A “reaudit” of about $4,000 worth of airfare, luggage fees and airport food for a trip to China is now part of the ongoing feud involving Muscatine Mayor Diana Broderson and other city officials.
Mayor Broderson asked for the review. Auditors found no explicit city council approval for the December 2014 trip to China taken by Muscatine’s city administrator and community development director. Muscatine officials responded, saying the city administrator has the authority to approve the spending on his own, without “formal” city council discussions.
City officials say the purpose of the trip was to promote Chinese investment in Muscatine, but the auditors’ review concluded “the majority of the trip…involved cultural and sightseeing experiences.”
The response from Muscatine city officials begins by noting other allegations Broderson made were debunked, including her claim that the city paid for spouses to go on the trip. Muscatine officials also dispute the auditors’ conclusion that there was “insufficient documentation” to illustrate the public purpose of the trip and they released a more detailed travel itinerary. The auditors’ report notes that itinerary was provided 28 months after the trip.
In addition, auditors said it was “misleading to the citizens” of Muscatine to shift the expenses related to the trip to the city’s advertising and publications budget. Muscatine officials “strongly disagree” with that conclusion. They say the trip marketed Muscatine to Chinese investors and they’ll change the name of that budget category to “advertising, publications and marketing.”
The city attorney weighed in, too, saying “the benefits obtained and gained for the citizens of Muscatine far outweigh the money spent” on the trip. The report from state auditor offered this unflinching reply: “travel of that nature should be pre-approved by the City Council.”
The Muscatine City Council voted in May to remove Mayor Broderson from office. In mid-June, a judge reinstated Broderson as mayor until her appeal is decided.
Here’s a link to the full report from State Auditor Mary Mosiman’s office. It includes the response from Muscatine city officials.