State Auditor says new restrictions could lead to lawsuits

SIOUX CITY — State Auditor Rob Sand says a bill sent to the governor that would limit the auditor’s access to some confidential information could lead to a lot of extra time in court.

“If the governor signs the bill then we’re going to have to see how it’s applied and what it is that they do to prevent our access to records  — and at that point and every point thereafter we’ll be trying to figure out whether or not there’s a challenge on a constitutional basis that’s worth bringing,” Sand says. 

Sand, who is the only Democrat holding a statewide office, spoke to the Sioux City Rotary Club and later held a town hall in Onawa on Monday. He says the bill has been a hot topic. “I think there’s actually a pretty surprising level of knowledge but a surprising level of concern about it and I’m gonna keep talking about it until every Iowan in the state knows exactly what it is and what it does,” he says. 

Sand says if the governor signs the bill the state auditor would need to get approval from a three-member panel to take a state agency to court. The auditor, the department being audited and the governor would each appoint someone to the panel. Sand says they would let everyone know which agency is trying to “hide” information. “That’s again one of the things where I think that I’m not sure that the people who are advocating this bill have really thought through it,” Sand says. “Because if they deny us access to records we have a legal and ethical obligation to disclose that and then everyone is going to be left wondering what it is that they’re hiding.”

He says taxpayers should be concerned about the potential information the panel could allow to stay hidden. “Corruption and waste at the government level is your tax dollars. This is our government. And the idea that people in trust and power in those positions would use that power to reduce oversight of themselves and make it so they could sweep things under the rug is, I think an affront to our Constitution the idea of self governance but also to your pocketbook,” Sand says.

Governor Kim Reynolds has not commented on the bill.