Governor Kim Reynolds today said “proper action” has been taken over allegations the former head of the Iowa Communications Network was misspending the agency’s money.
Whistleblowers came forward this summer. The network’s executive director was fired January 4. “In July, we had the staff from the ICN contact our office and briefed us on some concerns. Immediately we advised them to get ahold of the auditor’s office and to continue consulting with the (attorney general’s) office,” Reynolds said during her weekly news conference. “Just last week the audit was released and it exposed significant flaws.”
Governor Terry Branstad signed legislation in 1989 to create a state-owned fiber optic network to provide “distance learning” for rural students who could watch live video of teachers in other locations. The Iowa Communications Network now provides high-speed service for state government, schools and the Iowa National Guard as well as hospitals that use it for “tele-medicine” services.
Ric Lombard became the network’s executive director in September of 2014. Auditors discovered equipment purchased with state money was sent to his home in Marion and used for a non-profit Christian ministry he headed. Lombard and his state secretary also billed the state for a trip to Belize where the ministry was headquartered.
Members of the state board paid to oversee the network’s operations say there were unaware of the improper spending and travel. Reynolds told reporters the board fired the individual who was “primarily responsible.”
“We understand where the lack of accountability was in the structure and they’ve identified it and so I think they’ve taken proper action,” Reynold said. “The individual is no longer there and they’re moving forward.”
The former executive director and his secretary were both fired, as was another person the executive director had hired. That person had worked for the Christian ministry, too, and was not qualified for the state post.
The Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation has searched the ICN’s offices as well as Lombard’s home with warrants that made reference to first degree theft and felonious misconduct in office.