The Republican challenging Democrat Attorney General Tom Miller this fall says Miller needs to offer a broader explanation of why he told the governor a state administrator who spent thousands of dollars on things like artwork and an expensive dishwasher couldn’t be fired. An audit released last week revealed former Iowa Alcoholic Beverages Division administrator Lynn Walding also authorized a one-million dollar payment to a contractor remodeling the agency’s warehouse, long before the work was done.

Brenna Findley, the Republican nominee for attorney general, suggests the state’s current attorney general, Tom Miller, may have been looking out for Walding, who used to work in Miller’s office. “I’m calling on him to release his memo so that we can see what sort of legal reasoning he used to tell the governor that he couldn’t fire Walding for mismanagement,” Findley says.

Miller’s office issued a statement last week, saying it did not appear the information about Walding that the governor presented his office in late 2008 supported Walding’s firing. Findley is accusing Miller of “sitting” on a legal memo to protect Governor Culver, a fellow Democrat.

“I certainly think that the attorney general and Governor Culver could release the memo,” Findley says. “And I think they need to given the situation at hand and the mismanagement and the problems with taxpayer dollars that have come into play in this situation.” Miller says Findley is “misinformed on the facts and the law.”

Miller says there was “no legal memo” and he gave Culver “oral advice.” In addition, Miller says the information he was presented in late 2008 was “mainly about a personnel matter” and Miller says the “evidence wasn’t there” to support Walding’s firing. Miller says if he had been presented with the “information from the audit, then it would have been a different story.” According to Miller, there were “some surprises” in the audit about Walding’s spending decisions.

According to Findley, it’s hard to imagine the abuses outlined in the state audit that was released last week wouldn’t have been grounds for firing. “There was a long list of problems at that agency from procurement problems, spending problems, items bought from parties that had relationships with Walding,” Findley says. “And also problems with pay raises.”

The audit questioned the rapid rise of a woman who was first hired as an intern in 2000 and whose salary between 2004 and 2006 was raised more than 80%.

Miller says that is not the personnel issue presented to him when his legal advice was sought two years ago.