The state auditor has identified “a number of concerns” about the hundreds of thousands of dollars that a state-run home for the disabled paid to the family business of a state government purchasing manager.
Lois Schmitz has worked in the procurement office of the Iowa Department of Administrative Services and the family company involved is called BluePrint Homes, which she co-owns with her husband. The audit found that while the company in just one year had been paid over half a million dollars for work at the Woodward Resource Center, the payments had been split into amounts of less than 10-thousand dollars each to avoid the requirement to seek competitive bids for the work. The auditor also faulted Schmitz for failing to file a report with the Iowa Ethics Board about the transactions.
Schmitz, who was hired in 2009 after Terry Branstad took office, was accused last year having a conflict of interest and she was fired. She appealed. An arbitrator ruled in January that she had no role in awarding the contracts to her family’s business and the arbitrator awarded her back pay, plus ordered that she be reinstated.
This past April the agency began having employees read and sign a new form to guard against conflicts of interest.