A state audit report on government spending released Monday accused Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds of using nearly $450,000 in federal coronavirus relief funds to pay salaries for 21 staff members for three months last year and concealing the spending by passing it through the state Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.
State Auditor Rob Sand said a review of the state’s payroll system shows the money was used to pay the Republican governor’s office staff, but it’s unclear why she had to take federal money to pay the salaries.
“What is not clear, is why these salaries were not included in the governor’s budget set prior to the fiscal year and prior to the pandemic,” he said in the audit report. “Based on this information, we conclude that the budget shortfall was not a result of the pandemic.”
Sand said he had asked Reynolds’ office twice for documentation to support the spending and was told the governor’s staff members during March, April, May and June of 2020 were fully focused on responding to COVID-19 and protecting Iowa but never provided proof of the expenditure on the COVID response.
He wrote Reynolds’ office in October, telling her that paying staff salaries without proper documentation likely wouldn’t get federal approval but said they ignored his suggestion.
Sand said he requested information from the Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management and was initially provided a spreadsheet listing the governor’s employees with a section labeled FY 2020 Shortfall and the amount of $448,448.86. A subsequent version was sent to him in which the section title was amended to COVID-19 Personnel Costs with the same amount of money.
“That spreadsheet that shows they changed the headers to basically instead of say shortfall to say COVID 19 is a pretty big deal,” he told The Associated Press, suggesting that the attempt by Reynolds’ administration to conceal the use of the federal money was to fill a salary gap.