The Muscatine City Council formally accepted the results of a recent audit conducted by the state of Iowa. The documents presented by City Administrator Gregg Mandsager and City Finance Director Nancy Lueck state that the re-audit of FY 2015 and FY 2016 was requested by Mayor Diana Broderson and was requested “due to concerns regarding certain City officials’ and employees’ travel to China and the use of City resources for an event held by the Muscatine Symphony Orchestra.” City documents continued to state that the specific concerns cited by Mayor Broderson are listed on page 8 of the Re-Audit Report. It was also stated in the 42-page document that Mayor Broderson never questioned any of these expenditures or issues internally before proceeding to the State Auditor. The documents also stated each of these concerns was investigated and determined to have no merit.
The accepted proposal stated that the City respects the State Auditor’s position and understands that the report uncovered no major issues. However, the City Council disagrees with all of the findings and recommendations. In fact, under Iowa Code 11.53, “If an audit or examination discloses any significant irregularity in the collection or disbursement of public funds, in the abatement of taxes, or other findings the auditor believes represent significant noncompliance, a copy of the report shall be filed with the county attorney, and it shall be the county attorney’s duty to cooperate with the state auditor, and, in proper cases, with the attorney general, to secure the correction of the irregularity.” As a copy of the report was not filed with the county attorney, it is the understanding that the findings can be characterized as insignificant, per the recommendation to council submitted by Mandsager and Lueck.
During the discussion, Councilman Tom Spread showed displeasure for the report, stating, “I have spent a fair amount of time reading the information. Last month marked my fortieth anniversary in the banking business. In that period of time, I have literally reviewed and responded to hundreds of audits and reports, and this disturbs me. Never have I seen a report that said so little and cost so much.” Spread also expressed that he was disturbed by “the thought that tax payers paid over $8000 for $4000 of expenditures, not to mention the soft time from city staff that cost another $2200. I think this was a disservice.” Spread added that the audit stemmed from an “anonymous” complaint levied by the mayor in April 2016.
Spread continued his remarks, stating, “Recently the mayor said in an interview that her purpose was to respond to unanswered questions of concerned citizens.” Such inquiries are subject to the Freedom of Information Act. “The city has a complete set of administrative rules to make sure there is an accurate and timely response to such concerns. I checked with the City Administrator’s office, and there is no record of anyone asking for this information, or the Mayor asking for this information, prior to the request for audit being made,” said Spread. “As far as the trip to China goes, that matter was well publicized. We all knew about it. In 2014 there was a 19-page document that explained the entire initiative.”
Transparency has been a primary theme in Mayor Broderson’s concerns regarding the audit. Spread noted that recently the City of Muscatine released a new financial system called Open.gov that gives citizens access to the financial dealings of the city. In closing, Spread stated, “Perhaps someday the Mayor can answer the question as to why she made an anonymous complaint in the name of transparency.”
Councilman Michael Rehwaldt then asked Mayor Broderson, “Mayor, do you have any comments on making anonymous complaints in the interest of transparency?” Mayor Broderson responded with, “I will not be baited into discussing this tonight, but I did have some comments already prepared based on the topic for the evening. I did not make an anonymous complaint. I fully identified myself before asking my question. Before I ever called, I talked to the City Administrator, I talked with the City Attorney, and then with the Ombudsman.”
Councilman Michael Rehwaldt told the Voice of Muscatine that “While she may have spoken with the City Administrator and the City Attorney, she never requested the documents regarding the trip.” Rehwaldt says that he feels this confirms that Broderson has been dishonest in the process. “We finally have the nail in the coffin. She cannot be believed. She’s told too many whoppers. I double checked with the City Administrator and the City Attorney; neither she nor any citizen asked for this information prior to the audit. This audit was a waste of tax dollars. This mayor tells one whopper after another. She is the Whopper Mayor.”