Governor Chet Culver says this week’s firing of three more Department of Economic Development officials is part of an “on-going” investigation. “As you know, the attorney general has stepped in,” Culver says. “There’s a criminal element to this.”
Last fall Culver fired Film Office manager Tom Wheeler after the first public airing of discrepancies in the way state tax credits for movies made in Iowa were being awarded.
Earlier this month Wheeler was charged with misconduct in office and two Minnesota-based filmmakers were charged with first degree theft for what prosecutors say are the highly-inflated costs they claimed for making the movie “The Scientist” in Iowa.
Three administrators who were involved in overseeing the Iowa Film Office were let go Monday. Culver says that was the decision of D.E.D. director Bret Mills. “Because it’s a personnel matter, I’m not going to discuss the specifics other than to say that Director Mills is in charge of all those personnel matters,” Culver says. ”
Late Friday, September 18, Culver’s press office announced the governor had suspended the state’s film tax credit program and accepted the resignation of Department of Economic Development Director Mike Tramontina. Culver said at the time that he had taken decisive action when he was made aware of problems in the Film Office by suspending the state tax credit program and showing the agency’s director and the Film Office manager the door. Yet three other people involved in the program’s operations remained on staff for five more months, until this week’s dismissals.
Culver today defended the way his administration has handled the matter. “Director Mills has been on the job less than a month. He is going to address any and all issues that he has concerns with in that department, as any director of any state agency would,” Culver said. ” so this has been an on-going situation. We have taken swift and decisive action at every turn and we will continue to take any and all action necessary.”
Culver cites the recent announcement that 1,600 jobs would be saved at Whirlpool in Amana as evidence the Department of Economic Development isn’t distracted by the Film Office scandal. According to Culver, the new D.E.D. director and the Economic Development Board put the deal together with Whirlpool in a week.