Investigation finds State of Iowa employee accepted gifts, failed to deposit license fees

DES MOINES — A special investigation by the state auditor’s office has found a former state employee failed to deposit thousands of dollars in fees and taxes and received unauthorized gifts, including ring-side access to an event in Denver. Dawn Chamberlain was a program planner in the Iowa Athletic Commission, which oversees mixed martial arts as well as professional boxing and kickboxing and pro wrestling in Iowa.

State Auditor Rob Sand said his staff has identified over $17,000 in state license fees and taxes that were either not collected or not deposited during Chamberlain’s time in the job. “The bottom line here is that taxpayers missed out on money that was due to the State of Iowa, where this public employee was instead getting gifts and benefits on the side,” Sand told Radio Iowa. “That looks to me to be a pretty clear quid pro quo.”

On November 15th of last year, Chamberlain’s agency got a call from someone who said Chamberlain was “taking money under the table” and, after an internal investigation, Chamberlain was fired a month later. “Absolutely an extraordinary tip. We don’t see situations like this in Iowa very often,” Sand said. “This is good evidence of exactly why we ask people to report things to us. If you see something, say something.”

Sand said a promoter for an event at Wells Fargo Arena wrote a $4325 check to Chamberlain to cover pay for event officials and Chamberlain deposited the check in her own account. “There shouldn’t be anyone working in the state of Iowa who thinks writing a check to a public employee for doing something related to their job is ever acceptable,” Sand said.

Auditors found Chamberlain used her Venmo account to pay some event officials and Chamberlain told investigators she paid the rest of the fees in cash. The special investigation report indicates Chamberlain attended sporting events without seeking approval from her supervisors, including a World Boxing Association event in Jefferson where she presented the winner with a championship belt.

“I think this is a clear case of someone who was getting far too into the potential personal benefits of her job and ignoring her personal obligations to be a fair and impartial employee…serving taxpayers,” Sand said.

The report from the auditor’s office indicates Chamberlain received at least $1700 in unauthorized gifts for trips she took to events in Colorado and Michigan. According to the report, Chamberlain told investigators “everyone else in the office accepts insane amounts of gifts.” The state auditor’s report indicates officials in the agency are not aware of any other employee accepting gifts.

The special investigation report from the State Auditor’s Office has been forwarded to state and Polk County law enforcement agencies. Radio Iowa has been unable to reach Chamberlain.