs through Indianola was shut down last December so scenes for the movie “Ticket Out” starring actor Ray Liotta (lee-OH-tuh) could be shot there.
Olive, the co-chair of the Legislative Oversight Committee, suspects it would be difficult to get “the right people there” this Thursday so legislators can ask questions of the people involved in making key Film Office decisions.
“There is some discussion about bringing criminal charges and…it’s pretty hard to bring somebody into Oversight while that investigation is occuring,” Olive says.
For example, the committee found it hard to get testimony early this year from key players involved in running a bunkhouse for mentally handicapped men in Atalissa because a criminal investigation was underway.