The state treasurer says the trip state education director Jason Glass took to Brazil earlier this month raises questions about the scope of the state’s gift law.
A foundation with a link to a corporation that does business with the state paid for the Brazil trip. Under the gift law, state officials are not allowed to accept gifts worth more than $2.99, but State Treasurer Michael Fitzgerald says state officials can be reimbursed for travel to conferences if they’re speaking at the event and that might be the justification for this Brazil trip.
“It does bring up the situation for the ethics commission, maybe (they) should line this out. What’s in? What’s out?” Fitzgerald says. “It would help us all.”
The state Executive Council which is made up of the governor and other statewide elected officials, like Fitzgerald, used to review requests for state employee travel. However, a new state law which took effect July 1 means the state treasurer and the rest of the state Executive Council no longer have the power to approve or veto travel like this trip to Brazil.
“In the past trips like that could be brought up in a public meeting: is it worth it; is it not? Have some discussion and now that responsibility is placed on the department heads,” Fitzgerald says. “So I think not only Mr. Glass but other department heads are going to face the same scrutiny as other elected officials. Why did you do that?”
The state Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board is reviewing the trip to Brazil. Glass told The Cedar Rapids Gazette he did nothing illegal by taking the trip to attend a conference organized by the Council of Chief State School Officers.